Ball State Women’s Volleyball (5-5, 0-0 MAC) returned home after back to back road tournaments, hosting the annual Active Ankle Challenge. Cardinals opened up tournament play Friday night, sweeping Austin Peay (1-10, 0-0 OVC), 3-0, in front of a raucous Worthen Arena crowd.
“Any sweep is nice and I think at home just getting back in front of our home crowd, we had an awesome crowd tonight,” head coach Kelli Miller Philips said.
The Cardinals played a complete match tonight with a focus on defense tonight which anchored them to the one-sided victory. They were able to put together a total of 44 digs throughout the night making it difficult for the Governors to score consistently.
Defensive specialists, senior Kate Avila and freshman Maggie Huber had 16 digs combined, along with freshman outside hitter, Natalie Risi who added six more.
“We played really well as a team tonight,” Risi said. “We focused a lot on blocking and defense this week in practice. We’ve been working hard at that part of the game and I think it showed tonight.”
Ball State outmatched Austin Peay on offense, recording 18 more kills than the Governors, 47-29. Senior middle blocker, Sydnee Vanbeek had a clutch sealing kill to put the Cardinals on top in the final moments of set one off an assist from senior setter Amber Seaman. The team continued this offensive execution the rest of the way with 41 total assists.
Seaman has been a major playmaker this season leading the team with 206 assists on the year and once again filled that play making role with 35 of the 41 assists the team had tonight.
“It just feels good to be back to playing in rhythm,” Miller Philips said. “Set one and two we had some moments where we had one too many unforced errors, but in set three we got back to playing our style. It was a good start to the tournament.”
Leading in kills for the Cardinals were freshman opposite Allison Hamaker with 14, Risi with nine, and freshman outside hitter Natalie Mitchem with eight. Hamaker’s kills were key in capping off the last two set victories over the Governors winning both 25-23 and 25-14.
The win Friday night pushed Ball State back to .500 on the season with a 5-5 record and will look to go above .500 with two more games at home Saturday. Ball State will face Wright State and Missouri State to close out the tournament.
“We’re expecting a battle, and it will be an opportunity for us to see how far we’ve worked on particular things in practice and being able to translate that to the games we play,” Miller Philips said.