The Mid-American Conference Tournament may not have started action on the court, but the Ball State women's volleyball team collected hardware Thursday night in Toledo, Ohio.
Ball State's 24-4, 14-2 season was recognized in the awards banquet held by the MAC. The Cardinals totaled seven total awards, tied with the 1998 team for most in program history. The biggest awards presented to Ball State were the MAC West and overall MAC championship trophies.
"We were pleasantly surprised with not one, but two MAC trophies tonight," coach Steve Shondell said. "It's great for Ball State to receive two trophies to represent the accomplishments of the team this season."
Shondell was recognized as the MAC Coach of the Year after leading Ball State to a 14-2 MAC record. Shondell is just the second coach in program history to win MAC Coach of the Year honors, joining Randy Litchfield. The former coach received the distinction five times.
"I'm thrilled to represent university in this manner," Shondell said. "Coach of the Year award is a program award. It's about the contributions of the team, coaching staff, support staff and fans to make it all possible. I accept the award on everyone's behalf."
Senior Alyssa Rio was selected as the MAC Defensive Player of the year, adding to her four MAC Defensive Player of the Week awards and National Player of the Week award. Rio is just the second Cardinal to receive the honor; Amanda McCormick was the other after a record-breaking 2006 season.
Rio was also named to the All-MAC First Team. She leads the nation with 5.88 digs per set and earlier this season crossed the 2,000 digs mark for her career. Rio is just the eighth player in MAC history to break the 2,000 digs barrier and enters the quarterfinal match against Toledo with 623 digs on the season.
Junior middle blocker Kelsey Brandl joined Rio on the All-MAC First Team. It's the second straight year Brandl has received the honor. It's the first time a Cardinal was named to the All-MAC First Team in back-to-back seasons since Sarah Obras in 2004 and 2005. Brandl leads the team in kills per set with 3.21 and hitting percentage with a .349 rate of success. She also leads Ball State in the blocking and serving game. Brandl leads with an .86 blocks per set average has tallied 30 service aces on the year.
"I expected both Alyssa and Kelsey to receive recognition for their great seasons," Shondell said. "It's not an easy task to put an all-conference team together so it's a great accomplishment we've got four players being recognized."
Junior setter Brittany McGinnis was named to the All-MAC Second Team after leading Ball State to a .224 rate of success offensively. This is the third straight season McGinnis has lead the offense to an improved offensive attack from the previous season. McGinnis is fifth in Ball State history with 3,314 assists.
Freshman outside hitter Whitney Heeres was also named to the All-MAC Second Team as well as the All-Freshman Team. Heeres ranks second on the team with a 3.09 kills per set average, including a team-high 3.36 kills per set average in during the MAC schedule.
"We've got five freshmen who've made major contributions to our team this year and there were so many great freshmen in league this year," Shondell said. "For Whitney to receive recognition for her contributions is exciting and we're proud of her and all our freshmen."