The regular season finale between Ball State (16-13) and Toledo (13-16) was a fight for seeding in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Tournament. The Rockets were looking to flip the script on the Cardinals after being swept by them earlier in the season.
In the end, Toledo took a 3-0 (25-23, 25-18, 25-13) victory over Ball State.
Early on, it was a back-and-forth affair in the opening set with neither team separating themselves. The Rockets had five early errors that put them behind the eight ball, but they were able to keep within striking distance.
Ball State would eventually be able to push the lead to 17-13 midway through the set, and it began to look like they’d pull away. However, following a timeout from Toledo, the Rockets went on a 6-2 scoring run to tie it at 19.
The red and black could only hold off for so long as Toledo continued to claw back late in the first set and take the win 25-23.
“Our passing really struggled tonight,” Ball State head coach Kelli Miller Phillips said. “So it was hard for us to get into any kind of rhythm offensively. When you’re not putting pressure on a team like Toledo they can get off to a quick finish.”
With the late momentum swing in the first set, the Cardinals were never able to recapture the momentum for the rest of the match.
The night would seemingly get even worse for Ball State as in the last two sets they combined for a .161 (16.1 percent) hitting percentage. Toledo always had an answer for any run the Cardinals put together, never allowing any margin for error for the red and black.
It was a continuous struggle for the Cardinals for the final two sets as they compiled 17 total errors in the closing sets. To go along with those errors, Ball State wound up with six net violations to assist the Rockets.
“[Toledo] ran a few more back row attacks and some things we don’t see as consistently,” Miller Phillips said. “Those errors are mental, we’re very capable of handling and playing defense on that.”
The offense was humming for the Rockets all night long with four separate players with nine or more kills and a strong .299 (29.9 percent) hitting percentage for the match.
Tonight's loss is used as a learning experience for the Cardinals, and in particular, for the underclassmen Ball State has put on the floor with the likes of redshirt freshman Aniya Kennedy and sophomore Madison Buckley.
“We’re playing a young group,” Miller Phillips said. “They’re learning how to battle along the way. Gaining the experience through the entire MAC season so when it comes tournament time you can hopefully use all that experience.”
Even with the loss, the Cardinals are keeping a “brand new season” mentality to keep pushing forward into the postseason.
“I told them let's focus on what's ahead,” Miller Phillips said. “Reset, get organized, and figure things out after watching the film from this one and figure out how we’re going to attack the MAC Tournament moving forward.”
With the loss, the Cardinals fall to (16-13, 13-5 MAC) and will be the No. 3 seed in the MAC Tournament. They will face No. 6 Bowling Green in the first round on Nov. 18. The match is set for 6:30 p.m.
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