Bench play, practice encouraging for women's volleyball tournament
Ball State women's volleyball finished its regular season this past weekend, which set it up to be the sixth seed going into the Mid-American Conference tournament.
After going 1-1 over the two-match home weekend, the Cardinals finished the regular season with an overall record of 14-16 (8-8).
This record gave them the sixth seed in the conference tournament, forcing them to take the longest route to win the MAC postseason championship. They will have to play and win four consecutive matches in order to finish as champions.
Opponent: No. 7 Buffalo
Date: Nov. 19
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Athens, Ohio
Four matches in four days will be a major test of endurance for the Cardinals, but signs of life from the bench over the weekend showed coach Steve Shondell that his team has the depth to play deep in the tournament and remain strong.
"We have been playing the starters a lot, and our bench hasn't had the chance to really play in games for long periods," Shondell said. "But we needed to play them as fatigue became an issue, and they really stepped up and showed they can play late when we need them."
The bench players, including three freshmen, played an important role in the team's five-set victory against Central Michigan on Nov. 15 by not only giving reprieve to starters, but also playing in the team's role as well.
Freshman defensive specialist Carly Cappello and freshman middle blocker Emily Holland, who scored 10 total kills over the weekend, were two players Shondell felt stepped up.
"We played two teams that were in must-win situations and threw everything at us," Shondell said. "We may have only won one, but they showed that they were in good form for the tournament."
Shondell attributes the players doing so well to their good performance in practice drills, and Shondell feels the team had the best week of practice all season.
"Not just the bench players, but our starters as well seemed to be on top of everything we did at practice, and it showed by their strong performance, especially on senior night," Shondell said.
The bench is in good form and the practice is going well, making the Cardinals a bigger threat going into the tournament. Having to go through more matches may seem like a daunting fact to some teams, but Shondell finds it as a positive.
"Looking at last year's tournament, we had a bye and lost, so having a bye gives no certain advantage," Shondell said. "Western Michigan had momentum winning in the first round last year and were able to beat us, so I feel like the more we play the more momentum we will have."
Ball State will face Buffalo (7-21; 6-10 MAC) in the first round, a team they beat earlier in the season in straight sets. That match will take place at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 19 at Miami University. The winner will advance to face third seed Kent State (19-9; 13-3 MAC).
"This is what we have been waiting and striving for all year," Shondell said. "Now we just need to go out and play our best volleyball, and I see no reason why we can't go through all four games."