MUNCIE, Ind. – Close. Again.
 
The Central Michigan volleyball team dropped a five-set Mid-American Conference match to Ball State on Friday at the Cardinals’ Worthen Arena. The Cardinals, 14-25, 25-17, 26-24, 23-25, 15-11, handing the Chippewas their second-straight five-set loss after they had won their first four such matches this season.
 
The result tightened the already close league standings as CMU slipped to 9-9 and Ball State improved to 8-9. Both are among a slew of teams at or around the .500 mark vying for one of the four spots in the league tournament.
 
The teams conclude their two-match series on Saturday (1 p.m.).
 
“I think there’s a sense of urgency,” CMU coach Mike Gawlik said. “I think everybody knows what’s at stake and wins at this time of the year feel like they mean more than they do earlier in the year because of the context you put them under.
 
“It’s what we do with that expectation and that pressure that’s really going to define where we go. Whether they define it as pressure or they define it as we’re still in the hunt, we want it to turn into being more aggressive. The teams that end up in the four tournament spots are the teams that are going to be the most aggressive and find a way to go take them.
 
“We have to actively pursue what we want and the only way we do that is with aggressive play and a relentless pursuit of effort and consistency. Nobody’s going to give us anything. We’re trying to keep our head down and just play our matches.”
 
How It Happened
The Chippewas used an 8-1 run in building an 18-10 lead in the first set, and the Cardinals turned the tables in the second, mounting a 7-1 surge in seizing a 17-10 advantage.
 
Ball State won a tight third set, during which neither team led by more than four points. The fourth set played out in much the same way, but with the opposite result, as Savannah Thompson collected two kills as the Chippewas scored three of the set’s final four points.
 
CMU led just once in the fifth, 1-0, and Ball State crept out to a 6-2 lead and the Chippewas never got closer than three points the rest of the way.
 
“We took some big swings,” Gawlik said. “I liked the cuts we were taking. But their block got going there in set 5. I think they blocked four (balls) in set 5. It’s part of the way we kill balls to challenge the block at times and they got the better of us in that matchup down the stretch.
 
“When you block four, it’s tough to overcome that; those can feel like bigger points than just one when you get blocked. And yet we stayed within striking distance. I thought if we could have gotten our block going or got a service ace or created one of those bang-bang plays right in the middle, we could have been right there.”
 
Triple-Double
CMU freshman Kamryn Olson recorded a rare triple-double, finishing with 11 kills, 22 assists and 11 digs.
 
“I don’t know when the last time that’s been done in CMU volleyball but that’s pretty difficult to do,” Gawlik said. “That’s a pretty complete match. She’s doing a lot of things out there for us. As a freshman to step out against a division rival and perform like that in multiple phases I think is a pretty good thing.”
 
Leaders
Savannah Thompson had 17 kills to lead CMU, while Lisbeth Rosario-Martinez had 14. Grace Butler finished with 32 assists, and Kendall Braate led the Chippewas’ defense with 19 digs.
 
Numbers
The Chippewas hit at .206 on the night, committing a season-high 30 attack errors. Ball State hit at .237 and finished with 14 blocks to CMU’s eight.
 
Looking Ahead
The Chippewas have four matches remaining and while it may eventually play out that they don’t necessarily need to win all four, victories would go a long way in easing the pressure in their quest for a coveted spot in the conference tournament.
 
“The last two (matches) we’ve been in a position to win in five (sets),” Gawlik said. “When you’re going five with other teams in the hunt it comes down to a play here or there. We’re right there. I don’t think we’re broken; I don’t think there’s this major shift that’s happened. I think we need to be two or three points better.
 
“It’s crunch time and we need this and it’s who takes a deep breath and can perform under that kind of expectation and in that kind of environment and we need to be better in that moment.”
 

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