After dropping a pair of matches last weekend to Mid-American Conference (MAC) East division leader Buffalo, Ball State recovered Friday night by defeating Kent State, 3-0 (25-13, 25-14, 25-15).
“There wasn't a ton of pressure that was put on us, but at least we were staying focused and doing things on our side of the court regardless of what was happening on the other side,” Ball State head coach Kelli Miller Phillips said.
Miller Phillips said that the Cardinals’ confident play against the Golden Flashes (5-18, 1-11 MAC) is due, in part, to a fresh mindset following last weekend’s setbacks.
“When you're winning all the time, you're really nervous to want to change anything,” Miller Phillips said. “You kind of have to drop that one, so then no pressure is on. It helps you to reset as a coach and as a team.”
The Cardinals’ victorious effort against Kent State was built on a dominating first-set performance. The red and white captured the first five points of the match and did not lose its momentum throughout the set.
Ball State slammed 15 kills on a .371 hitting percentage and held Kent State to a slim .031 clip en route to a 25-13 first-frame victory — the most decisive set win in its last four matches.
The Cardinals enjoyed a similar result in the second set as they cruised to a quick victory on the heels of an offensive onslaught. Ball State posted 16 kills without logging a single attack error in their 25-14 second win.
Ball State did not slow its pace in the third set, as the Cardinals’ 25-15 edge in the final frame capped off their most decisive sweep of the season, conceding just 42 total points to the visiting Golden Flashes.
Ball State’s consistent front-row attack collected 49 kills on a .443 clip — its highest mark of the season. Fifth-year middle blocker Marie Plitt led the charge with a team-high 13 kills on a .722 hitting percentage, and redshirt freshman middle blocker Aniya Kennedy closely followed with 12 kills.
“I just think we were more balanced so they couldn't overly commit on any one attacker,” Miller Phillips said.
“A lot of the things we focused on practice showed tonight — just making sure we get every ball up, no plays off — and I think that really shows,” Kennedy said.
Wielonski surpassed the 30-assist mark for the 21st time this season as she dished out 25 assists. The native of Mason, Ohio, also dumped over three kills and registered four digs.
Fifth-year libero Havyn Gates’s 10 digs led the Cardinals’ defensive efforts, with senior defensive specialist Kate Vinson and sophomore defensive specialist Josie Bloom following behind her with seven digs each.
Ball State’s fine outing came with a number of former Cardinal volleyball players in attendance for the program’s annual Alumni Night event. Twenty-one alumni and former head coach Steve Shondell assembled on the court between the second and third set to be recognized for their contributions to Ball State women’s volleyball.
“It's so cool seeing people come back,” Plitt said. “They went through the same thing that we are going through currently, and it's cool to see one day we're gonna be out there with them, too.”
“It's really special when you can see those people that are still invested and still want to be a part of it,” Miller Phillips said. “It's one of those things it is so hard to explain unless you've been in that locker room and been a part of it.”
The Cardinals (13-10, 10-2 MAC) will close out their weekend slate at 4 p.m. tomorrow when they square off against Ohio (12-11- 7-4 MAC) inside Worthen Arena. Ball State athletics will welcome local families prior to the match for its annual Chirp or Treat event, which starts at 3 p.m.
“There's certainly some pieces that we're very well aware of, but at the same time we’ve just got to handle business on our end and really not be overly concerned with what Ohio is gonna do,” Miller Phillips said.
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