Ball State (4-5, 0-0 MAC) went into the weekend at 3-3 on the season looking to leave Highland Heights, Kentucky, with an above .500 record. The Cardinals were off to a good start Friday, defeating Northern Kentucky in five sets, but they were unable to reach their goal after a pair of losses Saturday against Cincinnati and Notre Dame.
After dropping the first two sets to the Norse, the Cardinals were looking to get out to a faster start versus the Bearcats. They did just that, winning sets one and two, 25-23 and 26-24, respectively. Ball State took advantage of 17 first half errors by the Bearcats even though Cincinnati had 10 more kills. The rest of the game saw the momentum swing across the net in Cincinnati’s favor.
The Bearcats locked up the rest of match, winning three consecutive sets, 25-22, 25-17 and 15-11, respectively. The Cardinals’ defense was constantly pressured by the Bearcats as they had eight more combined kills through the second half than the Cardinals with a 42-34 advantage. Cincinnati also had a 10 percent higher hit percentage than the Cardinals. Ball State looked to right the ship against the Fighting Irish after falling to Cincinnati, 3-2.
“They had a couple players that were just really talented and were tough for us to stop as the match went on in those later sets,” head coach Kelli Miller Philips said.
Ball State was able to get out to another early lead against Notre Dame, taking set one, 25-19, but it wasn’t able to find that success the rest of the way. The Fighting Irish caused problems for the Cardinals on the defensive side of the net with 13 blocks compared to eight for Ball State. Although the Cardinals had similar numbers in kills, aces and hit percentage, Notre Dame’s defense was overwhelming.
“These teams were tough this weekend, but we just kept trying to attack the ball hard and play together as a team when we were out there,” Hamaker said.
Ball State freshmen Natalie Risi, Natalie Mitchem and Allison Hamaker combined for 95 of 172 total kills on the weekend, coming up big for Ball State.
“The pulse of the team right now is positive,” Miller Phillips said. “We were right there with those teams this weekend. I’m confident in what we are doing, and we are improving and getting better every match we are out there.”
The Cardinals will look to get back on the winning side of things when they return home in the Ball State Active Ankle Challenge starting Friday at 4 p.m.