The Cardinals came away with a 3-2 win over Ohio in the quarterfinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament Friday despite 66 kills by the Bobcats.
“Our overall competitiveness really impressed me tonight,” head coach Kelli Miller said. “From start to finish, I felt like we were totally in the moment and played hard volleyball throughout the entire match.”
Senior Ellie Dunn drove the team throughout the match, drilling 19 kills and registering a .314 hitting percentage to go along with 11 blocks.
“Our energy and consistency played a huge role in tonight’s win,” Dunn said. “Staying on top, playing our game and being confident really sealed it for us.”
Throughout the season, Dunn has been a guiding force for this Cardinal team. Prior to tonight’s match, she recorded 393 kills in this season alone while also displaying her back row presence with 282 digs, behind only junior libero Kate Avila.
“Historically, we have had a bit of a tough time during the MAC Tournament,” Dunn said. “I was really proud of our fight tonight and the way that we did not let up throughout the entire match.”
The Cardinals came out swinging in set one, and it was freshman Reece Kral who fueled the team early. Tallying five kills, Kral paved the way for a strong Cardinal performance, joined by Dunn with three kills. Ohio’s Lizzie Stephens registered four consecutive kills to attempt to bring the team back into the set, but the Cardinals would take it, 25-14.
The Bobcats returned in set two with a fire underneath them. It was a back-and-forth battle, but a late 23-19 lead for the Bobcats saw the Cardinals reconvening in the huddle. Coming out of the timeout, the Cardinals clinched back-to-back points after a kill from Dunn and a Bobcat attack error. Their efforts fell short with a kill from Stephanie Olman, granting the Bobcats the set two victory, 25-23.
It was Olman who would keep the Bobcats alive while senior Meg Starling provided the set three spark for the Cardinals. The point of struggle for the Cardinals was serving, tallying five errors in the third set alone. The Cardinals prevailed and won the set 25-23 courtesy of kills from Kral and graduate student Jessica Lindsey.
An early 5-1 lead saw the Bobcats finding momentum in the fourth set, finding leadership in Jaime Kosiorek who registered four kills. With strong attacks from the Cardinal side of the net, the Bobcats came in scrappy as libero Macy Reihing picked up five quick digs early in the set. Their grit would send them to a fifth set after they took the fourth, 25-22.
“We stayed the course the whole time, and I think that’s what made the difference,” Miller said. “We never got discouraged. Every single time it came over the net, we reset.”
The final set of the match saw the Cardinals come out victorious, 15-12. After three challenged plays and late attack errors on both sides, the match ended on a Cardinal ace from Avila.
Following Dunn in kills was Starling with 12 and Lindsey with 11. Junior Amber Seaman registered 54 assists and led the team in digs with 15.
The Cardinals will back in action Saturday for the third round of the MAC Tournament against Miami of Ohio at 7 p.m.