Unstable stability: Without its head coach, Ball State Women’s Volleyball will have to use chemistry from its roster to win.

<p>Ball State junior outside hitter Kia Holder talks with freshman middle blocker Marie Plitt before the next serve Nov. 16, 2019, in John E. Worthen Arena. The Cardinal's next game will be in Bowling Green, Ohio during the MAC volleyball championship. <strong>Eric Pritchett, DN</strong></p>

Ball State junior outside hitter Kia Holder talks with freshman middle blocker Marie Plitt before the next serve Nov. 16, 2019, in John E. Worthen Arena. The Cardinal's next game will be in Bowling Green, Ohio during the MAC volleyball championship. Eric Pritchett, DN

In times of uncertainty and change, something that has remained stable is the roster of defending Mid-American Conference Champion Ball State Women’s Volleyball.

The Cardinals return 11 players from 2019, with six of them being sophomores. These 11 players were part of the core that won the 2019 MAC Championship in a five-set victory against Bowling Green.

“It is nice because we all have a connection with each other since we had so many freshmen last year,” sophomore middle blocker Marie Plitt said, “but we have something to prove this season.” 

Senior outside hitter Kia Holder echoed Plitt, saying she wants to prove the Cardinals’ seventh MAC Title wasn’t a miracle. While she said having those returning players will be nice, she believes their work will be cut out for them as defending champions.

“It will be ideal to find ourselves back in the championship,” Holder said. “We are going to have to work as hard as we did last season. I think everybody knows that, and we have to keep that confidence and focus, knowing everyone will be gunning for us. We have to show people it wasn’t just a fluke.” 

This continuity is something Holder — the team’s lone senior — said “gives them an advantage,” but she knows players are still fighting for positions, and they still need to account for their incoming freshmen.

Ball State has four freshmen, and Holder said she is excited to finally see them play after an extended offseason with the MAC postponing fall sports due to COVID-19. 

“I think it was awesome that we got last semester to work with them,” Holder said. “Now, we are a step ahead. Usually, freshmen kind of come in and do what they can as they are thrown into the season. They all bring something really special and unique to the team.” 

Despite the roster’s stability, Ball State’s coaching staff is a different story. Head coach Kelli Miller Phillips won’t be with the team for the first portion of the season, as she is on maternity leave.

While the Cardinals will start 2021 without their head coach, Holder said she is pleased with how the current coaching staff is keeping them focused leading up to the season.

“I don’t think there are that many changes,” Holder said. “Obviously, it sucks that she isn’t at practices with us. I do think the coaches have kind of worked toward making it seem normal, and it doesn’t seem like anything has fell off at all. I think they are doing a really good job of keeping us focused.”

Assistant coach Fritz Rosenburg, who is a 2008 Ball State graduate and entering his seventh season as an assistant coach with Ball State, will fill in as interim head coach. Plitt said she is proud of her coaches for stepping up into different roles and adjusting on the fly.

“It has been different with Fritz,” Plitt said. “I do think each coach has stepped up their role. They have had to take on so much, and I think they have done such a great job at that.”

Despite playing in the spring instead of the fall and not having their head coach for the first portion of the season, the Cardinals have one goal heading into 2021: winning another title.

“We have worked so hard in the fall,” Plitt said. “We are all working for the same exact goal, and we all respect each other enough. We are all playing for each other to get this championship again.” 

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

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