Ball State clinches MAC West title for 3rd straight season on senior night
Senior libero Kate Avila is Ball State’s ironwoman.
She has played in every set since she walked into Worthen Arena as a freshman — 470 to be exact, including the four played on her senior night Saturday.
“Even last week, Kate is constantly asking for what she can do more,” head coach Kelli Miller Phillips said. “She’s just grown, gotten better and has become more confident every single year, every single day, every single week. I thought tonight was probably one of the best matches she's played in her career.”
Avila finished with 28 digs, five assists and two aces. While none of those numbers are career highs, Avila said she is just happy to play.
“It means the world to me,” Avila said about her coaches’ trust in her. “Not every night is going to be my night, but they still believe in me every single time, and I’m going to give my all for them in return.”
The Cardinals (17-11, 11-5 MAC) sought revenge from a 3-1 loss to Central Michigan (21-7, 11-5 MAC) on the road Oct. 11 where a big factor was their .121 hitting percentage. They vastly improved in the rematch to earn a share of the Mid-American Conference West Division title for the third year in a row, hitting an even .200.
Junior Kia Holder, who didn’t play much of a role in the October loss, finished Saturday with a team-high 19 kills.
“This win took every single person on this team,” Avila said. “This is the last time us seniors could possibly be playing on this floor, and it just means the world to me that we played like every point mattered.”
The other seniors also performed well with Amber Seaman (three kills, 29 assists, 17 digs), Sydnee VanBeek (seven kills, six blocks, three digs) and Anna Jenson (four digs) propelling the Cardinals to the win.
“Thank you,” Avila said of her fellow seniors. “They are what got me through college athletics. The highs, and the lows, the greatness, the tears, the wins, the losses — every little thing, I owe it to them.”
The Cardinals did not give in during set one. Finding themselves down, 24-22, Ball State rallied off four straight points to win, 26-24.
The first set foreshadowed the second and fourth. Every time the Cardinals looked to be down and out, there would be four- or five-point rallies that would swing the momentum back into their favor.
This includes a six-point rally that saw a 14-14 tie in the final set move to a 20-14 lead, ultimately sealing the Cardinals’ win.
“We certainly are resilient,”Miller Phillips said. “A strength of ours has been our versatility and depth, and whoever we insert has just provided the spark we needed, and that has been huge for our team.”
The Cardinals now hold the four seed in the MAC Tournament and will await their opponent in the second round.