Two points from the first Mid-American Conference regular season championship since 2002, Alyssa Rio dove to the floor and kept the ball alive. Moments later Rio was on the floor again. The ball popped up into the air a third time before Ball State won the point.
Seconds later Ball State finished the match with a resounding ovation. Ball State defeated Toledo 25-18, 25-17, 25-19 to win the MAC championship outright.
"I can't be any more satisfied tonight with being MAC champions," junior setter Brittany McGinnis said. "I love this school, my teammates, the coaches, and the fans."
The win also secures the top seed in the MAC Tournament next week in Toledo, Ohio.
After falling behind 2-0 in the first set, the Cardinals cruised to an impressive sweep of the Rockets. It felt like Ball State would not be denied. Ball State coach Steve Shondell agreed.
"I knew the girls were going to come to play tonight," he said. "They had a great week of practice and I could tell they would not be denied the right to hang a banner in our rafters in pregame. They all had that look in their eyes."
The Cardinals played like they would not be denied. The offense rolled to a .356 attack percentage while the defense out blocked and out dug Toledo.
"I give all the credit to the girls," Shondell said. "They built the chemistry and put all the hard work in. The coaches have played only a small part in it."
Ball State recorded a 10-0 advantage in blocks. The Cardinals also had a 54-39 advantage in digs.
The MAC championship is a step toward the NCAA Tournament for Ball State.
"This is so exciting," junior middle blocker Kelsey Brandl said. "I won the Big East my freshman year at Cincinnati and went to the NCAA Tournament. I then had to find the right place to transfer to. Having done that and gone through the process last year and to win this year is perfect."