GENEVA, Ohio - - The No. 4 seed Ball State women's volleyball team advanced to the 2011 Mid-American Conference Tournament semifinals with a 3-1 (22-25, 25-23, 25-8, 27-25) victory over No. 5 Eastern Michigan Friday morning.
The Cardinals (24-6) will play No. 1 Northern Illinois (26-5), who defeated No. 8 Bowling Green 3-0 (25-12, 25-16, 25-17) in quarterfinal action, in Saturday's 2:30 p.m. semifinal match.
"They say it's hard to beat a team three times, so we were hoping the third time would be a charm for us," said Ball State head coach Steve Shondell. "I have great respect for Eastern Michigan. They are a tough team to beat for anyone in this league. They had our number twice this season and we knew it was going to be a great challenge today. We are really grateful to get the win over an outstanding team."
While the defense came up big, out-digging Eastern Michigan 94-78 in the match, it was the play of senior middle blocker Kelsey Brandl that guided BSU to the victory. With Ball State trailing by a set and 7-4 in the second frame, Brandl blasted four kills and an ace over the next eight rallies to give Ball State the momentum.
"Kelsey was huge today, playing probably her best match of the year," said Shondell. "She is a senior and we needed her to have that kind of match. She put together a great match for us today and it could not have come at a better time."
Brandl finished the match with a season-high 21 kills and hit for a .486 (21-3-37) rate of success. She also blasted a match-best five aces to help BSU hold a 9-3 edge in team aces. Brandl's three total blocks were also a team-high.
Sophomore libero Catie Fredrich led the BSU backcourt and tied for match-high honors with 22 digs, while three players finished the match with double-doubles.
Junior outside hitter Kara Bates collected a career-high 20 digs and posted 14 kills, which was the second-highest total of the match, for her fourth double-double of the season. She also tallied a solo block.
Sophomore outside hitter Kylee Baker added 12 kills and 17 digs for her eighth double-double of the season, while senior setter Brittany McGinnis collected 18 digs and 54 assists for her 11th double-double of the season. McGinnis, who also tallied a pair of blocks, guided the Ball State offense to a .254 (65-21-173) hitting mark for the match.
Sophomore right side hitter Lauren Grant also had a monster match, pounding down 12 kills with no errors on 21 swings for a match-best .571 rate of success.
Eastern Michigan, which ends its season with a 21-11 overall record, was led by Rachel Iaquaniello's 13 kills, while Kristen Baker added 10 and Erin Short posted 10. Haley Stein paced the EMU defense and tied for match-high honors with 22 digs.
BSU's defense limited the EMU attack to a .182 (48-18-165) hitting mark for the match.
Ball State held the lead early in the first set, as a pair of kills and an ace from Brandl gave the No. 4 seed a 6-4 advantage. With BSU leading 11-10, two kills from Bates and one from Baker helped push the score to 14-11. EMU rallied with the next four points, claiming its first lead of the match at 15-14. From there, the teams battled to a 22-22 stalemate before the Eagles rattled off the final three points to win the set 25-22.
With the Cardinals trailing 7-4 in the second set, Brandl blasted four kills and an ace over the next eight rallies to help Ball State battle back and take a 10-9 lead. From there, the teams played to a 21-21 deadlock. Kills from Grant and Baker gave BSU a 23-21 lead and forced an EMU timeout. Two rallies later, a kill from Baker gave Ball State set point, while Brandl's eighth kill of the frame ended the set at 25-23.
Baker set the tone early in the third set with back-to-back aces, while four kills and an ace from Brandl over the next six rallies gave the Cardinals a 7-1 lead. Eastern Michigan battled back within four, at 8-4, but it was all Ball State from there as BSU went on to win the frame 25-8. After a Grant kill made the score 14-6, Kaylee Schembra came in to serve the next nine points, including a pair of aces, to push the score to 22-7. A kill from Brandl and a pair of EMU attack errors ended the game at 25-8.
BSU jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the fourth game, only to have EMU battle back and take a 6-4 lead. The Cardinals tied the set at 8-8, and from there, the teams battled to a 21-21 tie. Eastern Michigan looked poised to win the set with a 23-21 lead, but a Brandl kill and a Bates solo blocks knotted the score at 23.
A BSU service error gave EMU the first set point, but Brandl's 21st kill of the day tied the score at 24. An Eagle's attack error gave Ball State its first match-point at 25-24, only to have a block tie the score once again. The Cardinals would not be denied the match, however, as back-to-back Bates kills ended the set at 27-25 and gave BSU the quarterfinal victory.