Both matches between Ball State and Toledo mirrored each other.
Thursday night’s match found Toledo (2-4 MAC) winning in five sets while Friday night’s match ended the same way with Ball State Women’s Volleyball (5-1 MAC) coming out on top.
The Rockets and the Cardinals have a history of playing close matches, as 24 of the last 40 matches have ended in four sets or more. Thursday and Friday were no different, and head coach Fritz Rosenberg said he believes Toledo is a challenging team to play.
“It is always time for us to rise to the challenge and be ready for battles with them,” Rosenberg said. “I enjoy playing against them. They have a great coaching staff and they are a team that will make you get better.”
The first match went back-and-forth, as Ball State won the first and third sets while Toledo won the second, fourth and final set. This was the Cardinals’ first loss of the season and despite that, sophomore defensive specialist Maggie Huber said she was proud of the Cardinals' effort.
“I think they came out strong,” Huber said. “We came out a little weak in the first set, but I thought we fought hard the whole match. They did make great defensive plays, and I thought they did a good job seeing the ball.”
Huber had a career-high 35 digs and Rosenberg praised her range on the floor and her contribution to the Cardinals’ defense.
“She is a great defender,” Rosenberg said. “It is one of her greatest strengths. We ask her to cover a lot of ground in the backcourt for us. They hit a lot of balls at her and I thought she held her ground. She probably wanted a few more but that’s volleyball.”
In spite of Huber’s career-high, Toledo’s defense put up 102 digs compared to Ball State’s 92. Offensively, Taylor Alt led the Rockets with 29 kills. Rosenberg complimented the Rockets' versatility on the floor.
“They outplayed us tonight on defense,” Rosenberg said. “They are just a tough team, well-rounded and I think they are well-coached. You expect that in the MAC every night, and today it went their way.”
Friday night did not go Toledo’s way, as they lost in the final set 15-10. Sophomore outside hitter Natalie Risi tied a career-high 22 digs and added 12 kills to the stat sheet.
“It is a whole team effort,” Risi said. “We were set up really well so we can defend around it, making a lot easier for us to defend the hard-hitting balls from the players on the other side.”
Not only did Risi tie a career-high in digs, but Huber also had 35 digs for the second consecutive match, which is her career-best. Freshman defensive specialist Kate Vinson also contributed to the defense with 10.
“Defense is what we really focused on getting better at,” Rosenberg said. “I thought we did a much better job defending in the backcourt and were in better places and more disciplined. They have some great attackers, and we had to make some adjustments so I am proud of how they responded.”
Offensively, senior outside hitter Kia Holder led the Cardinals with 17 kills followed by sophomore opposite Allison Hamaker with 14. Rosenberg said he was proud of how Ball State responded to Thursday’s loss.
“It feels good because it was a really hard-fought weekend,” Rosenberg said. “Both nights could have gone either way. It felt good to come back and prove to ourselves that we can win in five sets and perform well at the end.”