On the evening of Sept. 21 in Kalamazoo, junior Sydnee VanBeek deposited the final kill of the match to propel Ball State Women’s Volleyball into an already storied history. The team had just sealed its 900th program win. The victory was much more than redemption from Western Michigan ending their season last year. It was a history-making moment for the program.
It’s no secret Cardinal volleyball has been a force to be reckoned with since its beginning. The program has clinched a total of six MAC Tournament Championships, eight Regular Season MAC Championships and eight NCAA Tournament appearances, the most recent being in 2011.
With 23 winning seasons, the Cardinals have achieved a total record of 902-591-2. Over the course of 47 seasons, the Cardinals have also seen a number of players come away with a variety of honors. With two All-America honors, a Collegiate Volleyball Update Libero of the Year Award and 95 All-MAC accolades, the tradition of excellence is something current players are striving to maintain.
“The program has such a strong history, and it means a lot to have the opportunity to build on that,” senior middle hitter Meg Starling said. “This team has the capability to continue to add to the Ball State Volleyball program, and I’m excited to see what we’ll accomplish.”
Head coach Kelli Miller, a native of Muncie and former libero at Purdue University, has played a major role in the Cardinals’ success in recent years. In 2017, the team’s 19 overall wins - 11 within the MAC - proved to be the most for the program since 2013 when Miller was an assistant to then-head coach Steve Shondell.
“It’s an honor to help build on the tradition of Ball State Volleyball,” Miller said. “It was certainly special to be a part of the history-making moment of that 900th win, and we just hope to keep adding to it.”
A graduate of Muncie Central High School, Miller was a prodigy, leading her team to four straight conference titles and all undefeated league seasons. Forming her love for the game in Muncie taught her a lot about volleyball and how big of a deal the sport is within the community.
“In Delaware County, it’s always been about teaching the game and growing the game, which fits right in line with the history of Ball State as a whole,” Miller said. “The teams in this program are always striving to play at that championship standard.”
While the past of Ball State Volleyball shines with a number of accolades and honors, the future is bright with the current Cardinal squad. Along with being selected to win MAC West during the preseason, three players have received MAC West weekly honors, junior Amber Seaman receiving two of her own. The young blood on the team is reaching new heights, too, with freshman Reece Kral already tallying 79 kills on the season and freshman Cathryn Starck grabbing 111 digs.
“It’s been great to be a part of such a decorated volleyball program,” Starck said. “Even though there are only three freshmen, this team has amazing chemistry, and its really helping us to be successful this season.”
Sitting at 12-5 on the season, the road ahead is promising as the Cardinals dive deeper into the MAC schedule. As the program continues to grow, the love for the sport within the Muncie community follows suit.
“People around here love the game of volleyball, whether they be players, coaches or spectators,” Miller said. “This area houses a lot of champions, a lot of great coaches and a lot of great volleyball.”