“Everyone wants to end their career playing their best volleyball.”
Ball State Women’s Volleyball (9-12) head coach Kelli Miller Phillips described lone senior outside hitter Kia Holder’s performance as "on fire," saying how proud of her she was, as she played her last two matches of her career.
“First, we put emphasis on wanting to play well for Kia [Holder],” Miller Phillips said. “We wanted to play our best and make sure we were fighting for her. Secondly, I talked to the team about what our focus was going to be. We always talk about wanting to play our best volleyball toward the end of the season.”
“We were led our heart and soul by Kia Holder,” Miller Phillips said. “She played with her whole heart and gave it everything she had. She was just inspiring people, so I felt like she was playing her heart out, and that is all you can ask for.”
It wasn’t the results Holder or the Cardinals wanted, as they split Friday and Saturday’s matches to Eastern Michigan (8-12), but despite this, Holder ended Saturday with a career-high 27 kills.
“When you are a senior playing in your final two matches, it means a lot,” Miller Phillips said. “You want to be playing free, and you want to play your best. She is playing with her whole heart and her best volleyball.”
The Cardinals swept the Eagles 3-0 Friday night and were led by Holder with 17 kills, followed by sophomore outside hitter Natalie Mitchem with 13 and a .545 hitting percentage. Miller Phillips was pleased with the connection Mitchem and sophomore setter Esther Grussing had.
“Right off of the bat, they had a good setter and hitter connection,” Miller Phillips said. “Natalie [Mitchem] took advantage of them, and the ball was moving around, and she was hitting really smart shots. Everything she did tonight was golden.”
Saturday afternoon, Eastern Michigan responded, taking the first two sets, but the Cardinals came back to take it to a fifth set. The Eagles ultimately won the final set 15-13, closing out the season.
Despite the loss, Miller Phillips thought there was a lot to gain from the season, and she said how blessed she is to coach the Cardinals.
“This season was unique,” Miller Phillips said. “I think the biggest thing was that it was a joy to be able to compete with this group. All of the circumstances aside, I really just enjoyed getting to be with them. Sometimes you take for granted the grind. Regardless of the outcome, it is just a blessing being able to coach and be a part of their lives.”