Volleyball drops first match of the season to EMU

Jimmy Oswald Sports Reporter

The Kent State volleyball team headed into Monday’s match against 1-3 Eastern Michigan University with a historic six straight wins to start the season.  

The Flashes may have been overly confident, as they fell to EMU in five sets.

“We came out a little overconfident,” sophomore outsider hitter Savannah Matthews said. “We didn’t expect Eastern Michigan to play as well as they did. It threw us off when they threw in a bunch of shots that we hadn’t seen before from any other team.”

EMU won the first two sets 25-11 and 25-21. While KSU would fight back to win the next two sets by four and six points, the Eagles would open the fifth with five straight points to win 15-8. 

The game made up one that was postponed at the start of the season because of COVID-19 issues on EMU’s roster.

KSU (6-1) remains in second place in the East Division of the Mid-American Conference behind Bowling Green (8-0). The Eagles (2-3) are in third place in the West. 

Coach Don Gromala said EMU “came out focused and was seeing the game really well.”

“They were making good choices. That was something we weren’t doing,” Gromala said. “The start of the match was very uncharacteristic of our team.”

After losing their first two sets, the Flashes won two in a row to force the game into a fifth one. 

“It was a great comeback, but we can’t start off giving away as many points as we did,” Gromala said. “It came down to a battle again. We improved really well.” 

Matthews described her performance as “flat out of the gate.”

“I tried to amp it up in those second and third sets,” Matthews said. “That’s when I started getting on fire with those kills.” 

Matthews finished with a team-high 20 kills along with 20 digs. 

Sophomore opposite hitter Morgan Copley had 13 kills and three blocks.

Gromala said that the duo of Matthews and Copley helped the team stay in the match. 

“They stepped up when we needed them to,” Gromala said. “They started making better choices and were aggressive and assertive in the way they were attacking.”

Junior libero Erin Gardner had a team-high 26 digs.

“Erin stepped up and played a great match,” Gromala said. “She fought through a lot of adversity. She was a big bright spot.” 

Junior middle blocker Lana Strejcek had seven kills and six blocks.

Gromala said Strejcek was a little off her game to start.

“She turned it around and got some touches to give us some opportunities,” Gromala said. “She’s adjusted well and we’re happy with where she’s at.”

Redshirt junior setter Alex Haffner had a team-high 52 assists and 13 digs. 

EMU’s senior outside hitter Franki Strefling had 25 kills against the Flashes defense. Sterfling leads the MAC in points per set with 4.93 and kills per set with 4.67. 

The Flashes travel to play Toledo Thursday, Feb. 18 and Friday, Feb. 19. The Rockets are 2-4 and in fifth place in the West. 

Matthews hopes the loss can be a learning experience.

“Our game plan is to come out more humble and focused,” Matthews said. “We want to start producing early. We don’t want to get into a state where we’re digging holes for ourselves.”

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