A disappointing volleyball season comes to a winning end for Flashes

Defensive specialist/libero Bryn Roberts bumps the ball during on Wednesday, Nov. 17 against Ohio University. Photo by Morgan McGrath.

Isabella Schreck Reporter

The Kent State volleyball team “went out with a bang,” redshirt junior middle blocker Jacqlyn Caspers said. 

The Flashes commanded their last game of the season against Ohio, closing out the match in four sets.

“It was great to finally win against Ohio,” Caspers said. “We all grind Monday through Friday in the gym, and when we finally get to go on the court everyone is dialed in. Everybody works all week long for the opportunity to play on the court. We all gave it our best effort.”

OU previously beat Kent State 3-2 on Oct. 20. 

Coach Don Gromala said he was proud of his team’s performance and its growth throughout the season. 

“We out-hit them, out-dug them, out-blocked them and out-served them,” Gromala said. “The type of execution and presence that we had was awesome to see.”

The first set was back-and-forth until OU took over at 23-22 and won the set 25-23. 

Kent State trailed by four in the second set but fought back and tied the set four times. At 19-18, the Flashes took their first lead of the set. 

OU challenged a play at 21-19 but lost, and KSU went on to a 25-23 victory.

During the third set, the Flashes and Ohio traded points until the match was tied at 12-12. Kent State scored four of the next five points and went on to a 25-18 victory.

KSU took a 3-0 lead and maintained at least that margin for the rest of the set. 

The Flashes finished out the night 25-20 as the crowd cheered and the team stormed the court.

The attendance at the game was 554, and Gromala said the team fed off the atmosphere.

“Hats off to the crowd and the energy in the gym,” Gromala said. “It was the best crowd we had in a while.”

Kent State finished with a .328 hitting percentage. Caspers led the team in hitting percentage with .647. 

“My teammates work so hard in the gym,” Caspers said. “All of them grind to be out on the court. I have to work hard out there for them.” 

The match also marked senior middle blocker Danie Tyson, senior opposite hitter Melissa Kolurbasi and graduate student middle blocker Hannah Johnson’s final game at Kent State. Tyson and Kolurbasi led the team in kills with 14. 

“They all have different stories with what they have done for this program,” Gromala said.  “They put their hearts and souls into this program.”

Senior libero Erin Gardner and senior setter Alex Haffner said they will take advantage of the extra year of playing due to COVID. Senior middle blocker Lana Strejcek is also eligible to return, although KentWired did not interview her.

KSU ended in seventh place in the Mid-American Conference at 7-11 and 12-18 overall. 

Gromala described this season as “a mix of emotions.”

“When we look back and reflect, it has just been exhausting and frustrating and exciting,” Gromala said. “We had some great performances, but we just could never really get into a rhythm with what we had lineup wise and personnel wise.”

The Flashes did not make the six-team MAC tournament, which starts Nov. 21.

“The team knows we didn’t meet our expectations,” Gromala said. “Our expectation is to be in the MAC tournament every year, so we’re going to get back to work in the offseason.”

Ball State won the MAC regular-season championship at 17-1, with its only loss coming to Kent State in the first game of the conference season. Bowling Green was second at 16-2. Both teams have a first-round bye in the tournament. 

Ohio and Western Michigan tied for third at 11-7, and Northern Illinois and Toledo tied for fifth at 10-8. 

The Flashes struggled with injuries throughout the season. Gardner and Strejcek returned to the court during the Ball State matchup. Later junior opposite hitter Morgan Copley returned after sitting out for a month after injuring her back. Junior outside hitter Taylor Heberle missed three weeks. Haffner suffered a head injury Oct. 30 and missed two games. 

After overcoming a five-game losing streak, KSU finished with a two-game winning streak, starting with a 3-1 victory to Miami Nov. 13. 

“We had our moments,” Caspers said. “We had a rocky mid-season, but we excelled towards the end.”

Despite this season’s results, Gromala remains positive going into a full offseason in preparation for the 2022 season. The team had a shortened offseason due to its 2021 spring season.

“We were starting to find our groove,” Gromala said. “Thankfully we have a first true offseason in a while. Hopefully we can start where we left off for the next season.”

Isabella Schreck is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected]