Northern Illinois (8-20, 5-9 MAC) was no match for the streaking Ball State (15-11, 9-5 MAC), who won its fourth straight game in a 3-0 sweep. While each set was close, Ball State ultimately came out on top. Here are four takeaways from the match.
Natalie Risi continues dominance
Freshman outside hitter Natalie Risi has been making a positive impact all season, and she has not gone away in the Cardinals' winning streak. She especially did not go away in the win over Northern Illinois.
Risi led all Cardinals with 17 kills, marking her fifth consecutive game with 10 or more. She also did a little bit of everything, per usual, with six digs and an assist.
Anna Jensen marks career high in digs
In three out of the last four matches for the Cardinals, somebody has come out with a career high. This time around, it was senior defensive specialist Anna Jensen with 26 digs.
Jensen has been in and out of playing time, and this go around, she took advantage of the opportunity presented. Prior to Saturday, her career best was 17 digs last season, and her season high this year was 11 against Southern Florida in the second match of the season.
Cardinals finally get off to strong start
This was the first match in the Cardinals’ four-game winning streak where they won the first set. Head coach Kelli Miller Phillips emphasized the importance of starting the game on a positive note after their win over Buffalo.
While the first set was Ball State’s tightest, the Cardinals ended up winning it, 26-24. They followed it with two more close sets, winning them both, 25-21 and 25-22, respectively.
Depth continues to be a strength for Ball State
When the Mid-American Conference Tournament rolls around Nov. 21, Miller Phillips said it will be important that the team's depth to continue to perform due to the fact it might have to play four times in four days.
In the last four matches, the Cardinals have been able to count on players such as junior outside hitter Kia Holder, freshman middle blocker Marie Plitt and Risi for kills. Saturday, senior middle blocker Sydnee VanBeek followed Risi’s 17 kills with seven of her own.
Ball State also has two reliable setters on the offense. Redshirt freshman Esther Grussing had a game with 64 assists against Toledo, and senior Amber Seaman has a season high of 62.
Saturday, Grussing led the way with 24 assists, followed by Seaman’s 14. They have shown they can be two players who can positively facilitate the offense and be counted on to lead the team.
In the win, Ball State also locked up an eight seed in the upcoming MAC Tournament and could finish the regular season in the top four. The Cardinals come back home to play Eastern Michigan Friday and MAC-leader Central Michigan Saturday.