Volleyball carries winning record into conference play

Nick Buzzelli

Entering the fifth and final set against Coppin State University Saturday, the Kent State volleyball team was 15 points away from three straight victories in the Comfort Inn-vitational and an above .500 record.

But at the same time, the Flashes were 15 points away from beginning Mid-American Conference play on a losing streak.

However, after dropping the first point in the final frame, Kent State (7-6) jumped out to an early five-point advantage and never looked back, cruising to a 15-10 fifth set victory to take both the match and the tournament, which was hosted by Morehead State University.

“It was a pretty up and down match, which is typical of how we’ve played on Saturdays this year,” said head coach Don Gromala following the match. “We did a good job of getting back in that third set and were right there with some opportunities at the end.

“We served a little bit together and let them make more mistakes in the fourth. When the momentum flipped, we did a good job of carrying that into the fifth set.”

Coming off three consecutive losses last weekend in the Dunn Hospitality Tournament, Kent State tallied a season-high .299 hitting percentage and 13 kills in their first game of the tournament against the University of Montana, winning with a 3-0 sweep of the Grizzlies.

Both teams matched one another point-for-point throughout the first set, until senior Drew Norberg broke a 16-16 tie with a kill and consecutive aces by freshman defensive specialist Sam Jones, cushioned the Flashes’ lead. Kent State later took the set, 25-21, courtesy of kills from freshman Myla King and Norberg.

Montana got within one late in the third set, but back-to-back kills from King and junior outside hitter Kelsey Bittinger closed out the match.

Later in the day, the Flashes’ stringent defense limited Morehead State to a .122 hitting percentage in the second and third sets, which allowed Kent State to cruise to its second straight victory.

Norberg led Kent State with 10 kills and three blocks against the Eagles, while senior setter Katarina Kojic chipped in 34 assists.

Despite the fact that the Flashes’ finale versus Coppin State was a back-and-forth contest, Kent State ultimately prevailed in the final set, giving the team a three-game winning heading into the beginning of league play Friday and Saturday against University at Buffalo and The University of Akron at the M.A.C. Center.

“It was great to have some players step up this weekend. Drew had a solid weekend. (Sophomore) Lexi (Mantas) came in today and was on fire, which was great to see. (Sophomore) Sam (Jones) did a great job defensively as well,” Gromala said. “It’s good to get the three wins, but we still need to keep growing and developing.”

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