Mental toughness becoming symbol of Ball State as team heads to MAC Championship

<p>Ball State volleyball assistant coach Fritz Rosenberg talks with the team during a time out in their game against Central Michigan Nov. 17, 2019, in John E. Worthen Arena. Rosenberg is a Ball State alumnus who has been the assistant coach for six seasons. <strong>Eric Pritchett, DN</strong></p>

Ball State volleyball assistant coach Fritz Rosenberg talks with the team during a time out in their game against Central Michigan Nov. 17, 2019, in John E. Worthen Arena. Rosenberg is a Ball State alumnus who has been the assistant coach for six seasons. Eric Pritchett, DN

Mental toughness has been a theme for Ball State Women’s Volleyball (19-11, 12-5 MAC). The Cardinals have dealt with playing down all season, and their 3-1 win against Miami (Ohio) (17-11, 12-4 MAC) was no different. 

The Cardinals lost their second set, 30-28, and trailed in parts of the third set. They rallied back and won, 25-23. They ultimately found their way in the fourth and final set, winning that one, 25-20.

“It is going to take mental toughness,” head coach Kelli Miller Phillps said. “It has been something we have been preaching all year. It takes mental toughness to do the little things consistently, and that is what we are going to have to do.” 

Last time these two teams matched up, Miami swept the Cardinals and dominated the entire match.

While Ball State prepares for each game the same way, this one was different because now, it is playing for a championship. The Cardinals are rallying around each other, and it has helped them extend their winning streak to eight matches. 

“We have had such a team effort,” Miller Phillips said. “It really feels good to know that the effort we have been putting in is all coming together, and any time you get to play for a championship is special.” 

Senior middle blocker Sydnee VanBeek led the team with 17 kills, followed by junior outside hitter Kia Holder with 11 and freshman outside hitter Natalie Mitchem with 10. Senior defensive specialist Kate Avila had a big night with 30 digs on the defensive end. 

The last few matches have seen Ball State’s depth develop into a strength, and it is a large reason it is winning — it’s not relying too heavily on one person.

“Sydnee VanBeek led us offensively tonight,” Miller Phillips said. “She got us going early, which I thought really set the tone for us. After that, we were pretty balanced. We had several attackers that were right around 10 kills. We did not really rely on one person in particular.” 

Miller Phillips said the team knows what it needs to do to win the championship. The Cardinals are one victory away from the promised land. If they stay composed, they very well could be MAC Champions. 

“We have to prepare and recover the exact same,” Miller Phillips said. “Make sure we have the mental focus just like any other match. You can’t get too hype, can’t get too amped up. You just have to trust yourself.”

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

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