The regular season is underway as Ball State Women’s Volleyball (1-1, 0-0 MAC) hosted the University of Alabama at Birmingham (0-2, 0-0 C-USA West) and the University of South Florida (2-0, 0-0 AAC) Friday in Worthen Arena.
The Cardinals got their first win under their belt to begin the day, defeating the Blazers. Balanced attack across the board was the key in this victory for the Cardinals as many players contributed throughout. Head coach Kelli Miller Phillips said the way her team responded to playing in a tough doubleheader match was important.
“Tonight tested us, especially in our ability to perform under pressure having to make multiple defensive adjustments,” Miller Phillips said. “I think the girls responded very well to the challenge tonight.”
Ball State swept the best-of five-match, 3-0, winning set one 32-29, set two 25-23 and set three 25-20. Three Cardinals tied for a game-high 11 kills against UAB: freshmen outside hitters Natalie Risi and Natalie Mitchem and senior middle blocker Sydnee VanBeek. Freshman defensive specialist Maggie Huber led the game in aces with four, senior setter Amber Seaman provided a game-high 36 assists and VanBeek had three blocks on the defensive side.
“UAB had a lot of depth, which made them tough,” Mitchem said. “USF brought more offensively and were stronger at the net with the number of kills and blocks.”
As Mitchem stated, USF challenged the Cardinals throughout the night. The Bulls took the first two sets, winning set one 25-20 and set two 25-23. The Cardinals bounced back with a third-set victory, putting themselves on the board with a 25-18 win. They carried that momentum into set four with a tight 25-21 win, knotting up the overall match two apiece heading into the fifth and final set. USF was able to top the night off with a 15-13 set win to defeat Ball State 3-2 overall.
“We were able to come through those weaker parts of the game, and that two-point loss in the final set shows that we just have to work on those extra details in order to come out on top next time,” Mitchem said.
Mitchem led the Cardinals with 21 kills, followed by sophomore opposite/middle blocker Reece Kral with 10. Freshman Marie Plitt contributed on the defensive side, leading the way with five blocks.
“Both teams were physical and had really good right-side attackers,” Miller Phillips said. “USF was a much bigger team than UAB across the board, but both brought challenges for us tonight. Playing in a tough five-set match like we did tonight gives the girls good experience and is something we can build off of as we head into the season.”
The Cardinals will be back in action Tuesday in West Lafayette, Indiana, to take on Purdue at 7 p.m.
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