Gardner and Haffner honored for their performances for KSU volleyball

Jimmy Oswald Sports Reporter

Juniors Erin Gardner and Alex Haffner put the cherry on top of an opening weekend sweep of Central Michigan University by Kent State volleyball as they received Mid-American Conference honors for their performances. 

Gardner was named East Division Defensive Player of the Week for her performance at the libero position Thursday and Friday. She averaged 5.71 digs per set and had 40 digs in the two games. She helped Kent State hold the Chippewas’ hitting percentage to .166. 

Haffner described Gardner’s performance with pride. 

“She has a commanding presence in the back row,” she said. “She expects a lot out of the people back there. She’s holding them to a standard and that’s going to push us really far.” 

This is Gardner’s fourth career defensive player of the week honor. She ranks 10th nationally in digs per set. 

“As you get older, the level of skill that you improve by isn’t very much,” Gardner commented about her progression. “It’s more about your IQ and how you think about the game.” 

Gardner also talked about what goes into being a successful libero. 

“A lot of my job depends on what happens at the net,” she said. “I do my best to see around the blockers and it’s my job to be stopped and balanced so I can react as fast as possible.” 

Haffner was named East Division Setter of the Week. She leads the nation in average assists per set with 14.23. Her performance helped the Flashes record a .278 hitting percentage and an average of 16.14 kills per set. 

“It’s all individually working with my hitters,” Haffner said. “Knowing what they expect from the sets and what works best for each hitter.” 

Haffner also emphasized that consistency is a big part of her success as a setter. 

“Just doing the same thing over and over again,” she said. “My balls have to be the same from wherever on the court I’m at and however they were given to me.” 

Gardner had high praise for her teammate.

“Her mental side of the game is the strongest I’ve seen in anyone I’ve played with,” Gardner said. “Her ability to put our hitters in positions to be successful, that’s what creates points for us. It blows my mind that she can do that every time.” 

With back-to-back wins to open the season and two players being honored for their play, the Kent State volleyball team’s future is looking bright. 

“We have a really good shot to compete in the MAC Championship this year,” Gardner said. 

The Flashes will look to continue their winning ways Thursday and Friday as they head to Buffalo (0-4). 

“We’re going to come out with a lot of confidence having last weekend under our belt,” she said. “Especially since we are a weekend behind every other MAC team.”

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