Mitchem leads Ball State past Toledo in 4 sets

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 Women's Volleyball (18-3, 8-1 MAC) defeated Toledo (15-6, 6-3 MAC) in four sets on Oct. 19 at Worthen Arena. Both the Cardinals and the Rockets were sitting in the top three of the Mid-American Conference (MAC) West Division, but Ball State left the match in first place. 

“I felt like we were a little over-amped [in the beginning],” head coach Kelli Miller Phillips said. “Finally we started to settle down and play our style of volleyball.”

The Cardinals lost the first set 25-19 and Miller Phillips was focused on calming down Ball State in between sets.

“Trying to get everyone to relax and quit overthinking,” Phillips said. “... we had one day to prepare, that was a little unique. So I think we overthought that a little bit, we just told them ‘relax, trust what we do,’ and I think we just settled down after that.”

Ball State went on to win the next three sets by scores of 25-19, 26-24 and 25-20 to defeat the Rockets. The Cardinals were led at the net by sophomore middle blocker Lauren Gilliland, junior middle blocker Marie Plitt and junior outside hitter Natalie Mitchem who helped the cardinals to 10 total blocks.

“I think we stayed disciplined, that’s what we’ve been working on all week, to be disciplined at the net,” Gilliland said. “To execute that feels really great.” 

Plitt and Gilliland also contributed three and five kills, but Mitchem had a team-high 21 kills, also a season-high for her. Mitchem said it only adds to the Cardinals' confidence ahead of an anticipated Western Michigan matchup on Friday.

“I think we are going in really confident,” Mitchem said. “I feel like Megan can set anybody on the net and I feel like anybody can score at any time. I feel like everybody should watch out for [anybody] in the front row.” 

Freshman setter Megan Wielonski had a team-high 43 assists out of the backcourt and shared a team-high 17 digs with junior defensive specialist Havyn Gates. 

The Cardinals will now prepare for a MAC West Division match against Western Michigan on Friday. The Broncos sit second, just one win behind Ball State. 

“Going into Western, we’re going to have to be more balanced,” Phillips said. “We’re going to have to get the middles more involved and I think we’ll do that.”

Ball State will be in Kalamazoo, Mich to face off against Western Michigan on Friday, Oct. 22 at 6 p.m.

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

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