Coming off the season’s finest offensive outing last night — which saw Ball State record 49 kills on a .443 hitting percentage — the Cardinals again relied on strong front-row contributions Saturday afternoon in their 3-1 win (25-22, 22-25, 25-19, 25-18) over Ohio (13-12, 8-5 MAC).
The red and white built on the momentum gained from their Friday-night triumph over Kent State, and recorded 62 kills at a .329 clip to secure the weekend sweep.
“I think our balance has helped so that we're distributing better to more hitters,” Cardinals head coach Kelli Miller Phillps said. “The more that we can get the middle allows other people to have more one-on-one offensive looks.”
Ball State’s potent attack wasted little time in finding an offensive rhythm, as the Cardinals logged one of the year’s finest single-set performances in the first frame. The red and white slammed 20 kills at a .531 hitting percentage, an effort that was fittingly capped off by two straight kills from sophomore opposite Madison Buckley to earn the final two points.
Ball State’s front row was stymied by a more active Ohio backcourt in the Bobcats’ 25-22 second set triumph, though the Cardinals’ 14 kills in the second frame still eclipsed their season average (13.02 kills/set).
The Cardinals regained control of the match in the third set, thanks both to an admirable performance on the block and an efficient hitting effort. Ball State blockers combined to record five total blocks and held Ohio hitters to a .064 hitting percentage, while the Cardinals’ front row hit at a .306 clip in the third frame.
“We knew in that second set we got in a rut and we let them have some runs,” junior libero Kendall Seimet said of her team’s third-set turnaround. “We know we can't give a good team any runs because they'll take advantage of it, so we knew we had to cut those down.”
Ball State dropped to a three-point deficit early in the fourth set, but recovered to capture the decisive frame, 25-18, on the heels of 15 kills and eight Ohio attack errors.
Redshirt freshman middle Blocker Aniya Kennedy paced the Cardinals in kills for the 15th time this season, as the La Porte, Indiana, native pounded 17 kills. Buckley closely followed as she registered 13 kills on an efficient .417 clip.
“We've been working on our offensive flow, and that has completely made a difference,” Buckley said. “It just shows in our offensive confidence.”
Junior setter Megan Wielonski played a pivotal role in the Cardinals’ offense and defense with her 51 assists and nine digs. Wielonski also added four kills and a service ace.
Freshman middle blocker Camryn Wise’s nine blocks led a Ball State blocking unit which logged 10 rejections in the home triumph.
Seimet led Ball State’s backcourt effort as the Oregon, Ohio, native logged a career-best 17 digs. With tonight’s performance, Seimet has logged four double-digit dig matches this season, after not recording one through her first two years.
“I think over this year, I've gotten more comfortable with my role and really have pushed myself to just get better at all the skills and be more of a leader on the court and communicate a lot to help my team in any way,” Seimet said.
“She's got a great first step on the ball, and our block is doing a great job of funneling things to her,” Miller Phillips said. “She's just playing her role really, really well.”
Ball State (14-10, 11-2 MAC) will look to extend its winning streak against Western Michigan (23-2, 13-0 MAC), the MAC West division frontrunner and the conference’s leader in overall wins. The Cardinals and Broncos will square off in a pair of matches on Friday, Nov. 3, and Saturday, Nov. 4, in Kalamazoo.
A successful trip to Western Michigan’s University Arena will keep the Cardinals within striking distance of the division title, but, regardless of the result, Miller Phillips is anticipating a weekend full of growth.
“I want to make sure we build off of ourselves and not overly concern ourselves with Western, but it'll be a great challenge for us to see kind of where we are,” Miller Phillips said.
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