Playing from behind, Volleyball drops 3 in tournament

Isabella Schreck Reporter

Kent State’s volleyball team lost its first set of Friday’s Fairfield Invitational and never caught up all weekend.

The team lost all three of its games against Hofstra, Fairfield and Seton Hall, only winning one of 10 sets.

“The first match of the weekend is really important,” coach Don Gromala said. “I think coming up from behind definitely affected both morale and our playing. People just weren’t dialed in with their execution and their performances, and it definitely carried over into our other matches.”

The Flashes lost five sets by three points or less. But they never won the first set of a game and trailed in most of the close sets. The only match KSU won was a 25-19 victory over Hofstra in the third set of that game. 

Kent State is now 3-4 on the season. Hofstra is 4-3. Seton Hall, which swept all three of its games in the tournament, is 3-3. Fairfield, which is favored to win the Metro-Atlantic Conference, is 1-5. 

“We played some pretty decent teams here in those first matches,” Gromala said. “We had good rhythm and consistency, but we still need to figure out what’s best for this team. We’re really looking forward to getting back into the training environment and seeing who’s learning the game and who’s being aggressive and playing hard together.”

Kent State struggled with hitting through much of the tournament. The Flashes hit .140 against Hofstra, .223 against Fairfield and .089 against Seton Hall. 

“Players just need to either step up or produce more consistently,” Gromala said. “It’s still early in the season, and we’ve been playing a lot of volleyball on the road, so we’re excited to get back into a normal flow of the week as we prepare for a tough tournament out in Kansas.”

The team is still without two of its top players. Libero Erin Gardner, who injured her knee halfway through last spring’s season, was ranked 18th in the NCAA in digs per set in 2019. Middle blocker Lana Strejcek, who hasn’t played this season because of injury, led the team in blocks last season. 

“We still have people that we’re waiting on to get 100% healthy,” Gromala said. “Gardner and Strejcek are on a good projection back to return to play, so we’re excited about that. I think they’re doing a great job doing everything they can in order to come back as soon as possible.”

The Flashes will play Wichita State (3-0) and Delaware (5-1) on Friday and Kansas (2-3) next Saturday in the Kansas Invitational.

“We know that there are areas where we have to just execute better to be more consistent for next week,” Gromala said. “We definitely take in every moment and challenge because it is an opportunity to learn.”

 Isabella Schreck is a reporter. Contact her at  [email protected].