Flashes go winless in Dunn Hospitality Tournament

Nick Buzzelli

After dropping the first two sets against the University of Evansville Saturday night, the Kent State volleyball team (4-6) was on the verge of losing its third-straight match and five of its last six.

The Flashes needed a spark in the third and fourth sets if they wanted to force a potential fifth and have any chance of escaping the Dunn Hospitality Tournament with a victory.

And Kent State did just that, except pulling out a win in the final frame.

Despite leading by as many as four points early in the fifth set, the Flashes faltered in the middle, enabling the aces to mount a comeback win in front of 292 fans at the Carson Center in Evansville, Indiana.

“It started out pretty rough, but I know we really turned it around. I really liked how we played these last three sets of the day,” said head coach Don Gromala following the loss to Evansville. “We talked a lot about getting better throughout the tournament and we’re right there with these teams. 

“We just need to acknowledge some things that teams are doing and find some ways to neutralize it throughout a match, especially on defense.”

In the first match of the tournament, Kent State was swept by the University of Dayton, the sixth-ranked team in the VolleyballMag.com Mid-Major poll, according to a Kent State Athletics press release, despite the fact that the Flashes posted a .233 hitting percentage.

But the Flyers, who are undefeated in the 2016 campaign, hit .331 in the match and committed only five errors in the final two sets en route to the 3-0 victory.

Senior middle blocker Drew Norberg tallied 13 kills against Dayton, while junior Kelsey Bittinger – in her first match back since Sept. 3 – notched 11 and three blocks.

On Saturday, Kent State and Austin Peay matched each other point for point in the first set until the Flashes used an 8-2 run to go up by six and eventually take the set, 25-20.

However, the Governors bounced back in sets two and four, forcing a decisive fifth that was capped off with redshirt-senior Sammie Ebright’s match-winning kill.

Norberg led the Flashes with 43 kills in the tournament, while senior setter Katrina Kojic recorded 143 assists in the three matches.

Kent State will look to end its losing streak this weekend when the team travels to Morehead, Kentucky, to face off against the University of Montana, Morehead State and Coppin State in the Comfort-Inn Invitational on Sept. 16 and 17.

Nick Buzzelli is a sports reporter, contact him at [email protected].