Western Michigan rallied from two sets down to beat Ball State 3-2 (19-25, 17-25, 25-23, 25-23, 15-13) to advance to the MAC semifinals on Friday evening.
The Cardinals jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead after dominating most of sets one and two behind the play of junior outside hitter Brooklyn Goodsel who tallied eight kills in the first two frames. She would finish with a team-high 17 kills on the evening.
"I felt like we were feeling really confident going into the break," head coach Kelli Miller said. " We were playing well and we were taking away a lot of what Western wanted to do offensively and I think that we were in a really good offensive rhythm."
Junior opposite Ellie Dunn and junior middle hitter Emily Holland also reached double figures in kills with 14 and 10.
Goodsel also notched 13 digs, as sophomore libero Kate Avila had a team-high 24 and sophomore setter Amber Seaman recorded 14 to go along with her 47 assists.
Freshman outside hitter Rachel Bontrager and senior middle blocker Sydney Lemay helped power the Western Michigan comeback. Combined, the two recorded 22 kills in the final three sets to pull the Broncos back from the brink.
"Overall we had a great year," Miller said. "We took a step in the right direction. We won the [MAC] West [Division]. We definitely took a step in the right direction but the message is we're so hungry for more, but we understand that it's a process and not something that you can decide you want to do overnight."
Ball State had late leads in all of the final three sets. The Cardinals led the third set 21-20 before Western Michigan scored three straight points.
Senior Jessica Lindsey's kill in set four gave the Cardinals a 23-22 lead in set four before Western Michigan rallied off three-in-a-row to force a fifth set.
In set five Ball State led from the start. A kill by Seaman had the Cardinals up 8-5 when the teams switched sides of the court and that expanded to 12-9 before the Broncos called timeout.
After that, Western Michigan would score break off a four-point scoring run, which featured a pair of Ball State errors to take a 13-12 lead.
A kill by Jessica Lindsey drew the set back to 13, and Ball State subbed-in junior defensive specialist Carly Cappello to serve. Cappello's serve was eaten by the net, bringing the Broncos to match point.
"I think that late, especially in set five, Western was just more on the attack," Miller said. "We had a couple plays right at the very end and I thought we could of took swings on that we went for off-speed shots and they gobbled them up and came back with a full-speed attack."
After a long rally on either side, a kill by Lemay finished off the match as the Ball State defense could not return the ball.
This is Ball State's fourth straight MAC Tournament loss to Western Michigan. Ball State finishes the 2017 season at 19-11.
"We talked a lot about the seniors in the locker room and just that group as a whole," Miller said.
Western Michigan will play Bowling Green Saturday at 7 p.m. at Millett Hall in Oxford, Ohio