Volleyball trades matches with NIU, improves to 12-6

Jimmy Oswald Sports Reporter

The Kent State volleyball team lost to Northern Illinois University Friday in five sets, three of which were decided by three points or less. 

On Saturday the Flashes bounced back, winning in three sets, each by just two points.

“Our versatility really showed this weekend,” sophomore outside hitter Morgan Copley said. “And we had a really good game plan. Even when we fell short, it was a battle. Everyone played hard.”

On Friday the Flashes took an 18-10 lead, then held on to win 25-23. NIU would win the next game 25-18. KSU would win the third by four points and the Huskies would win the next by three to send the match to a fifth set. NIU would edge out Kent to win 15-13. 

“We had some good runs,” coach Don Gromala said. “But then we would give our opponents some good runs. Some people weren’t adjusting correctly, and others were trying to cover other player’s spots. Everything started to break down.”

On Saturday. the Flashes would win the first set 26-24. KSU would fall behind 17-10 in the second before coming back to win 27-25. The third would once again see the Flashes win by two points.

KSU is 12-6 and in second place in the East Division of the Mid-American Conference. The Huskies are 8-11 and in fifth place in the West. 

Copley said the team showed a really good turnaround.

“There was a different energy out on the court Saturday,” she said. “And everyone really stepped up and did their job. That pushed us to a win.”  

Gromala said the difference between the two days was defense.

“Our defensive presence was much better,” he said. “And we were making plays happen when we needed to. We had a much better block on Saturday.” 

Junior middle blocker Lana Strejcek led the Flashes in blocks in both games, getting five total blocks on Friday and eight on Saturday. 

Copley said that Strejcek has a huge block presence. 

“She puts a ton of pressure on the other team,” Copley said. “Her presence causes them to make errors and it gives our team a whole different level of competitiveness.” 

Gromala said Strejcek had great vision on the court. 

“She has a great sense for the ball,” Gromala said. “And that’s important when the other team is running a fast tempo. She put a lot of pressure on their defense that forced them into some bad shots.”

Copley led the team with a career-high 19 kills on Friday and a .514 hitting percentage. She had 10 kills on Saturday.

Gromala said Copley did well against NIU’s blockers.

“We knew she had that matchup advantage,” he said. “So she could make a lot of attempts, and she did a great job putting the ball down. She made a lot of good decisions offensively.” 

Junior opposite hitter Melissa Kolurbasi led the team Saturday in kills with 12, seven of which came during the third set. 

Gromala said Kolurbasi just needed time to adjust.

“It took her some time to get some rhythm and get on the same page,” he said. “But once she did, she put herself in a great position to be aggressive and put the ball in the right spots. She was just being smart.” 

The Flashes will next play at Ohio, which is 9-6 and third in the East, on Tuesday.

KSU lost to the Bobcats in five sets last Tuesday. 

Copley said the team was ready for the rematch. 

“We can’t let things like energy or stuff we can’t control get the best of us,” she said. “We’re prepared to make those changes. This time we’ll be ready.”

Jimmy is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected].