Ball State journeyed across the Indiana-Ohio border Friday night and defeated Miami, 3-1 (23-25, 25-23, 25-19, 25-11) in Oxford.
“I think the biggest takeaway is when we're playing disciplined, when we're doing what I would describe as basic things, good things are happening,” Ball State head coach Kelli Miller Phillips said. “We're playing well, [and] we're starting to roll.
The Cardinals extended their winning streak to six matches in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) triumph, but it was not without resistance from the Redhawks (4-14, 0-6 MAC). Ball State dropped its first set in three weeks with a loss in the first frame, and the Cardinals encountered pushback it hadn’t yet felt in MAC play this season.
“When you're playing on the road, you're not always going to be the sharpest,” Miller Phillips said.
Ball State rebounded from its slow start — which saw the red and white log a .125 first-set hitting percentage — on the heels of an offensive outburst. The Cardinals posted a hitting percentage greater than .300 in each of the next three sets, allowing them to capture each frame in quick succession.
Miller Phillips attributed the mid-match offensive improvements to changes in her hitters’ targets. The Cardinals leader noticed the Redhawks were heavily covering the crosscourt shot in the first set, which led her to direct most chances later in the match toward the Miami setter in the middle of the court.
“They were doing a really, really good job of defending our left side’s cross court, and so we made some adjustments to run them a little bit more inside,” Miller Phillips said.
Redshirt freshman middle blocker Aniya Kennedy guided the Cardinals’ offensive charge as she logged a career-best 17 kills on a .273 clip. Fifth-year middle blocker Marie Plitt and sophomore opposite Madison Buckely each chipped in 11 kills, with Plitt posting an efficient .417 hitting percentage.
Junior setter Megan Wielonski shined as she directed the surging Ball State offense, recording a season-high 45 assists in the winning effort. The Mason, Ohio, native also added six kills (tied for her season best) and 10 digs — marking her seventh double-double of the season.
The red and white’s turnaround was also catalyzed by a firm blocking attack. The Cardinals’ blockers recorded 13 rejections on the night — the highest mark of the 2023 campaign. Ball State’s strong front line was headlined by freshman middle blocker Camryn Wise’s career-high night (seven blocks) and supported by Plitt and Kennedy’s four blocks apiece.
Behind the frontcourt blockers, Ball State’s stingy back row held Miami to a .193 hitting percentage and logged 59 digs — the fourth-best total this season. Fifth-year libero Havyn Gates led the unit with 13 digs.
Ball State also benefited from a successful performance at the service line. Cardinals servers dropped in eight aces –– tied for their top line this season.
The Cardinals (8-8, 5-0 MAC) look to remain unblemished in MAC play as they battle Bowling Green (7-9, 1-4 MAC) at 7 p.m. Oct. 7 inside the Stroh Center. Though the Falcons have stumbled early in league play, they boast notable non-conference wins over Michigan, Wright State and Loyola Chicago.
Though Bowling Green stands as a formidable opponent across the net, Miller Phillips is focused on the effort and focus from the Cardinals’ half of the court.
“We've got to play consistently, and it doesn't matter who's on the other side of the court right now,” Miller Phillips said. “Our main focus has got to continue to be consistency on our side of the net.”
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