What was looking to be a career highlight match for senior Alex Fuelling turned into a nightmare in the first set. 

Ball State, coming off a big 3-1 victory over Buffalo in the first round of the Mid-American Conference tournament, was up early against Kent State 9-7 in the quarterfinal match on Nov. 20.

Fuelling returned from a knee injury mid-way through the season and still managed to finish the season second in kills. Then, while going for another kill, she came down and tore her ACL, forcing her out of the match.

"It was so horrible to watch her go out with that injury, and it definitely shook the rest of the girls," head coach Steve Shondell said.

With a senior leader and net powerhouse out of the match, the Cardinals struggled to fill her spot on the court. Ball State held the lead to 12-11 before giving it up to Kent State. 

"With [Fuelling] out, we knew it was going to be hard to fill her shoes with other players, because she not only was a leader, but she brought so much on the court," Shondell said. "We knew it would take a monster effort from the girls to come back mentally from losing her and find a rhythm without her in the rotation."

Ball State ended up losing the first set 25-21 and the second set 25-16. The Cardinals' rhythm finally came back in the third set, but it was too late, as they lost 25-23 in what would be the team's final set of the season.

"They tried really hard out there, and the seniors put up a tremendous effort but it was another heartbreaking loss for us," Shondell said. "We felt we could have won every tournament match, and that was what we had our heart set on from the beginning of the season, but losing Fuelling was something that came out of nowhere."

The seniors led the charge for Ball State in what would be their final match playing for the university.

Amanda Raker had the most kills with 10, and Kelly Hopkins was right behind her with nine. Hopkins led the blocking game with seven block assists on top of the Cardinals' only solo block of the night. 

Senior Jenna Spadafora, earned the most assists with 31 against the Golden Flashes. This was the final effort in her MAC leading assists.

Ball State finished the season with a 15-17 record while going 9-9 in the conference. This was the second straight year it was knocked out of the quarterfinals, but Shondell feels his team will be back stronger next year.

"This season, we had a host of injuries that kept us in a flux of dealing with adversity all the time," Shondell said. "But the players learned a lot from this year, and the ones that will be back will be much more prepared than this year. They learned a lot from the seniors about leadership, and I think if they can take those lessons, we will have a great year."