WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Record crowds help Ball State to victory

A movement to return the once proud women's volleyball program to glory is underway. While the status of the effort under first-year Ball State coach Steve Shondell is unknown, Friday night provided a glimpse of what could be.

In Shondell's home debut at Ball State, a record 1,744 fans rocked Worthen Arena as Ball State throttled Tennessee State 25-5, 25-13, 25-19. The previous record of 1,711 was set in the 2002 Radisson Hotel Roberts/Nike Classic, a tournament that brought Pittsburgh, No. 2 Nebraska and No. 3 USC to Muncie.

"It was really nerve racking at first. You come in and you're just in awe," freshman outside hitter Kylee Baker said. "Let's be honest, there hasn't really been that many people come out in a long time. It was just amazing and great to feel the energy."

The Cardinals had fallen on hard times since 2002, suffering four consecutive losing seasons and three coaching changes. This turnover was unprecedented for Ball State. Since the program began in 1972, there had only been five coaches until Shondell was hired in April.

The first night of the Active Ankle Challenge has been circled since then. It was the night Shondell wanted his team to experience an atmosphere they had not experienced often, let alone at home.

"We hadn't been in this type of atmosphere before so I wasn't sure how we'd react. I knew a week ago we were going to have something special [Friday] night," he said. "There's been so much publicity and excitement surrounding the team I'm wasn't surprised we set the attendance record. I'm very proud of it."

The only concern Shondell had was how well his team would play in the atmosphere. He now knows the answer after the Cardinals fed off the crowd to dominate the first set 25-5.

"It reminded me of the high school days when volleyball was it," junior middle blocker Kelsey Brandl said. "I think it's going to get that way again for Ball State. People noticed tonight that it's fun coming to games."

As the competition ramps up in the coming weeks heading into Mid-American Conference action Ball State will learn if a return to glory is underway with Shondell at the helm. They will also see first-hand if the kind of atmosphere from Friday night will carry over.

It didn't Saturday, but it didn't matter. The Cardinals continued its winning ways in a completely different atmosphere.

"Seeing how I haven't won it [the Active Ankle Challenge] in my three years I'm excited and boosts our confidence," senior libero Alyssa Rio said. "Hopefully it will keep bringing in the fans too.:


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