MUNCIE, Ind. - - Despite three players with double-digit kills, the Ball State women's volleyball team suffered a 3-1 (25-21, 23-25, 25-18, 28-26) Mid-American Conference setback to Eastern Michigan Thursday evening at Worthen Arena.
With the loss, the Cardinals fall to 22-6 (11-4 MAC) on the year. The Eagles improve to 21-9 (9-6 MAC) and snapped BSU's 23-match homecourt winning streak which was the fourth-longest active streak in the nation.
The match saw another pair of solid performances from Ball State's transfers, as junior outside hitter Kara Bates blasted a match-high 18 kills and sophomore transfer Lauren Grant added 14 markers, one shy of her career-high.
Bates would lead all BSU attackers with a .341 (18-4-41) hitting mark, while Grant finished the night connecting for a .321 (14-5-28) rate of success. Bates also tied for team-high honors with 15 digs to record her third kill/dig double-double of the season. Grant would add three block assists to her stat line.
Also turning in a solid performance was sophomore outside hitter Whitney Heeres who tallied 11 kills and a .269 (11-4-26) hitting mark. Sophomore libero Catie Fredrich tied Bates for team-high honors with 15 digs.
Senior setter Brittany McGinnis added her ninth assist/dig double-double of the season, handing out a match-high 53 assists while collecting 11 digs. She also blasted a pair of aces and tallied a pair of blocks.
While Rachel Iaquaniello led the Eagles with 17 kills, it was Kristin Baker that made the biggest impact in the match for EMU with 16 kills and a .556 (16-1-27) hitting mark. EMU setter Ashley Mason also added a double-double with 52 assists and a match-high 16 digs.
As a team, BSU hit for a .250 (64-24-160) rate of success for the match, while EMU connected for a .301 (61-17-146) mark. Both teams recorded seven blocks, while the Eagles held a slim 64-62 edge in digs.
McGinnis started the match with an ace to help Ball State pull out to a 4-1 lead. Unfortunately, EMU battled back to tie the score at five and took their first lead at 9-7 on a back-to-back Iaquaniello kills. The Eagles extended their lead to six points, at 19-13, only to have BSU battle back within one at 21-20. After the teams traded kills, Eastern Michigan scored the final three points to win the set 25-21.
The teams played to a 9-9 stalemate in the second set before two EMU attack errors and a Kelsey Brandl ace gave BSU the next three points. Ball State took a three-point lead at 16-13 and remained ahead by the same margin at 23-20. The Eagles scored the next two points, before a Heeres kill gave BSU set-point at 24-22. Heeres closed out the set two points later, at 25-23, with another big blast.
Eastern Michigan came out of the break looking to respond, and did just that by pulling ahead 11-2. Despite a strong serving run from Bates, which brought BSU within five at 11-6, the Cardinals would get no closer and lose the set 25-18.
After the teams battled to a 10-10 tie in the fourth frame, the Cardinals looked poised to force a fifth set by pulling ahead 20-14. Unfortunately, Eastern Michigan rallied back to tie the score at 23. Kills from Heeres and Grant gave BSU a pair of set points, only to have EMU answer each time.
The Eagles reached their first match point at 26-25, only to have a Brandl kill keep the hosts alive. However, back-to-back kill from Iaquaniello ended the set at 28-26 and the match at 3-1.
The Ball State women's volleyball team returns to action Saturday, when it closes out the MAC regular season with a 7 p.m. senior night matchup versus Central Michigan.