Ball State (14-10, 6-5 MAC) surrendered a 2-0 lead as Central Michigan (12-11, 4-7 MAC) came back to win in five sets, handing BSU its fifth loss in conference play.
After winning the first two sets and never allowing the Chippewas to lead once the teams reached double figures, the Cardinals dropped the third set and fourth sets as CMU erased the large deficit.
The Chippewas would control the fifth set from start to finish, winning 15-10 to seal the comeback.
"I mean obviously the first two sets were easy on our end," Ball State head coach Kelli Miller said. "[Central Michigan] made a whole bunch of hitting errors early and we didn't have to work too hard to get points. We talked about how in set three they were going to have their backs against the wall, they're trying to work to get into the MAC Tournament."
Ball State senior opposite hitter Jessica Lindsey tallied one of her best performances of the season, racking up 12 kills and converted 14-of-16 serves to help lead the Cardinals. Junior Brooklyn Goodsel led all players with 16 kills.
"It is tough when you're up 2-0 to keep that fire going, and that's something that we definitely could work on," Lindsey said.
However, the play of Jayla Wesley and Kalina Smith propelled the Chippewas in sets 3, 4 and 5. They led Central Michigan with 14 and 16 kills, respectfully. The pair also tallied 19 of their 30 kills in the final three frames.
"Central made plays," Miller said. "They were digging balls, but we were hitting similar shots we did in sets one and two, but in sets three, four and five I didn't think we matched their intensity and I didn't think we matched them at all."
But things were completely different in the first two sets, as the Cardinals were dominant in the first set, racing out to a lead as large as 12 in route to taking the set 25-15.
Ball State was not as dominant in the second set, but managed to control it throughout, never letting Central Michigan get too close.
The Cardinals ended the second frame on a 5-1 run after the Chippewas had come within five, the closest the set had become after both teams reached double figures.
The third set was a see-saw battle, as both teams traded blows throughout, and no team scored more than four points in a row at any time.
But that four point run could not have come at a better time for Central Michigan. With things tied at 15, the Chippewas used solid defense to grab a 19-15 lead, their largest lead in any set. They would win the set 25-21.
"This one definitively hurts," sophomore defensive specialist Kate Avila said "We learned a lot tonight. We learned that we have a long way to go in the MAC, and any match in the MAC is going to be a competitive match."
The fourth set was much of the same, with Central Michigan usually holding a 1-2 point lead before pulling away late on to force a decisive fifth set.
Sophomore defensive specialist Kate Avila tied a career-high with 36 digs to lead Ball State's defense in the loss.
Miller said she was unsure of how the team is going to respond to such a loss.
"I guess we'll see tomorrow how the team is going to respond, it's definitely frustrating to lose on your home floor but tomorrow I'll have a better answer for you than I do now," Miller said.
Ball State takes the floor again for Senior Night at 7 p.m. Saturday against Eastern Michigan.
Contact Sam Barloga with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.