Volleyball sweeps weekend competition

Jesse Runner

Kent State’s volleyball team extended its winning streak to seven games after defeating Mid-American Conference opponents Northern Illinois University and Western Michigan University this past weekend.

The Flashes (14-8) beat Northern Illinois in four sets Friday night before emerging victorious Saturday, once again winning 3-1 against Western Michigan. Head coach Don Gromala acknowledged the difficulty of the two road games and praised his team’s performance.

“We talked about how these were championship, tournament-level matches on the road against two quality programs this weekend,” Gromala said. “To fight back against Western Michigan after them taking a game from us at their place and going back-and-forth in that fourth set is a really good feeling.”

On Friday, the Flashes took on Northern Illinois (12-8) and started slow, losing the first set of the game 22-25. However, Kent State wouldn’t lose another set against the Huskies, winning the next three sets by scores of 25-21, 25-19 and 25-23.

“I’m really proud of the team,” Gromala said. “This was a complete effort tonight. Coming in, we had a game plan and they had a different lineup than expected, so it’s a testament to our staff and players for making quick adjustments on the court and getting a big win on the road.”

Senior Kelly Hutchison recorded a match-high 20 kills and added 10 digs, while sophomore Kelsey Bittinger finished with 13 kills.

Saturday night against Western Michigan, Kent State enjoyed similar success. This time, the Flashes won the first two sets of the match, outscoring the Mustangs 25-19 in consecutive sets. Western Michigan made a late push and won a close third set 25-21, but Kent State solidified the victory by replicating the Mustangs third set score, 25-21.

Sophomore libero Challen Geraghty recorded a match-high 27 digs and passed the 1,000-dig mark, becoming the fastest Kent State player to ever reach the club after playing in just 209 total sets.

“Challen has been pretty consistent ever since she stepped on the court for us as a freshman,” Gromala said. “She always plays the same and we know what to expect out of her. This weekend, she covered a lot of court for our defense.”

Hutchison once again recorded a match-high 25 kills to go along with 11 digs. Bittinger added 14 kills and 19 digs, while sophomore Katarina Kojic logged 54 assists.

Kent State takes on Bowling Green State University on Friday and Miami on Saturday as the Flashes continue their five-game road trip.

Jesse Runner is a sports reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact him at jrunner1@kent.edu.