Ball State (6-4, 0-0 MAC) started off the weekend at 1-0 at the Tiger Invitational in Towson, Maryland with a 3-2 win against the UMBC Retrievers (3-6, 0-0 America East).
The Retrievers showed an impressive frontline performance and a .467 hitting percentage in set one. Senior Paola Rojas and sophomore Carmen Freeman each contributed four kills for the Retrievers, while Cardinal seniors Ellie Dunn and Meg Starling each added four, as well. The Retrievers would surpass the Cardinals in each category, including kills, digs, and hitting percentage, costing the Cardinals the set, 25-20.
“UMBC came out hard and ready to fight,” head coach Kelli Miller said. “They were making plays on some of our best hits and they were able to get us out of rhythm and make us fight back at times throughout the match.”
The Cardinals went on an early four-point run to put the score at 4-1. Dunn added five more kills this set to up her percentage .467, while Rojas and junior Franchesca Reed continued to lead for the Retrievers. After multiple kill streaks by the Cardinals and an increase in hitting errors for the Retrievers, the Cardinals would take set two, 25-13.
Set three started in favor of the Retrievers, and stayed in their hands until the set hit 12-21. The Cardinals would go on an eight-point run with six errors from the Retrievers, a kill by sophomore Kia Holder and an ace by junior Anna Jensen. The set reached 19-22, but the Retrievers found their momentum again in Reed and Rojas to win this one, 25-20.
Dunn fired up the Cardinal offense to kick off set four, contributing four early kills and aiding the team to a 11-1 advantage. The Retrievers would rally a few points of their own, led by Freeman and were able to bring the set back within seven. The Cardinals would round it out with a win, 25-18.
“Our ability to maintain focus throughout five sets has a lot to do with our team being older and experienced,” Miller said. “We don’t let one set or one point rock us too much. We kept fighting and came up when we needed it.”
With a score of 15-11 and a set five victory, the Cardinals finished the match with 55 kills and a .200 hitting percentage. Dunn dominated at the net with 20 kills, her tenth match of the season in double-digits, sending her into the top 20 in program history with 811 career kills. Starling added seven blocks, junior Amber Seaman racked 38 assists, and junior Kate Avila grabbed 29 digs on the match.
“Ellie is a very physical attacker and works hard every point,” Miller said. “Our passes do a nice job of keeping our whole offense in rhythm, and when Kate plays confidently, as she did tonight, it facilitates through the whole team.”
The Cardinals return to action tomorrow against Towson at 1 p.m. and again at 4:30 p.m. against La Salle.