KALAMAZOO, Mich. - - The Ball State women's volleyball team suffered a heartbreaking 3-2 (21-25, 25-27, 25-16, 25-16, 17-15) setback at Western Michigan Friday evening in a battle of two of the top teams in the Mid-American Conference.
With the loss, the Cardinals fall to 22-4 (11-2 MAC) on the season and are now tied with the Broncos (22-5/11-2 MAC) and Northern Illinois (22-5/11-2 MAC) for first place in the MAC West Division and overall standings. Northern Illinois scored a 3-0 win over Toledo in Friday night action.
Despite the setback, junior outside hitter Kara Bates turned in a solid performance for the Cardinals by blasting a career-high tying 20 kills. She also had a strong night at the net with a career-best seven block assists.
Sophomore right side attacker Lauren Grant added a career-high 15 kills, while leading the BSU offense with a .343 (15-3-35) hitting percentage.
Senior setter Brittany McGinnis became the 13th player in program history to reach 1,000 career digs, posting 15 in the match to raise her career total to 1,002. She also added 52 assists to record her eighth double-double of the season and the 40th of her career.
In her first career start, junior defensive specialist Lauren Schlaker collected a career-high 13 digs.
Five Cardinals finished the night with double-digit digs, led by sophomore libero Catie Fredrich's match-high 23 digs. Sophomore outside attacker Kylee Baker added 14 digs, while senior defensive specialist Kaylee Schembra posted 12.
Gillian Asque led four Broncos with double-figure kills at 13, while Terin Norris, Ashley Turnage and Jessica Brown added 11 each. Lena Oliver led the WMU defense with 19 digs.
As a team, the Cardinals finished the night with 14 blocks, its second-highest blocking total of the season. In addition to Grant's seven blocks, sophomore middle blocker Mindy Marx tallied a team-high eight total blocks.
As a team, the Broncos held a .138 to .119 hitting advantage in the contest, while the Cardinals out-dug WMU 87-84. WMU out-blocked the Cardinals 17.0-14.0 as a team. Both teams scored three aces, while BSU committed 11 service errors to the Broncos' four.
With the Cardinals trailing 14-10 in the opening set, Bates came up big with a block assist and a pair of kills to help BSU rally back and tie the score at 15. With BSU leading 18-17, WMU rattled off the next three points, and forced a Ball State timeout at 20-18. Heeres broke the Broncos' momentum with a huge kill and BSU added four of the next five points leading to a WMU timeout at 23-21. Grant's first career ace gave Ball State set-point at 24-21, while a Brandl kill ended the frame at 25-21.
Four kills from Grant helped the Cardinals build an early 9-4 advantage in the opening set, but the Broncos rallied back within one at 12-11. From there, the battle was on as the combatants played to a 21-21 stalemate. Kills from senior middle blocker Kelsey Brandl and Marx helped BSU pull ahead 23-21, while a Bates blast gave Ball State set-point at 24-22.
WMU would not go down without a fight, posting the next three points to reach their first set-point of the match at 25-24. However, a Bates kill shifted the momentum back to the Cardinals and the BSU block took care of the rest, ending the set at 27-25. Marx and Baker accounted for the first block, while Grant and Marx ended the frame.
Ball State pulled out to an 8-4 lead in the third set, only to see Western Michigan answer with the next six points and move ahead 10-8. A pair of WMU attack errors tied the score at 10, while back-to-back kill from Bates kept the Cardinals within one point trailing 15-14. Unfortunately, the Broncos took control from there, winning the set 25-16 after a 10-2 closing run.
Western Michigan carried over the momentum in the fourth game, scoring nine of the first 10 points and never looking back, winning 25-16.
After falling behind 5-3 in the fifth set, the Cardinals battled back to tie the score at 7-7 on a kill from Heeres. BSU took an 8-7 lead on the next play, and from there, the teams traded the next 12 points with a Grant kill giving Ball State match-point at 14-13.
WMU responded with the next two points, reaching their first match-point at 15-14. A Western Michigan service error kept Ball State alive at 15-15, but a ball handling error and an ace from WMU's Kaycee Acree ended the match at 17-15.
The Ball State women's volleyball team continues its final regular season road trip Saturday with a 7 p.m. (CT) showdown at Northern Illinois.