Kent State volleyball sets MAC record, loses to Northern Illinois

Kent+State+defensive+specialist+Challen+Geraghty+prepares+to+serve+during+a+match+against+Miami+%28OH%29+Saturday%2C+Sept.+30%2C+2017.

Kent State defensive specialist Challen Geraghty prepares to serve during a match against Miami (OH) Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017.

Taylor Sforzo

The Kent State volleyball team (4-17, 2-8 Mid-American Conference) went down swinging in the first set (43-41) against Northern Illinois (6-19, 5-5 MAC) Friday, setting the MAC record for the third highest scoring set since the 25-point format began in 2008.

With 29 set ties and 10 lead changes, the first set was an intense one.

“It was a tough one,” coach Don Gromala said. “The score is what stands out but we started off really flat and I really love how we fought back in that set to give ourselves a chance. We saw some really good stuff from our end.”

The Flashes ultimately fell to the Huskies in straight sets 3-0 (43-41, 25-22, 25-20).

“I think we showed a lot of heart and focus in the entire first set,” senior outside hitter Kelsey Bittinger said. “It was a lot of fun battling for such a long set, especially since everyone had the right mentality. We were all playing for each other and in that moment.”

Bittinger led the team with 19 kills and managed 17 digs to clinch her 10th double-double of the season. Senior opposite Heather Younkin trailed her with 15 kills. Challen Geraghty, senior defensive specialist and libero, led the team with 25 digs.

The Flashes came back from being down 4-1 in that first set to getting their first lead of the night 12-11. Kent State stayed ahead statistically with 27-23 in kills and 37-26 in digs.

“We started out a little flat and it wasn’t probably the cleanest volleyball at times,” Gromala said. “We ran out of subs and people had to stay out on the court and they did a great job. It was really great to see in that moment how our players stepped up there.”

Kent State also fell to Western Michigan (13-7, 6-3 MAC) Friday night 3-1 (25-23, 17-25, 22-25, 22-25).

Gromala said the difference in the game could’ve been a couple more kills from their middles or a block here and there. The Flashes missed a couple opportunities where Western Michigan took risks.

Bittinger led with 14 kills, and freshman setter Natalie Tagala led with 35 assists. Geraghty led the match with 18 digs.

“Western is a great team,” junior outside hitter Lexi Mantas said. “We couldn’t stop their key players.”

Kent State will host Buffalo and Akron this coming weekend in the M.A.C Center.

Taylor Sforzo is a sports reporter. Contact her at [email protected]