Volleyball struggles to close against conference leaders

Outside+hitter+Kelsey+Bittinger+watches+as+a+Buffalo+player+hits+the+ball+into+the+net+during+a+match+on+Friday%2C+Oct.+27%2C+2017.

Outside hitter Kelsey Bittinger watches as a Buffalo player hits the ball into the net during a match on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017.

Sean Blevins

Kent State (13-17, 6-10 Mid-American Conference) struggled offensively in their last two regular season games against two of the top teams in the MAC.

Miami 3, Kent State 1

Kent State started out the first set up 10-6, but Miami (20-7, 12-3 MAC) responded, tying it up at 10. The Flashes took a 15-14 lead, but the RedHawks controlled the rest of the set, winning, 25-19.

The Flashes started off the second set hot, taking an early 10-6 lead. Miami came back again and cut the lead to two, 21-19, then they scored six of the next eight points to win the set, 25-23, as the Flashes made several attack errors near the net.

The third set was even matched as it started out tied at eight. It featured seven lead changes. The Flashes were finally able to close this set out as they won it, 25-22.

The RedHawks kicked off the fourth set up 6-0, but the Flashes rallied and tied it up at nine. Miami went up 14-10 and never looked back as it won the set, 25-18. The game was far closer than the score showed.

Freshman Libero Erin Gardner led the team with 21 digs. Freshman Middle Blocker Danie Tyson led the team with 11.5 points and finished second with eight kills.

“We got rattled during a few sets and our offense was non-existent as we struggled with attacking,” coach Don Gromola said. “Miami outplayed us as we gave them a lot of points and they defended really well. They made good subs and our offense didn’t produce.”

Bowling Green 3, Kent State 1

Bowling Green (19-10, 13-3 MAC) grinded out a tough first set, winning it, 25-21.

Kent State leaped out to a 9-3 lead in the second set and staved off a late Falcon comeback as they won it, 25-20.

Bowling Green started off the third set up 11-4 then expanded its lead to 20-7. The Falcons dominated it as they won, 25-14, to go up two sets to one.

The Flashes fell behind 12-7 in the fourth set and struggled to get kills and digs as they lost, 25-15.

Redshirt freshman libero Erin Gardner led both teams with 34 kills and sophomore setter Natalie Tagala had a team-high 22 assists.

“Our offense has been a little inconsistent over the course of the season but we have definitely improved in our serve and pass game,” coach Don Gromola said.

The MAC tournament begins on Thursday in Oxford, Ohio. Miami and Bowling Green shared the regular season MAC title. 

The Flashes will take on Eastern Michigan on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in the opening round of the tournament. 

Sean Blevins is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected]