MUNCIE, Ind. - - After dominating the opening set, the Ball State women’s volleyball team rallied from down 2-1 for a thrilling 3-2 (25-7, 25-27, 26-28, 25-20, 15-9) victory over in-state rival IPFW Wednesday evening at Worthen Arena.
“It was a great win because it looked like it wasn’t going to happen,” said Ball State head coach Steve Shondell. “The first game came so easy and often times in volleyball when you win the first game, you start feeling really good. We gave IPFW a real wake-up call and they came to play the rest of the match.”
Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Alex Fuelling (Decatur, Ill./Bellmont/Morehead State) led all players with a career-high 24 kills and added 15 digs for her third double-double of the season. She also tallied a .333 (24-7-51) hitting mark and added an ace and a block assist.
In an opening set, which saw the Cardinals post a 25-7 victory, senior middle Mindy Marx (Grand Haven, Mich./Grand Haven) turned in a dominating performance by racking up seven kills and hitting for a .750 (7-1-8) rate of success. Marx would go on to finish the match with a career-high 15 kills and a match-high tying six total blocks.
Redshirt sophomore opposite Kelly Hopkins (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo) also turned in one of the best performances of her career, blasting a personal-best 11 kills to go along with three block assists.
In the backcourt, senior outside hitter Kylee Baker (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield North) would lead all players with 18 digs, while senior libero Catie Fredrich (Menomonee Falls, Wis./Menomonee Falls) chipped in 13. Baker also tagged eight kills and added an ace in the win.
Senior setter Jacqui Seidel (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles East) and sophomore setter Jenna Spadafora (Fort Wayne, Ind./Carroll) combined to set the Ball State offense to a .254 (75-31-173) hitting mark with 30 and 31 assists, respectively. Each would also collect a pair of blocks, while Seidel added five kills and Spadafora posted three.
Overall, the Ball State defense limited the IPFW attack to just 44 kills in the match, including a -.080 (2-4-25) hitting mark in the opening frame. Emily Spencer paced the Mastodons with 14 kills, while Hailie Ripley scored 12.
Ball State scored the first six points of the opening set, and never looked back the rest of the frame on their way to a 25-7 victory. With a 16-7 lead following a Fuelling kill, Seidel would go back and serve the final nine points of the set.
Unfortunately, the Mastodons rallied from there to win the next two frames in what turned out to be an epic battle of in-state rivals in front of 881 fans at Worthen Arena.
“IPFW put some pressure on us and we started making too many unforced errors again in games two and three,” Shondell said. “In the last couple of games, we started to get into a better flow and loosen up. I was really pleased with the way we played at the end of the night.”
The second set, which had 13 ties and five lead changes, saw the teams battle to a 23-23 stalemate. After a kill from Seidel gave BSU set point, Spencer tied the score with a blast of her own for the Mastodons. A Fuelling kill gave Ball State its second opportunity to win the set at 25-24, but IPFW managed to post the final three points and win the game 27-25.
The third set was an even closer battle than the second, as the teams battled through 17 ties and six lead changes. Once again the Cardinals had the first swing for the set at 24-23 after a Fuelling kill, only to see the Mastodons take the next two points. Ball State was able to avoid two IPFW frame-points, but ultimately dropped the set 28-26.
IPFW pulled out to an early 9-6 lead in the fourth frame, only to see Ball State battle back and even the score at 12. A kill from freshman outside hitter Mackenzie Kitchel (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove/Cincinnati) would give Ball State a 13-12 edge, and from there the Cardinals would build a 20-15 lead.
The Mastodons scored the next three points, only to see a Fuelling kill and a service ace from freshman defensive specialist Nikki Box (Yorktown, Ind./Yorktown) give the Cardinals the momentum back. Another Fuelling marker would give BSU set point, while an IPFW error ended the frame at 25-20.
In the decisive fifth frame, the Cardinals score the first three points thanks to a pair of kills and a block assist from Fuelling. After pulling ahead 12-7, back-to-back errors forced the Cardinals to call timeout. However, back-to-back blasts from Fuelling gave BSU match-point at 14-9.
Seconds later, a block from Spadafora and redshirt sophomore Hayley Benson (Hilliard, Ohio/Hilliard Bradley) completed the 15-9 fifth set victory and allowed the Cardinals to win the match 3-2.
The Ball State women’s volleyball team returns to action Friday, when it travels to Minneapolis, Minn., for the Diet Coke Classic. First up for the Cardinals in the two-day event will be tournament host and fourth-ranked Minnesota at 7:30 p.m. (CT).