Through the first set of Ball State’s 3-1 (25-12, 24-26, 15-25, 20-25) victory over Bowling Green (11-9, 7-2 MAC), things looked like they could not get much worse for the Cardinals.
The Falcons took the first set 25-12, and denied almost every one of the Cardinals’ offensive opportunities, either with blocks or digs. At one point, Bowling Green rallied off a 12-1 run to take a 13-3 lead.
“In set one we were too worried about it,” Ball State head coach Kelli Miller said. “In sets two, three and four we just let go of that fear and played hard and played well.”
Things were different from the start in set two. Ball State raced to a 7-2 advantage, forcing Bowling Green to take a timeout. However, the Falcons would rally, using a 8-0 run to take a 21-19 lead late into the set, forcing Ball State to use its second timeout in the set.
From that point, the lead see-sawed until Bowling Green had a chance at set point, up 24-23. Then, the Cardinals dug deep, winning three-straight points to win the set 26-24.
“After last week’s loss to Ohio, we really focused in practice on battling back and resiliency,” sophomore setter Amber Seaman said. “As we were playing that second set we went back in the locker room and were like ‘The fight’s not over, we still got to come out swinging and punching at them.’.”
Coming out of halftime, Ball State kept its momentum, winning the first three points in set three in route to 25-15 victory.
“After that first set … we just played our volleyball, and when we play our game, nobody can play with us,” junior outside hitter Brooklyn Goodsel said. “We said that day in and day out, doesn’t matter who we’re playing, as long as we play to our level, other people usually can’t play with us.”
Bowling Green never led in the fourth set, and Ball State pulled away near the end for a 25-20 victory that sealed the match.
The loss was the first since Sept. 21 for Bowling Green, and just its second loss in conference play. The win moves Ball State to just one game behind Bowling Green for first place in the conference, and guarantees that they stay in a tie for first place in the MAC West.
Coming in, the Falcons had lost only two sets in the entire month of October.
“That was a hard fought battle and it was really fun to take down the number one team in the MAC,” Seaman said.
Junior outside hitters Brooklyn Goodsel and Ellie Dunn led the Cardinals in kills with 12 apiece. Sophomore defensive specialist Kate Avila led Ball State with 29 digs; Goodsel tallied 11. Seaman led the game with 51 assists.
“The whole match I felt like we had a positive energy about us that we never felt like we were out of it,” Miller said. “Even though they went on that run of points, we didn’t really let it affect us from an emotional standpoint, and that’s a big difference from [earlier games].”
The game was also a potential look at the MAC Championship game in November, as each team currently leads its division in the standings. Goodsel was adamant that Ball State can beat Bowling Green again on neutral court if needed.
“As long as we play our style of game, [playing them on a neutral court] shouldn’t be an issue,” Goodsel said.
Ball State (14-8, 6-3 MAC) takes the floor again Friday evening against Miami at 7 p.m. at Worthen Arena. The RedHawks and Cardinals are tied for second place in the conference standings.
Contact Sam Barloga with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.