MUNCIE, Ind. - - The Ball State women’s volleyball team closed a successful homecoming weekend with a dominating 3-0 (25-15, 25-17, 25-20) sweep of Northern Illinois Saturday night at Worthen Arena.
With the win, the Cardinals improve to 17-4 on the year and remain in first place in the Mid-American Conference with a 5-1 league mark. The Huskies drop to 11-9 (3-3 MAC) with the loss.
“This was a big match for us tonight,” said Ball State head coach Steve Shondell. “We had lost four straight to Northern Illinois coming into the night, and I felt this was a year we could put together a really nice match against them. I was really impressed with our serving and defense tonight, which helped us keep NIU out of rhythm all night.”
The Cardinals strong play started at the service line, with the team blasting a season-high nine total aces. In addition to the aces, Ball State’s strong serving helped keep the Huskies offense in check with NIU finishing the contest hitting .137 (31-18-95).
“Our serving and passing game could hold its own with anyone in the country,” added Shondell. “If we are playing really tough defense then we are going to win most of our matches. I didn’t feel like we ever got into a great flow offensively tonight, so we won it with our serving, our passing and our defense. You can win a lot of matches if you are doing well in those areas.”
Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Alex Fuelling (Decatur, Ind./Bellmont/Morehead State) led the Ball State attack both from the service line and the net with a career-high four aces and a match-best 11 kills. Fuelling, who hit .400 (11-3-20), also added 11 digs for her second double-double of the weekend and her 10th of the season.
Redshirt freshman outside hitter Mackenzie Kitchel (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove/Cincinnati) added 10 kills, marking the fourth time this season she has tallied double-digit markers.
Senior setter Jacqui Seidel (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles East) guided the Ball State offense to a .287 (44-5-101) attack percentage with 36 assists. Seidel also served up an ace, smashed five kills, hit .500 (5-0-10) and logged four digs.
Mackenzie Roddy led the Northern Illinois attack with 10 kills, while Alexis Gonzalez posted a team-best 11 digs.
Leading 7-5 in the opening set, the Cardinals used a kill from senior middle Mindy Marx (Grand Haven, Mich./Grand Haven) and an ace from Fuelling to put together a four-point run and take control of the frame at 11-5. With Ball State leading 19-15, another Marx kill sparked a set-ending six-point run from the Cardinals. Fuelling capped the set at 25-19 with another ace.
With the score of the second set tied at 9, back-to-back kills from Kitchel and a pair of service aces from Spadafora give BSU the next four points and the lead for good at 13-9. With BSU leading 23-17, two more kills from Kitchel ended the set at 25-17.
Northern Illinois kept the third set close early, trailing by one at the 10-9 mark. However, three kills form redshirt sophomore middle Hayley Benson (Hilliard, Ohio/Hilliard Bradley) helped BSU rattle off six of the next eight points and pull ahead by five at 16-11. Ball State would reach match-point at 24-17 off of Seidel’s ace, before winning the set 25-20 on a blast from Kitchel.
The Ball State women’s volleyball team returns to action Friday, when it travels to Kent State for a 7 p.m. showdown versus the Golden Flashes. Saturday, the Cardinals will visit No. 18 Ohio at 7 p.m. in a potential showdown for first place in the conference.