WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Perfect weekend for Ball State ends with tournament championship

Cardinals are 6-0 for first time since 1989

Ball State took another step in returning the women's volleyball program to prominence by winning the Active Ankle Challenge at Worthen Arena this and setting an attendance record this weekend.

The weekend began with Ball State feeding off the energy from a record-breaking crowd of 1,744 fans to rout Tennessee State on Friday night and ended with a sweep against Oakland.

For the second straight weekend Ball State went undefeated, 3-0, en route to winning the Active Ankle Challenge, a feat not accomplished since 2005 when it was a two-match event.

"I'm happy for the girls. I've won plenty of tournament championships over the course of time," Ball State coach Steve Shondell said. "This season isn't about me. It's about this team. This is huge. We're trying to bring successful volleyball back to Ball State.

We only play one tournament a year here and it's a long 365 days if we don't win."

The Cardinals have made their own mark in the record book with a 6-0 start. Ball State last won its first six games in 1989 under first-year coach Randy Litchfield, the winningest coach in program history.

"It's the start of a whole new tradition with a whole new coaching staff and five freshmen coming in," freshman outside hitter Kylee Baker said. "We're all just clicking really well together so hopefully this is something we can keep going for the rest of our time here."

After sweeping Tennessee State onFriday night, Ball State had to overcome a physical Robert Morris team Saturday morning and then contend with a scrappy Oakland squad that night.

Junior middle blocker Kelsey Brandl and Baker continued tremendous starts to the season by blasting 27 and 35 kills. Junior middle blocker Jennifer Boyd, still recovering from an ankle injury, posted 22 kills.

"The past few days I have felt so good and it's felt so good to just come out and connect with Brittany because it has been frustrating with my ankle," Boyd said. "It always stinks having to sit on the sideline. I love to play volleyball so I love being out there and being able to help my team."

Junior setter Brittany McGinnis has directed the Cardinals offense to a .293 hitting percentage through six games while averaging 14.7 kills per set. The more successful attack has helped Ball State finish opponents off at the ends of sets, a key to the undefeated record.

"You have to put sets away to be a successful team," Shondell said. "It's what we strive for and we try to bring a little more fight out in them. [Saturday] we saw that. The girls really fought for every point and made big plays."