LOUISVILLE, Ky. – In 2011, Ball State Women’s Volleyball (30-4, 17-1 MAC) met the University of Louisville (30-0, 18-0 ACC) in the NCAA tournament and Louisville left with the 3-0 match win.
A decade and two days later, history repeated itself as Louisville ended Ball State’s season with a 3-0 win Dec. 4.
“I felt like we fought with all of our hearts and did everything we could do,” head coach Kelli Miller Phillips said. “I thought that Louisville was just a much better team than us tonight, but I can’t say enough about how proud [I am] of [this team] staying the course and continuing to compete until that last point. We just had a lot of fun with it.”
Ball State came out aggressively and pushed Louisville to extra points in set one, but fell short 29-27. After the first set, Ball State didn't replicate its form, falling 25-11 and 25-19 in sets two and three.
“There is the reality of being so close to having that first set win and it not falling your way,” head coach Kelli Miller Phillips said. “Volleyball is a huge game of momentum. Louisville came back [in] set two and played much cleaner and they really upped their game. So I don’t think really it was as much we didn’t play as well, I think Louisville played significantly cleaner and did not make as many errors.”
With the 2021 season coming to an end, graduate student outside hitter Jaclyn Bulmahn, redshirt junior setter Esther Grussing and senior defensive specialist Cathryn Starck all played their last matches in a Cardinal volleyball uniform.
“I literally just had the best time I could here,” Starck said. “I’m from California, and I’m telling you, people don’t come out [to Indiana], but I am so glad that coach Miller gave me that chance and I was able to come out here and play with this program.”
Junior middle blocker Marie Plitt thanked the retiring players for everything they brought to Ball State Women's Volleyball.
“I can’t thank them enough,” Plitt said. “Each one of them has brought something so special to this team and I am super grateful to have met them as people, as players [and] as teammates. They’re some of my best friends.”
Plitt lead the Cardinals’ attack with seven kills while freshman setter Megan Wielonski contributed 26 assists. Junior defensive specialist Maggie Huber totaled 10 digs.
Although its season ended in defeat, Ball State earned a Mid-American Conference (MAC) championship, won a then NCAA-leading 30 matches, defeated Michigan to win its first NCAA match in 26 years and entered the Louisville matchup on a 20-match unbeaten run. Phillips said the Cardinals will continue to build.
“I think we’re returning a large group of our team and they are still in a position of ‘we’re not satisfied with being here,” Phillips said. “We are wanting to continue to get better. They have great perspective and the ability to soak in the moment, enjoy it, but understand that we still want to get better, we still want more. We’ll continue to fight for more and not just go into the offseason feeling good about what we did. The mark of toughness mentally is being able to reset and start anew.”
Ball State returns to competition in the 2022-23 season.