WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Ball State upsets Ohio 3-2
Win ends 11-match losing streak to Bobcats
Senior libero Alyssa Rio, junior setter Brittany McGinnis, and senior defensive specialist Hannah Sullivan were lost in the mess of white jerseys at center court. Yells of excitement and joy cut through the thunderous cheers from the crowd.
The streak was finally over. Ball State had finally beaten Ohio, a team that tortured Ball State the last seven years.
"I'm beyond happy for this win," Rio said. "This was the one team I really wanted to beat because they've been such a dominate team."
Ball State snapped the seven year, 11-match losing streak with in its sixth five-set match of the season. The Cardinals topped the Bobcats 25-14, 22-25, 25-21, 15-9 in front of 1,131 fans.
The win also helped redeem Ball State for letting a golden opportunity to upset Ohio in last year's Mid-American Conference Tournament slip away.
"I'll never forget that match. I missed the serve that ended the match," McGinnis said. "You always have that one mistake that sticks with you and that one is mine. I wanted to get revenge so bad."
Revenge was sweet for Ball State who got production from everyone who saw the floor. Sullivan and Rio each recorded a kill from the backcourt.
Rio finished with 18 digs to lead Ball State. McGinnis had 15 while Sullivan added 11.
Freshmen outside hitters Kylee Baker and Whitney Heeres led the Cardinals with 15 kills each. Junior middle blocker Kelsey Brandl added 14 kills while junior Jennifer Boyd chipped in eight. Freshman middle blocker Mindy Marx recorded seven kills while McGinnis posted five.
Only freshman defensive specialist Catie Fredrich failed to record a kill.
"It's like living a dream," Baker said. "I'm grateful and thankful to be a part of an accomplishment like this."
The win over Ohio, possibly the biggest win since Ball State's last NCAA Tournament appearance in 2002, was in danger midway through the match.
"Ball State had a nice effort tonight. I thought we had them on the ropes, but they fought back and capitalized on our mistakes," Ohio coach Ryan Theis said. "I'm not concerned with streaks, but I'm disappointed in our play.
"We were inconsistent at different positions at different times."
A controversial no-call, an Ohio player interfering with Ball State's offensive attempt to record a kill, sent the two teams into the locker room tied at a set each.
The ruling could have rattled Ball State. After all, Ohio had tortured Ball State for seven years. But the no-call, only served as motivation for the rest of the match.
There was never a "here we go again moment" this time around. Rio refused to let Ohio sneak out of Muncie with another win. She made sure her teammates were aware of this feeling.
"Alyssa told us at the break that we were going to win. That it's just the way it was," Baker said. "It didn't matter if it was in three, four, or five sets, she said we were going to win."
The final set reinforced what fans have seen all year for Ball State. Baker, Brandl, and Heeres would be there for big kills. Marx made her mark with three pivotal kills late in the set to put Ball State up 13-7.
"Ohio has been the marquee team in the MAC for the last seven or eight years. They've just dominated matches and for this group to have a win on their home floor over Ohio and end the dreaded streak is just exciting," coach Steve Shondell said. "It's difficult to beat a top-50 program and we did it with four freshmen on the floor.
"I'm so happy with the way the team responded to adversity and that Mindy [Marx] had her coming out party in the fifth set tonight."
Ball State will have to set aside the emotional win quickly and refocus their efforts on Kent State who visits Worthen Arena on Saturday night. Baker, Rio and McGinnis all said they'd flip the switch and focus on Kent State once they left the arena Friday night.
"It might not be a MAC championship, but it feels just the same," McGinnis said. "We want to have the same feeling again by winning the MAC."