GENEVA, Ohio - - The No. 4 seed Ball State women's volleyball team saw its 2011 Mid-American Conference Tournament run come to an end Saturday afternoon, suffering a 3-1 (25-17, 23-25, 25-19, 25-16) semifinal round setback to No. 1 Northern Illinois at the SPIRE Institute.
With the loss, the Cardinals fall to 24-7 on the year with its regular season finale versus St. Louis scheduled for next Saturday (Nov. 26) at 7 p.m. at Worthen Arena. Ball State is also in contention for an at-large bid into the 2011 NCAA Tournament with the field being announced Nov. 27.
The Huskies (27-5), who have now won 15 straight matches, will play the winner of No. 2 Ohio versus No. 6 Central Michigan in Saturday's MAC Tournament Championship Match at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Junior transfer Kara Bates paced the Ball State offense with 17 kills, while adding 10 digs for her third double-double in the last four matches. Bates also led BSU's attackers with a .341 (17-2-44) hitting mark while adding a pair of blocks.
Sophomore libero Catie Fredrich paced the Ball State defense with 17 digs, while senior setter Brittany McGinnis added her fourth consecutive double-double with 44 assists and 13 digs. Fredrich and McGinnis each added an ace as well.
Senior middle blocker Jennifer Boyd added eight kills and a match-high five total blocks (one solo and four assists), while senior middle blocker Kelsey Brandl posted nine kills and a pair of aces.
Lauren Wicinski paced the NIU attack with 18 kills, while MacKenzie Roddy added 15. Huskies' libero Amber Walker tallied a match-high 23 digs.
As a team, Northern Illinois held a .301 (67-20-156) to .209 (48-19-139) hitting advantage for the match, while out-digging Ball State 64-57. The Cardinals held a 7-4 advantage in team blocks.
The teams traded the first six points in the opening set before a three-point run gave the Huskies a 6-3 edge. Northern Illinois extended its lead to eight points at the 19-11 mark before three straight BSU kills forced an NIU timeout at 19-14. A McGinnis ace and a kill from Bates kept Ball State within five, at 22-17, but the Huskies scored the next three points to win the set 25-17.
With the Cardinals trailing 7-3 in the second set, a kill and solo block from Brandl bookended a 4-0 BSU run tying the score at 8-8. After a pair NIU points, a kill from Bates sparked a 7-1 Ball State run giving the No. 4 seed a 15-11 advantage. The Huskies battled back to tie the score at 16, and from there teams played to a 22-22 tie.
Bates carried the Cardinals the rest of the way, scoring a kill and a solo block to give BSU set-point at 24-22. Two rallies later, Bates ended the frame at 25-23 with her sixth kill of the set.
Ball State found itself down 8-4 early in the third frame, only to recover and tie the score at 9-9 on a solo block from Boyd. However, the Huskies answered with five of the next seven points to pull ahead 14-11. BSU would get as close at one, at 15-14, but could not break through, losing the set 25-19.
Northern Illinois jumped out to a 7-4 lead in the fourth set, only to see the Cardinals battle back within one point at 10-9. Unfortunately, NIU posted six of the next seven points to take control of the set at 16-10. The Huskies went on to win the frame 25-16 on Wicinski's 18th kills of the night.