IOWA CITY, Iowa - - Redshirt freshman outside hitter Mackenzie Kitchel (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove/Cincinnati) blasted a career-high 14 kills to lead the Ball State (5-3) women’s volleyball team to a 3-1 (25-21, 22-25, 25-19, 25-15) victory over Western Illinois (4-6) Friday afternoon in the team’s opening match of the Hawkeye Challenge hosted by Iowa.
Ball State continues play on the opening day of the Hawkeye Challenge later this evening with a 7 p.m. (CT) showdown versus host Iowa. The match will be streamed live by Student U on BTN.com and through the BTN2GO application.
In addition to her career-high 14 kills, Kitchel finished the match with a career-best .379 (14-3-29) attack percentage. She also helped BSU dominate play at the net with three solo blocks and a pair of block assists, both of which were career-best efforts.
Also blasting double-figure kills for Ball State in the win were redshirt sophomore middle Hayley Benson (Hilliard, Ohio/Hilliard Bradley) and redshirt sophomore opposite Kelly Hopkins (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo) with 10 apiece.
Senior middle Mindy Marx (Grand Haven, Mich./Grand Haven) also had a strong outing, blasting nine kills and hitting .471 (9-1-17).
In the backcourt, senior libero Catie Fredrich (Menomonee Falls, Wis./Menomonee Falls) led all players with a match-best and season-high 22 digs. The effort marks the 23rd time in her career Fredrich has collected 20-or-more digs in a contest.
Overall, the Cardinals held an 11-4 edge in team blocks, while out-hitting the Leathernecks .222 (53-23-135) to .142 (48-29-134).
Samantha Fournier led the Western Illinois attack with 14 kills, while Molly Murphy added a team-high 16 digs.
Looking to avenge last Saturday’s loss to the Cardinals, the Leathernecks came out strong in the opening set, pulling ahead 6-2 to force an early Ball State timeout. However, with the help of a pair of kills each from Benson, Kitchel and Marx, the Cardinals rallied back to take a 14-11 advantage.
WIU would battle back to tie the score at 19 and force another Ball State timeout at the 21-21 mark. Back-to-back kills from Kitchel following the timeout gave BSU the momentum back as they scored the final four points to win the set 25-21.
Ball State surged out to a 4-0 lead in the second stanza and forced the Leathernecks to call their first timeout trailing 6-1. Western Illinois would pull within three, at 8-5, only to see the Cardinals rattle off the next six points and make the score 14-5.
While Ball State looked to be in control, the guests on the scoreboard responded with a 13-4 run which evened the score at 18 and led to a BSU timeout. Western Illinois continued to hold the momentum from there, scoring the next five points and eventually winning the set 25-22.
The teams battled to a 15-15 stalemate to open the third set, before back-to-back kills from Marx gave the Cardinals a 17-15 edge and led to a Western Illinois timeout. Three Ball State blocks later, two of which included Marx, the Leathernecks were calling their second timeout trailing 20-15. BSU went on to win the set 25-19 on a Benson smash to the hardwood floor.Ball State took control of the fourth set early, pulling ahead 6-2 and never looked back. WIU would draw within two points, at 6-4, only to see the Cardinals answer with the next five. BSU played to a 10-point edge at the 23-13 mark, before winning the set 25-15 on a Leathernecks’ service ace.