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Volleyball Sweeps Western Illinois To Open 2014
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   MUNCIE, Ind. - - The Ball State women’s volleyball team opened the 2014 season with a solid all-around performance, sweeping Western Illinois by a score of 3-0 (25-15, 25-23, 25-14) Friday night at Worthen Arena.

   Redshirt junior opposite Kelly Hopkins (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo) led the Ball State offense with 10 kills, while adding a career-best .529 (10-1-17) attack percentage to help the Cardinals out-hit the Fighting Leathernecks .245 (38-14-98) to .029 (25-22-102) for the contest.

   “Kelly really stepped up for us tonight, especially late in the second set when the game was on the line,” Ball State head coach Steve Shondell said. “To see her come out and play like she did tonight was a huge positive. Overall, it was good to see the team have some fun out there and play relaxed volleyball. I am really proud of the way we fought back in set two against a strong Western Illinois team. They had the lead late in the set, but we stayed calm and made some key plays at the end.”

   Redshirt sophomore Mackenzie Kitchel (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove/Cincinnati) also turned in a strong offensive performance for the Cardinals, tallying seven kills and a pair of blocks, including Ball State’s only solo stuff of the match.

   In the backcourt, redshirt junior outside hitter Alex Fuelling (Decatur, Ind./Bellmont/Morehead State) led all players with 17 digs, while junior libero Kati Vasalakis (Yorktown, Ind./Yorktown) added a career-high 13.

   At the net, the Cardinals were led by redshirt junior Hayley Benson (Hilliard, Ohio/Hilliard Bradley) who collected a match-best six total blocks to help the hosts out-block Western Illinois by a total of 9.5-to-4.

   The Fighting Leathernecks were led offensively by Peyton Crosser’s six kills, while libero Molly Murphy earned a team-high 11 digs.

   With the opening set tied at 6-6, Fuelling went back to serve for the Cardinals and helped rally off eight straight points. From there, Ball State controlled the frame, eventually winning 25-15 on a Kitchel kill.

   The second set was a dead heat from start to finish, with neither squad pulling ahead by more than two points. With WIU holding a slim 23-22 edge, the Cardinals used a quick kill from junior setter Jenna Spadafora (Fort Wayne, Ind./Carroll) to even the score. A block from Hopkins and redshirt junior middle hitter Amanda Raker (Indianapolis, Ind./Perry Meridian/Butler) gave Ball State set point, while a Hopkins marker ended the frame at 25-23.

   The Cardinals jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the third set, and never looked back, winning the frame 25-14 and ending the match on freshman Bailey Baumer’s (Batesville, Ind./Batesville) first career kill.

   The Ball State women’s volleyball team returns to action Saturday, when it concludes the 2014 Active Ankle Challenge with matches versus Eastern Illinois (11 a.m.) and Northern Colorado (8 p.m.)

   For the most up-to-date news on Ball State women’s volleyball, follow @BallStateSports, @BallStateWVB and @SteveShondell on Twitter.

- BallStateSports.com -

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