TOLEDO, Ohio -- Just as nobody thought Ball State would go 24-4, 14-2 in the regular season, nobody thought it would lose in the quarterfinals without a fight. That was the case Friday afternoon, as Toledo stunned Ball State 28-26, 25-19, 25-21.
The deflating and disappointing loss ends Ball State's season with little hope of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The collegiate careers of senior libero Alyssa Rio, Hannah Sullivan, Alexis Shonkwiler, Karin Caudill and Charde' Phillips are over.
"Toledo hasn't lost a match in Toledo in over a month," coach Steve Shondell said. "Toledo couldn't have played any better. They would have beaten anyone in the MAC with tonight's effort.
"We really needed that first game, but it seemed every little break went their way."
From start to finish, the match belonged to Toledo. Ball State couldn't sustain positive plays for an extended amount of time to gain the upper hand. The Rockets took advantage of it.
Toledo was led offensively by Lauren Rafdal with 17 kills. Rafdal was the only Rocket in double digit kills. Despite that, Toledo hit .312 for the match.
"We knew it was going to be a fight after last week," Toledo coach Greg Smith said. "We made some adjustments and shored up a few areas. We never thought we'd be able to win a match like this in three sets, but you never know what's going to happen in a tournament like this."
Ball State hit .240 and was led by freshman outside hitter Kylee Baker with 12 kills. Junior middle blocker Jennifer Boyd was the other Cardinal in double digit kills with 10. Rio finished with 16 digs.
The Rockets found holes in the Cardinals' defense that normally aren't there. Many balls dropped in front of a diving defender. Attacks either found the next, went wide or were dug by Toledo defenders.
"I thought we battled hard, but we didn't match Toledo's energy or intensity," Shondell said. "We stepped it up in the third game, especially Kelsey. We needed that in the first game though."
Every time Ball State made something happen and clawed within a point or two of Toledo, another error would give Toledo the advantage again.
"Any loss in the postseason is hard, especially after a great year like we had," Shondell said. "That's a part of athletics. It's all part of bringing winning volleyball back to Ball State. We can't let one loss ruin a beautiful 24-win season."
The win is just Toledo's fifth ever over Ball State in a series that Ball State has dominated. Ball State leads the all-time series 55-5.
"I have to give credit to Ball State and the season they had," Smith said. "Hopefully this doesn't discredit what they've done."
Ball State will now have to wait until November 28 to see if the NCAA Selection Committee rewards the Cardinals for a 24-5 season with a 10-match win streak entering the MAC Tournament.
"We've got a great group of players coming back off a great season for next year," Shondell said. "It's a long shot now that the MAC gets three teams in the NCAA Tournament."
Players were not made available following the loss.