Ball State advances to MAC Semi-finals after taking down Ohio

<p>Ball State women's volleyball huddles after defeating Central Michigan in the last game of the regular season Nov. 16, 2019, in John E. Worthen Arena. The Cardinals are 17-11 for the season going into the MAC championship. <strong>Eric Pritchett, DN</strong></p>

Ball State women's volleyball huddles after defeating Central Michigan in the last game of the regular season Nov. 16, 2019, in John E. Worthen Arena. The Cardinals are 17-11 for the season going into the MAC championship. Eric Pritchett, DN

On to the next one. Seven straight wins. 

Fourth-seeded Ball State Women’s Volleyball (18-11, 11-5 MAC) advanced to the semi-finals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament Friday with a 3-1 win over Ohio (17-12, 9-7 MAC).

The Cardinals found contribution all around the board with three players scoring double-digit kills and digs. Redshirt freshman setter Esther Grussing and senior setter Amber Seaman combined for 58 assists on the night.

“Kia Holder really stepped it up for us,” head coach Kelli Miller Phillips said. “She had 16 kills, hitting .438 for us. Natalie Risi also had 16 kills, and those two were finding the floor over and over. We can go across the board. I thought Kate Avila was really good passing and playing defense for us.”

Freshman opposite Allison Hamaker contributed with 10 kills in the match. Risi not only stepped up on the offensive end, but defensively, she had 13 digs. Freshman defensive specialist Maggie Huber also had 11 digs.

Versatility was a word Miller Phillips kept emphasizing about the team, and she said it is something that has given the Cardinals this late-season spark.

“We continue to be versatile,” Miller Phillips said. “We were able to spread out the offense, and I think that is because we have a lot of confidence in every hitter. That depth and versatility really allow us to mix things up and keep our defense balanced.”

Miller Phillips said the Cardinals were prepared for Friday. They knew the intensity they needed to come out with to wind up on top, and they know the spirit at which they will have to play in order to win the whole thing. 

“Our team plays every match like it is a championship match,” Miller Phillips said. “We have been preparing and training like that every single practice so that when we get to the tournament, we aren’t trying to do something new.” 

The Cardinals have found their identity, and they are staying true to it. While they came out with some nerves, they kept themselves poised, and it helped them secure the win.

“We are trusting ourselves, and knowing what our strengths are and staying true to who we are,” Miller Phillips said. “I do think we had some adrenaline out the gate in set one, which is to be expected, but after that, we really settled in and were who we have been all year.” 

Next up, Ball State will take on top-seeded Miami (Ohio) (17-10, 12-4 MAC). The winner of that goes to the championship game. Last time these two teams faced off, the RedHawks swept the Cardinals, 3-0. 

“It is definitely a confidence builder to get that first win under your belt,” Miller Phillips said. “Now our sole focus is just resetting and our side of the net. We are going to prepare as we have been, and we are looking forward to playing Miami.”

Contact Ian Hansen with comments at imhansen@bsu.edu or on Twitter @ianh_2.

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