In what turned out to be one of the closest matches of the year for Ball State (16-6, 7-2 MAC), the Cardinals came up shy against the Miami (OH) Redhawks (16-5, 8-1 MAC) in five sets Friday.
Each team being a top contender in the MAC, the matchup between the Cardinals and the Redhawks was bound to be neck-and-neck. With two sets going into extra points, the match was no easy battle for either team.
“We’re hanging with the best of the best in the conference,” head coach Kelli Miller said. “It comes down to hitting the big points when you need them and maintaining consistency throughout the match.”
Led by an array of attackers, the Cardinals grabbed a convincing 25-19 set one victory to start off the match. Junior Amber Seaman had numbers across the board with two kills, 13 assists and a dig, while junior Sydnee VanBeek added four kills of her own. The Redhawks were led by Stela Kukoc and Gaby Harper, who each contributed four kills.
Harper and Kukoc continued to light up the front row for the Redhawks, tallying a combined 18 kills by the end of the second set. The Cardinals saw a number of errors throughout the set that ultimately resulted in a 25-23 loss. Two service aces and a team total of 16 kills also aided the Redhawks to the set two win.
“Our serving and passing were definitely a culprit of our struggles tonight,” Miller said. “We struggled to pass the ball at times, and that has a domino effect on the rest of the offense. It all starts with a pass.”
Set three went far beyond set point and ended in a 30-28 Cardinal victory. Although the Redhawks tallied more kills, a .366 hitting percentage and three aces, the Cardinals came out on top after kills from senior Ellie Dunn and graduate student Jessica Lindsey. While Margaret Payne attempted to keep the Redhawks in the set with a few kills of her own to match Dunn’s, errors amongst the team resulted in their loss.
The Redhawks’ 17 kills and .314 hitting percentage would give them another win, 25-18. The Cardinal offense struggled in set four, hitting at .176 and only racking up 10 kills. Four attack errors, one service error and a ball-handling error also added to the loss for the Cardinal squad, sending them to a fifth set.
Set five came down to the wire as the Cardinals came back to tie it 14-14 after being down by two. Three kills from Dunn were the Cardinals’ last hope, but the Redhawks came out on top after a service error from VanBeek and kills from Sophie Riemersma and Courtney Simons.
“We have to continue to have confidence in high-pressure situations,” Miller said. “We worked hard and hit well in moments throughout the match, but having that consistency is key, and we have to win those big points to win the match.”
A contributing factor to the Redhawk victory was the attack-attempt comparison. The Cardinals finished with 165 attempts, and the Redhawks shot a noteworthy 203, resulting in 77 kills versus the Cardinals’ 62.
Leaders for the Cardinals were Dunn with 20 kills and Seaman with a .444 hitting percentage and 48 assists. Junior Kate Avila contributed 20 digs.
The Cardinals will be back in action Saturday at Bowling Green at 5 p.m.