Kent State (11-10, 4-4 Mid-American Conference) had an up-and-down weekend, splitting their weekend road matches.
The weekend began with a five-set victory (25-18, 25-23, 16-25, 23-25, 15-6) against the Ball State Cardinals (8-14, 4-4 MAC) Friday night.
The Flashes got off to a quick start against Ball State, taking a commanding two-set lead. The Cardinals came roaring back to tie the match at two sets apiece.
Kent State’s hitting percentage dipped to .114 and .125 in the third and fourth sets. After recording 27 assists in the match’s initial two frames, the Flashes recorded just 19 in the following two.
“We controlled the ball really well (in the first two sets),” head coach Don Gromala said. “Even though we didn’t get aced very much, we were passing a lot of balls to about 10 feet in the earlier set and we weren’t locating our sets that great.”
The 15-6 fifth set victory was nothing short of sheer domination by Kent State.
The Flashes came out firing and ended the set with 10 kills and only one attack error for a commanding .375 hitting percentage. Ball State had no answer for the ramped up attack. The Cardinals racked up five attack errors and five kills for a .000 hitting percentage.
“Brittney (Jakscht) did a great job of when to force Drew (Norberg) in that set, and she did a good job of being available,” said Gromala. “She put some pace on the ball, and that opened some things up. With Drew scoring points, that made it harder for them to defend us and we built some momentum.”
Junior setter Brittney Jakscht paced the Flashes with 48 assists, while junior libero Challen Geraghty recorded a season-high 34 digs in the MAC road win.
Kent State racked up a season-high 15 total blocks and their fourth consecutive match overall with double-digit blocks.
“Making the change to Brittney (Jakscht) at setter has been a part of it, but some of our other blockers are getting better,” Gromala said. “Kelsey (Bittinger) has been a great one-on-one blocker this whole year.”
Freshman opposite hitter Myla King and senior middle blocker Drew Norberg led the way with six total blocks apiece, while junior opposite hitter Heather Younkin totaled a team-high 16 kills.
Myla [King] and Heather (Younkin) have been stepping up,” Gromala said. “Balls that are hitting their hands are going down for blocks instead of either coming off their hands for a ball that we dig or going out of bounds for a kill. Those are some extra points that we’re gaining.”
The second leg of the Flashes MAC road trip against the Toledo Rockets (12-8, 5-3 MAC) Saturday night again went the distance. Kent State couldn’t finish, this time, ultimately losing the match in five sets (17-25, 25-14, 25-23, 14-25, 6-15).
Junior outside hitter Kelsey Bittinger had a team-high 15 kills and Geraghty again led the way with 28 digs. The Flashes double-digit team block streak was snapped at four, with the recording seven total blocks.
After holding a 2-1 set advantage, Kent State’s attack faltered over the final two sets. The team recorded eight kills and nine errors for a -.019 hitting percentage.
“As a staff, we have to make better adjustments and find a way to change momentum in the match when we’re up 2-1,” Gromala said.
The Flashes will look to rebound Thursday, Oct. 21, against Western Michigan (8-13, 3-5 MAC) at the M.A.C. Center.