Volleyball lands win against Akron to finish weekend matches

Taylor Sforzo

After weeks of close sets and losses, Kent State’s volleyball team (5-18 overall, 3-9 Mid-American Conference) beat Akron in straight sets Saturday.

The Flashes have lost 19 sets this season by 3 points or less, including a 3-0 defeat to Buffalo on Friday. All of Friday’s losses were by two points.

Saturday, Kent State jumped to a 25-16 victory in the first set, then won close sets, 27-25 and 25-22.

The victory moved the Flashes ahead of Akron in the Mid-American Conference standings. Kent State is tied with Eastern Michigan for 10th place at 3-9. Akron is 2-10 (6-18 overall) and last in the conference.

“It’s not about the win, I think it’s how we played overall,” head coach Don Gromala said. “For the weekend, we played pretty composed. In this match, we came out and we caught them off guard with the rhythm of their offense.”

The Flashes held the Zips to a -.033 hitting percentage in the first set. Gromala said Akron responded to the Flashes in the next matches, yet Kent still came out with the win. Akron held a lead in the second set until Kent State tied the set 15-15.

“That’s huge that they played better and we still held off their changes,” Gromala said. “I think they learned that we are a team. The group has grown a lot as a team since the first time we played them (Akron).”

Senior defensive specialist/libero Challen Geraghty led the team with 18 digs, while senior outside hitter Kelsey Bittinger trailed her with 16 digs along with her 13 kills.

“The things that we needed to improve to win tonight’s match we really did and communication definitely stepped up,” freshman setter Natalie Tagala said. “We learned how to keep our composure and keep fighting even if we gave away a few points or were down a little bit.”

Tagala led the team with 37 of the team’s 41 assists against Akron, 10 more assists than Friday night against Buffalo.

Kent State lost in straight sets (23-25, 26-28, 25-27) against Buffalo (14-9, 7-5) Friday.

The Flashes were out-dug and out-killed by the Bulls, Geraghty leading with 12 digs and Bittinger leading with 13 kills. Despite this, the Flashes kept close sets throughout the match with 31 tie scores and 9 lead changes overall.

 “We fought back pretty well,” Gromala said on Friday’s performance. “We made some good adjustments. Players that came in did a great job of doing what they needed to do to add to what we’re trying to do to neutralize our opponents a little bit.” 

The Flashes will head out to Oxford, Ohio on Friday and Bowling Green, Ohio on Saturday for their last weekend road trip of the season to take on Miami and Bowling Green.

“It’s a tough road trip, it’s the two top teams in the conference,” Gromala said. “We’re gonna take it one step at a time. We’ve been getting better, we know those teams are different than the last time we played them and we have to work hard at getting better.”

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