It’s a somber night in Oxford, Ohio as Ball State Women's Volleyball (22-9, 12-5 MAC) falls to top seed Miami (Ohio) (22-7, 14-3 MAC) 3-2, despite winning the first two sets of the match.
The Cardinals had not made it past the first round of the MAC Tournament since 2015. Head coach Kelli Miller said she is proud of the way her team battled in this final match.
Achieving the first record with 20-plus wins since 2013, this Cardinal squad has set themselves apart. With a six-game win streak, numerous MAC West Division honors, and 15 sweeps on the season, the team has much to show for a successful year.
“Tonight, and all throughout the season, we have played with a ton of passion and competitiveness,” head coach Kelli Miller said. “There was not a moment where I felt like we weren’t 100 percent engaged or competing.”
While the Cardinals largest lead came at 13-5 in the first set, it didn’t take the RedHawks long to cut the deficit. Big plays from seniors Stela Kukoc and Courtney Simons, along with freshman Gaby Harper, brought the set to a tie at 19. But the Cardinals, led by graduate student Jessica Lindsey with four kills, finished strong and took the set 25-22.
Exchanged leads and extra points made the second set a thriller. It was a combined effort on the RedHawk side of the net, with kills from Harper, Simons, and freshman Sophie Riemersma. The Cardinals relied on Lindsey and senior Meg Starling to lead the frontline, while the back row registered 24 digs between sets one and two. This 27-25 win went to the Cardinals.
Starling added three more kills early in the third set, but the Redhawks quickly took control. Riemersma pushed them to an 18-12 lead. Junior Margaret Payne was tough to stop for the Cardinals, but another three kills from Starling and a few from senior Ellie Dunn ended up tying the set at 19. The teams battled back-and-forth, but Riemersma clinched the win with a final kill at 25-23.
“We followed the game plan and our preparation was good,” Miller said. “But at times, we just got out-executed.”
Harper recorded seven kills in the fourth set alone and the RedHawks led from 3-2 on. That was until the Cardinals tied things up at the tail end of the set at 24-24, courtesy of yet another kill from Lindsey. But the RedHawk momentum stayed strong, and their 26-24 win sent the match into the fifth and deciding set.
The fifth set was in favor of the RedHawks from the start, and it didn’t take long for the team to gain an early 10-4 lead on the Cardinals. Riemersma led the way for the Redhawk victory, 15-5.
“When you do everything you can, and you lay it out on the line, sometimes things just don’t fall your way and you get beat,” Miller said. “But I certainly think this group has made a huge impact on Ball State volleyball and gotten better and better every single match. That is all I can ask for.”
Starling finished the night with 15 kills. Following was Lindsey with 13, while junior Sydnee VanBeek totaled six blocks. Avila contributed 15 digs and junior Amber Seaman tallied 49 assists.