Cardinals down Bowling Green, avenge 2022 title loss

After falling to Bowling Green in the 2022 MAC Tournament championship, Ball State defeated the Falcons in four sets.

Ball State volleyball resets after losing a point against Central Michigan Sept. 21 at Worthen Arena. The Cardinals won 3-0 against the Chippewas. Sami Farmer, DN
Ball State volleyball resets after losing a point against Central Michigan Sept. 21 at Worthen Arena. The Cardinals won 3-0 against the Chippewas. Sami Farmer, DN

In recent seasons, Bowling Green has grown to be Ball State women’s volleyball’s fiercest rival and most evenly matched competitor. The Falcons and Cardinals have met in three of the last four Mid-American Conference (MAC) Tournament title matches, and the two programs have split the last six regular season matchups (dating back to 2018).

The most recent chapter of the budding Ball State-Bowling Green rivalry was played on Nov. 22, 2022, when the Falcons captured the MAC championship inside Worthen Arena.

Ball State returned the favor from the 2022 title match on Saturday, as the Cardinals defeated Bowling Green 3-1 (25-21, 25-20, 21-25, 25-21) inside the Stroh Center.

Head coach Kelli Miller Phillips underscored that each campaign requires a fresh mentality, but she still emphasized the pride the Cardinals felt after their redeeming win over Bowling Green (7-10, 1-5 MAC).

“They are the team that took away the tournament title from us last year,” Miller Phillips said. “There's certainly a little bit more juice that's behind that, but it's a total new year.”

In addition to the satisfaction stemming from the rivalry victory, Miller Phillips was also pleased by her team and coaching staff’s preparation in its first split weekend of the conference season (the Cardinals squared off against Miami on Friday night).

“I let my staff really handle the scout, and I tried to take more ownership of our team and focusing on our side of the court, [getting] a quick turnaround [and] just doing the best you can to be prepared.”

The opening set saw Ball State maintain a decisive lead throughout, even without consistent frontrow contributions. The Cardinals’ offense was pedestrian in the first game, logging 10 kills on a .207 clip, which forced the red and white to lean on strong serving (five aces) and a firm block (four total blocks) to capture the set.

“You don't want to give anybody a chance to get off to a good start,” Miller Phillips said. “You want to really attack first, and I thought that set the tone, even though Bowling Green continued to battle back.”

The Cardinals enjoyed a similar result in the second set, capturing the frame with a comfortable five-point lead. The red and white saw improvements in their hitting marks (17 kills at a .438 clip), which was the catalyst behind their run.

Ball State dropped the third set, after bowing out in a defensive battle. Both squads hit below a .200 clip, but the Falcons prevailed as they minimized their ball handling errors to emerge victoriously, 25-21.

After the tight third-set loss, the Cardinals found themselves in an unfavorable position midway through the fourth frame, down 17-13. As the Falcons were threatening to extend the match to five sets, Miller Phillips signaled for a timeout. After this break in the action, the red and white rattled off their finest run of the night, ending the set on a 12-4 scoring surge and taking the decisive fourth frame.

Miller Phillips was pleased with her team’s late-match resolve, though she highlighted key miscues in the final two sets.

“I felt like there were some moments there in step four where we really looked young,” Miller Phillips said. “We really looked inexperienced, and we were kind of playing frantic. We just talked about this as a toughness moment for us.”

Redshirt freshman middle blocker Aniya Kennedy led the Cardinals in kills (21), just one removed from her 17-kill outburst against Miami. Freshman middle blocker Camryn Wise posted a team-high in blocks (four), junior setter Megan Wielonski logged a team-best assist mark (42), and fifth-year libero Havyn Gates recorded a high in digs (13).

Ball State (9-8, 6-0 MAC), riding a seven-match victory streak, will return to Worthen Arena next week after spending the last two weekends on the road. The Cardinals will host Akron (10-7, 5-1 MAC) for a pair of matches with one on Thursday, Oct. 12 and the other on Friday, Oct. 13.

Each contest next week will center around a theme. Thursday’s outing is denoted as “Muncie Night,” and the Friday clash will be the annual Dig Pink match , a tribute to breast cancer awareness.

Miller Phillips said the Cardinals are ready to get back home and are prepared for a tightly-contested battle with Akron.

“Every single person in the league is capable of beating anybody any given night, and we have learned that pretty quickly here,” Miller Phillips said. “It's gonna be another tough game.”

Contact Adam Altobella with comments on X @AltobellaAdam or via email at


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