Ball State Women’s Volleyball drops conference opener against Kent State

Junior outside hitter Natalie Mitchem spikes the ball past Northern Kentucky's blockers in Worthen Arena Sept. 18. The Cardinals beat out Northern Kentucky in 5 sets in the final game of the double header. Jacy Bradley, DN
Junior outside hitter Natalie Mitchem spikes the ball past Northern Kentucky's blockers in Worthen Arena Sept. 18. The Cardinals beat out Northern Kentucky in 5 sets in the final game of the double header. Jacy Bradley, DN

Ball State (10-3, 0-1 MAC) opened its Mid-American Conference slate with a 3-2 loss against Kent State (6-7, 1-0 MAC) Friday evening.

After winning the first two sets by scores of 25-19 and 25-13, the Cardinals lost the next three sets by scores of 28-26, 25-19 and 17-15 respectively. 

Head Coach Kelli Miller Phillips felt Kent State’s tactical switch in the match was decisive.

“They really focused on setting to their left side and getting them a ton of balls,” Miller Phillips said. “They had great numbers, both their left sides hit unbelievably, specifically Savannah Mathews (Kent State junior outside hitter), and we just couldn’t stop it.”

Ball State’s offense was led by graduate student outside hitter Jaclyn Bulmahn and junior middle blocker Marie Plitt, who recorded 16 kills each. Junior outside hitter Natalie Mitchem spiked 15 kills and graduate student outside hitter Emily Hollowell contributed 13 kills. Miller Phillips felt the Cardinals have to reset for the next match. 

“We’ve got to get back to our fundamental things,” Miller Phillips said. “Just trust what we do, trust how hard we work in practice. Tomorrow is a new day, and we’ve got to get out there and approach it with a fresh mindset, go out there and do us.”

In the backcourt, junior outside hitter Natalie Risi led the Cardinals in digs (25). Freshman setter Megan Wielonski finished with a team-high 52 assists. After taking the first two sets, Ball State allowed the Golden Flashes back into the match. 

Sophomore middle blocker Lauren Gilliland (right) celebrates a kill with her teammate freshman setter Megan Wielonski (left) in Worthen Arena Sept. 18. The Cardinals are now 10-2 for the season overall. Jacy Bradley, DN

“They came back with a different level of intensity and focus,” Miller Phillips said. “We let our foot off the gas a bit and they took advantage of that.”

In the fifth set, a call was made by the officiating team as Ball State held a 15-14 lead. 

“They challenged that we were in the net,” Miller Phillips said. “Our blockers said that they were not, but he [the official] said that he saw that we were, ao they had to change the call. Sometimes that’s going to go against you, when you’re on the road and in a tight environment, you’ve got to be ready for calls to go not your way sometimes.”

Although the Cardinals’ first MAC match of the season resulted in a loss, Miller Phillips said she is excited for the competiive matchups moving forward.

“[It] Doesn't matter who you play, it doesn't matter what [the] records are,” Miller Phillips said. “The MAC is just a fight. Every single team is the one to fight and it’s scrappy. It’s a whole lot of fun and you get to battle with the best of the best night in and night out.”

The Cardinals return to action Sept. 25 for their second match against Kent State. First set is 4 p.m.

Contact Daniel Kehn with comments at daniel.kehn@bsu.edu or on Twitter @kehn_daniel.

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