MUNCIE, Ind. - - The Ball State women’s volleyball team ended the home portion of its 2013 regular season slate with a hard-fought 3-2 (22-25, 21-25, 28-26, 25-23, 15-12) setback to Mid-American Conference West Division rival Toledo Thursday evening at Worthen Arena.
With the loss, the Cardinals and Rockets are tied atop the MAC West standings with 10-3 league marks. However, Toledo (17-10 overall) holds the tiebreaker over Ball State (22-6 overall) by virtue of sweeping the regular season series.
“I thought the match came down to the plays Toledo made at the end of each of the final three sets,” said Ball State head coach Steve Shondell. “You have to give Toledo a lot of credit for the resilience they showed after being down by two sets and having three match points against them. I thought both teams battled hard in a knock-down, drag-out match.”
After missing the previous four matches, redshirt sophomore outside Alex Fuelling (Decatur, Ind./Bellmont/Morehead State) return to the starting lineup against the Rockets and tied for match-high honors with 21 kills.
Fuelling, who is only the second player in program history to blast 20-or-more kills three times in a match in the 25-point rally scoring era, also collected 15 digs for her 13th double-double of the season.
In the middle, both senior Mindy Marx (Grand Haven, Mich./Grand Haven) and redshirt sophomore Hayley Benson (Hilliard, Ohio/Hilliard Bradley) posted career-high kill totals, with Marx scoring 18 and Benson blasting 17. Marx finished the match hitting .314 (18-7-35) and with a team-best five total blocks (two solo and three assists), while Benson hit .333 (17-5-36) with four total blocks (one solo and three assists).
Senior outside Kylee Baker (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield North) collected her seventh double-double of the season with 14 kills and 14 digs, while adding a service ace.
In helping the Ball State offense post 80 total kills, senior setter Jacqui Seidel (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles North) dished out a career-high 64 assists, while adding 15 digs for her 10th double-double of the year.
In the BSU backcourt, senior libero Catie Fredrich (Menomonee Falls, Wis./Menomonee Falls) led the Ball State defense with 21 digs.
Lauren Rafdal paced the Toledo attack with 21 kills, while Ellen Hays posted a match-best 25 digs. Another key in the UT victory was the play of Brooke Frazer who logged 14 kills and 11 total blocks.
Overall, the Toledo offense held a slim .231 (66-23-186) to .227 (80-35-198) attacking edge, despite having 14 fewer kills. Ball State was able to out-dig the Rockets 79-73.
With Ball State clinging to a slim 7-6 edge in the opening set, the Rockets strung together five straight points to force a Cardinals timeout at 11-7. While Baker ended the UT rally with a kill, the Rockets managed to extend their lead to five points at 15-10.
Toledo kept its five-point edge intact at the 21-16 mark, only to see a pair of Fuelling kills bookend a five-point Ball State run which tied the score at 21. A Rafdal kill helped the Rockets snap the Ball State run, but senior opposite Lauren Grant (Eagan, Minn./Eastview/Cincinnati) gave BSU the momentum back with a blast to the Worthen Arena court.
Fuelling followed with a kill and a solo stuff to give Ball State set-point, at 24-22, while a Rafdal attack error ended the frame at 25-22. Overall, the Cardinals ended the opening set with a 9-1 run which included three kills and a block from Fuelling, as well as a service ace from Baker.
The teams played to an 11-11 deadlock to open the second set, before Toledo used a pair of kills from Frazer to help build an 18-15 lead. However, Seidel and Benson would come up with a momentum-shifting block to help spark another huge run by the Cardinals.
Grant and Baker followed the block with kills, while three consecutive Toledo attack errors gave the Cardinals six straight points and a 21-18 lead. The Rockets would battle back within one, at 22-21, only to have another blast from Fuelling spark the Cardinals and make the score 23-21. Toledo followed with a pair of errors, giving Ball State the set by a score of 25-21.
The Cardinals jumped out to a 12-9 lead in the third set, only to see the Rockets battle back and pull ahead 14-13. The teams then battled to a 17-17 stalemate before a Benson kill and a Seidel ace forced Toledo to call a timeout at 19-17.
The Rockets would answer with three of the next four points to tie the score at 20. The score remained tied at the 23-23 mark, before a kill from Marx gave Ball State its first match-point at 24-23. Toledo stayed alive, thanks to a Cardinals ball handling error, and survived two more match-points. With the score tied at 26, a solo block from Rafdal and a BSU attack error gave the guests a 28-26 third-frame win.
With Toledo ahead 5-4 in the fourth frame, kills from Grant and Seidel shifted the momentum to BSU, while an ace from sophomore defensive specialist Kati Vasalakis (Yorktown, Ind./Yorktown) and a Marx kill put the Cardinals ahead 8-5. Another blast from Marx and a UT attack error led to the frame’s first timeout with the hosts ahead 10-6.
Toledo rallied back to even the score at 12, and after trailing 16-14, posted four straight points to take the lead at 18-16. Ball State responded by tying the score at 19, only to see Toledo reach set-point at 24-22 and win the frame 25-23.
With the score of the fifth set tied at 5-5, a Grant kill and a block from Fuelling and Marx gave the Ball State a 7-5 lead. A kill from Adria Pryor sparked a three-point UT run out of the timeout, only to see a kill and solo block from Marx, plus a Fuelling ace, put BSU ahead 10-9.
The Cardinals extended their lead to 11-9 after a Toledo attack error on the next rally. Following UT’s second timeout, a kill from Rafdal and a BSU setting error evened the score at 11. A kill from Marx would give Ball State one more lead, at 12-11, but Toledo rattled off the next three points to complete the come-from-behind victory.
The Ball State women’s volleyball team returns to the road Saturday, with a 5 p.m. first serve at Akron.