Ohio (18-10, 12-5 Mid-American Conference) had one opportunity to surpass Ball State in the MAC standings, but Ball State (22-7, 14-3 MAC) showed why it is currently on pace to be the No. 1 seed in the MAC Tournament.
The loss eliminates the possibility of the Bobcats earning the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the MAC Tournament. Had the Bobcats won, they would've jumped past the Cardinals in the MAC standings, but the Bobcats couldn't take advantage of the opportunity to dethrone the Cardinals
From the very start the Cardinals made the Bobcats job much more difficult than the night before. The Cardinals immediately took an 11-2 lead after a 10-0 scoring run. The Bobcats offense struggled to adjust to the intensity that the Cardinals defense was playing with. The Bobcats committed several errors early in the first set that helped the Cardinals get out to a lead. The Bobcats battled back to cut into Ball State's lead, as the Cardinals were only up 21-20 until a key scoring run led by Marie Plitt helped the Cardinals win set one.
The Bobcats finally got things going on offense early in the second set. Kristy Frank had two kills early on that helped the Bobcats take a 10-4 lead. The Bobcats kept up the intensity and scored six of the next seven points. The Cardinals made things interesting with a scoring run of their own, but the Bobcats were not giving up control of the second set. Caitlin O'Farrell and Caroline Clippard both had multiple kills that helped the Bobcats win the second set easily.
The third set looked like it would be a close one after the two teams split the first 12 points, but the Cardinals quickly took a sizable advantage with a 10-3 scoring run. The Bobcats gave up several big scoring runs to the Cardinals throughout the match that put them in huge holes. The Bobcats made it competitive with a 7-3 scoring run, but again the Cardinals stepped up in crunch time to come up with a set three victory.
"We would be up in points, and then they would score six or seven points in a row ... I feel like it was senior night and there was a lot of nervous energy," O'Farrell said.
The Bobcats got off on the right foot, scoring four straight points to take a 4-2 lead. The Cardinals, as they had done all night, responded immediately and stole the lead from the Bobcats with a 8-2 scoring run. The Cardinals kept up their pressure, and extended their lead all the way out to eight. The Bobcats knew they had to come up with a comeback, and their best players stepped up. Frank and Olivia Margolies had multiple kills to cut the Cardinal lead to two. Just when it got interesting, Lauren Gilliland had three kills in four plays to end the Bobcats' hopes.
Frank was the only Bobcat to get to double digit kills, while Margolies had a very productive senior night, leading the team in digs.
Ohio coach Geoff Carlston knew the Bobcats didn't play as well as they had the night before,
"We just didn't play the same as last night," Carlston said. "Give Ball State credit they played well."
Although the Bobcats didn't have a good enough weekend to earn the first-round bye in the MAC tournament, Friday night's win punched the Bobcats ticket to the MAC tournament.
"We're in the MAC tournament," Carlston said. "So it gives us a chance to go to the NCAA tournament which is our ultimate goal."
Even though the weekend didn't go the way the Bobcats wanted, the series against Ball State gives the Bobcats a chance to prolong their season in the MAC tournament.