Written By: Cory Stace | @corystace
Member of Ball State Sports Link
It’s hard to beat a team three times in one season.
The phrase does not just come from the NFL. This phrase reigns true across all different sports in the United States today.
The Ball State Women’s Volleyball team knows the phrase all too well after last season’s end.
November 22, 2014: Ball State was defeated by Western Michigan in the MAC Tournament Quarterfinals in four sets (12-25, 20-25, 25-21, 24-26). Ball State defeated Western Michigan twice throughout last season, both wins coming in five sets.
Although the loss was bittersweet for the Cardinals, legendary coach Steve Shondell definitely had something to look forward to with this year’s squad.
Six seniors on the roster (Alex Fuelling, Kati Vasalakis, Amanda Raker, Jenna Spadafora,Kelly Hopkins and Marissa Hine) along with one redshirt junior (Mackenzie Kitchel) returning signified there would be big expectations for this season.
Shondell added two star freshmen on the recruiting trail with Brooklyn Goodsel (Under Armour First Team All-American last year) and Ellie Dunn (AVCA Honorable Mention All-American last year).
Despite the additions, there are losses for the Cardinals. The team’s leading attacker Hayley Benson transferred after last season, while the second-leading attacker from last season, Sabrina Mangapora, suffered an injury in the offseason to keep her out of every match so far this year.
Weighing the additions and subtractions from last season, Ball State owns a 6-8 record entering conference play. Last season, the Cardinals entered conference play with a similar 6-7 record.
Kitchel, Fuelling and Mangapora have all dealt with injuries early on in the season. The Cardinals continue to look for contributions from other players on the court in their absence. If everything comes together by the end of the season, the Cardinals will have well-rounded experience across the board.
Entering conference play Thursday, the Cardinals open on the road at Toledo.
“Toledo is one of our rivalry matches, and as always, we expect a tough contest,” Shondell said. “It’s the conference opener at Toledo, you know it’s going to be a battle. Anytime you go on the road in the MAC you are going to be tested. Every win is a big win on the road in MAC play.”
The quest for a MAC Championship and a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 begins Thursday.
At The Net:
►STARTING MAC PLAY WITH TOLEDO: This will be the third time in the Steve Shondell era the Cardinals have opened league play versus Toledo … Ball State hosted the Rockets in its MAC opener in both 2011 (W, 3-1) and 2012 (W, 3-0) … Thursday’s match will mark the first time in the current travel partner era (2005-present) the Cardinals have started league play at Toledo.
►MILESTONE MATCH: Thursday’s match at Toledo will mark the 1,400 match in program history … Ball State is 2-2 in “milestone” matches since 2000, winning the program’s 1,000th match (3-1 at Western Michigan on Nov. 1, 2002) and 1,100th match (3-0 at Toledo on Nov. 5, 2005) … Ball State lost both the 1,200th match (0-3 at No. 19 Purdue on Aug. 28, 2009) and 1,300th match (0-3 versus Creighton on Sept. 7, 2013).
►IN THE MAC: Ball State enters league play with a 341-170 (.667) all-time record in MAC matches … The total ranks second among all league schools, with Western Michigan in first at 354-157 (.693) … Akron enters the week with the ninth-best overall MAC record at 161-224 (.418), while Toledo is 11th at 153-358 (.299).