TAMPA, Fla. - - Trailing by six points midway through the third set, the Ball State women’s volleyball team battled back to complete a 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 26-24) season-opening sweep of Austin Peay Friday afternoon at The Corral in its first match of the USF Tournament.
“Our mental toughness was tested right out of the gate,” said fourth-year head coach Steve Shondell. “After playing a fantastic first set, we had to fight from behind after trailing late in the final two sets. We demonstrated the mental toughness we will need this year to win close sets and matches. It took a great team effort to win in three tonight, which was our goal.”
Leading the charge for the Cardinals was redshirt sophomore middle hitter Hayley Benson who blasted a career-high tying 10 kills to go along with a match and career-best .667 (10-5-15) attack percentage. Benson also led the Ball State defense at the net with three total blocks, including a pair of solo stuffs.
Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Alex Fuelling made the most of her Ball State debut, blasting a match-best and career-high 16 kills to go along with 12 digs for her first career double-double. She also served up a match and career-high three aces.
Senior setter Jacqui Seidel led the Ball State offense to a .225 (47-15-142) attack mark by dishing out 42 assists. She also collected 11 digs for her 19th career double-double.
In the backcourt, senior libero Catie Fredrich paced all players with 20 digs, marking her 22nd career match with 20-or-more digs.
Jada Stotts led the Austin Peay attack with 13 kills, while April Adams collected a team-high 18 digs. Syd Litchfield, the daughter of former Ball State women’s volleyball head coach Randy Litchfield (1989-2006), tallied 11 digs and a kill for the Lady Govs.
The Cardinals came out strong in the opening set, as kills from Benson and Fuelling helped BSU build an early 3-0 lead. While another kill from Fuelling kept the Ball State edge at three, Austin Peay rallied back to tie the score 5-5. With the lead cut to one at 8-7, the Cardinals posted a 7-2 run, capped by a Fuelling ace, to pull ahead 15-9. From there, Ball State cruised to a 25-19 victory with Grant providing the set-ending kill.
Ball State scored the first two points of the second set, only to see the Lady Govs battle back and tie the frame at 4-4. From there, the teams traded punches to a 20-20 stalemate. Ball State was forced to call a timeout three points later, however, as kills from Litchfield and Sammie Ebright, surrounding a BSU attack error, gave Austin Peay a 23-20 edge.
Following the stoppage, Benson would shift the momentum back to BSU's side of the court with a kill, while back-to-back APSU attack errors helped the Cardinals tie the set at 23. Fuelling then closed out the set, at 25-23, with back-to-back kills.
The Lady Govs took command early in the third set, scoring five of the first six points. While Ball State answered with three straight points, APSU would tally eight of the next 11 markers to build a six-point cushion, at 13-7.
The Cardinals would answer the challenge, however, as they battled back to even the score at 21-21 on a kill from Benson. A kill from Grant would give BSU its first match-point, at 24-23, only to have Ebright keep the Lady Govs alive with a kill of her own. Grant would get right back in the swing of things with back-to-back tallies to end the frame at 26-24 and complete the Cardinals’ sweep of Austin Peay.
The Ball State women's volleyball team concludes play in the 2013 USF Tournament Saturday with matches versus The Citadel (11:30 a.m.) and host USF (7 p.m.).