Leading into the 2023 campaign, head coach Kelli Miller Phillips has led Ball State to wins over Eastern Michigan in 12 of the last 14 meetings between the two programs.
Ball State continued its recent success against its Mid-American Conference (MAC) foe on Friday, as the Cardinals downed the Eagles 3-0 (25-18, 25-17, 25-16) inside the George Gervin GameAbove Center.
“I was really happy with their focus,” Miller Phillips said. “I felt like we put a lot of effort this week in practice on our defensive presence and expanding our range picking up off-speed balls because we knew Eastern is a scrappy team and moves the ball around quite a bit.”
The red and white cruised to their quick victory on the tails of strong front row play. Powering through Eastern Michigan blockers, Ball State hitters logged 48 kills on a 30.3 hitting percentage – the fourth-highest clip of the season.
“We tried to be really balanced,” Miller Phillips said. “I thought the backcourt people put us in a good position with our ball control.”
Redshirt freshman Aniya Kennedy led the offensive charge, posting another impressive outing. The six-foot middle blocker ripped a team-high 13 kills at a scorching 42.3 hitting percentage. Kennedy’s performance marks her ninth match this season in which she has recorded double-digit kills.
“I just think it's our defense [and] our ability to play the serve-pass game,” Kennedy said. “And Megan [Wielonski] sets a perfect ball every time.”
Senior outside hitter Cait Snyder enjoyed one of her finest outings of the campaign, as her 12 kills and 45.8 hitting percentage on Friday surpassed her previous season-high marks. Miller Phillips said that Snyder “has really turned it on in the last two weeks,” and she commended the Hamilton, Ind. product for her low-error play.
Fifth-year middle blocker Marie Plitt joined Snyder and Kennedy in recording double-digit kills, as the veteran logged 10 kills and added a block.
Junior setter Megan Wielonski, who received MAC West Setter of the Week honors for her efforts last week, extended her streak of standout performances on Friday. Wielonski recorded 36 sets, as she orchestrated a quick-moving offensive all evening.
The Ball State back row excelled in the sweep, as its defensive efforts held Eastern Michigan to a 13.2 hitting percentage on 121 attacks. Fifth-year Havyn Gates and sophomore Josie Bloom led with 10 digs each, while sophomore Paige Busick and Wielosnki each dug up nine
The Cardinals also enjoyed success from the service line, dropping seven service aces – tied for the team’s second-best mark this season.
The Cardinals’ triumph in their first MAC road match of the campaign bucked a trend from last season, as they fell in their first two away contests in 2022. Kennedy underscored the confidence her team received from Friday’s road win.
“It definitely means a lot because [playing] on the road is just different,” Kennedy said. “You're in a new facility, a new look at a court, so it just really means a lot when you go somewhere new and you win because the environment is different.”
Ball State (6-8, 3-0 MAC) will close out its slate against Eastern Michigan (2-14, 0-4 MAC) at 4 p.m. tomorrow in Ypsilanti. A victory in the second half of the weekend slate will extend the Cardinals’ winning streak to five matches.
“Whatever the match is, enjoy that to the fullest; execute that to the fullest,” Miller Phillips said. And then, we will worry about the next one, and the next night, and so on and so forth. It resets tomorrow; we gotta do it again.”