MUNCIE, Ind. – – In another instant classic between the league’s top two teams, the Ball State women’s volleyball team fell a few points short in a 3-2 (23-25, 25-23, 25-23, 23-25, 15-9) setback to Bowling Green in the title match of the 2022 Mid-American Conference Volleyball Championship.
“I think Bowling Green played a great match,” head coach Kelly Miller Phillips said. “We were as prepared as we could be, and I felt like we fought hard. Certainly, wish we could have played a little better, but we can hang our hats that we fought until the end.”
In the third championship match meeting in the last four years between the two clubs, the Cardinals (24-8) jumped out to an early lead with a 25-23 opening-set victory. Junior middle Lauren Gilliland provided the set winner, one of her six kills in the contest.
Unfortunately, the Falcons (22-9) would take the next two sets by identical 25-23 scores. It was a late 5-1 run which gave BGSU the second frame. In the third, Ball State tried to flip the script, riding a strong service and defensive effort from the senior middle Marie Plitt to go from set-point at 24-17 to within one at 24-23.
The deficit was too much, as the Falcons squeaked out a two-point win. Ball State would complete a late comeback in the next frame, however, trailing 22-18 before a kill from junior outside Cait Snyder and another Plitt service run gave BSU set points at 24-22. Two rallies later, a Falcons attack error forced a deciding fifth set.
Bowling Green would have all the momentum in the final frame, however, scoring the first three points and never looking back. Ball State was able to stay within one, at 7-6, but BGSU closed the match with an 8-3 run.
In addition to her strong service runs, Plitt finished the contest with 14 kills and a .394 (14-1-33) attack percentage to earn a spot on the all-tournament team. Her 14 kills also raised her career total to 999, leaving her one shy of becoming the 13th player in program history to reach 1,000 career kills.
Overall, Plitt finished the tournament with 29 kills and a .419 (29-3-62) attack percentage, while collecting six total blocks.
Also earning all-tournament honors was senior libero Maggie Huber who tied her career high with 35 digs in the championship match and finished the event with 65 total digs and a 7.22 digs-per-set average.
For the second straight match, Snyder led the Ball State offense with 16 kills, one night after earning a career-best 21 in a four-set win versus Central Michigan. She finished the tournament with a team-high 37 kills and a 4.11 kills-per-set average.
Rounding out Ball State’s top contributors on offense were senior opposites Natalie Mitchem and senior outside Natalie Risi with eight and six kills, respectively. At the net, Gilliland led the Cardinals with five total blocks, while Snyder added four and Plitt recorded three.
Sophomore setter Megan Wielonski finished the match with her 20th double-double of the season, handing out 47 assists to go with 15 digs. Also securing double-digit digs were senior defensive specialist Havyn Gates at 14 and freshman defensive specialist Paige Busick with a career-high 13. Busick also served up a career-high three aces.
Unfortunately, Bowling Green was able to slow down the Ball State with 15 total blocks, the most for a BSU opponent this season. Overall, BGSU held the Cardinals to a .123 (52-29-187) attack percentage, while connecting for a .201 (70-29-204) mark of its own.
Lauryn Hovey led a quartet of Falcons in double figures with 22 kills, while libero Yelianiz Torres secured a team-best 33 digs.
The Ball State women’s volleyball team will now have to wait until next Sunday to learn its postseason fate, as if it does not receive an at-large bid into the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship, it is in position to get the league’s automatic bid into the Postseason NIVC Tournament.