Kent volleyball sweeps disjointed Toledo squad

Jimmy Oswald Sports Reporter

The Kent State volleyball team has played four series this season.

The Flashes have swept all four of them. 

KSU defeated Toledo in back-to-back games Saturday and Sunday. The Flashes won both 3-0. On Saturday they won the first set by a commanding 13 points, then won the next two 25-23 and 25-20. On Sunday the Flashes would win the first set by 11 points. They would win the next two 25-19 and 25-22. 

KSU (8-1) is second in the East Division behind Bowling Green (9-0). The Rockets (2-6) are in last place in the West.  

“I really liked how we came out with our execution and focus,” coach Don Gromala. “We did some good things with improving our contact control.” 

The games were pushed back from Thursday and Friday after COVID-19 issues at Toledo. Those roster issues also forced the Rockets to change up their lineup. 

“It was a good weekend to learn to adapt to things that we weren’t ready for since Toledo wasn’t coming out with their usual lineup,” redshirt junior setter Alex Haffner said. “We had to learn a lot about the game both offensively and defensively.” 

Sophomore outside hitter Savannah Matthews led the team in kills with 17 on both Saturday and Sunday. She had a career-high hitting percentage Saturday with .536. 

Haffner credited Matthews with “going up there and looking at what was given.”

“She took advantage of what opportunity she had in the front row and even in the back row,” Haffner said. “She had a lot of high energy and confidence, which really helped her get that momentum going into this weekend.”  

Matthews had 13 digs on Saturday and 16 on Sunday. 

Gromala said Matthews “mixed up the shot selection really well.”

“[Matthews] mixed up the shot selection well,” Gromala said. “She didn’t overdo it by using one way to score points too much. She used different types of shots at different angles at different times to keep the defense off of their toes.” 

The Flashes had a season-high .350 hitting percentage on Saturday. KSU leads the MAC in hitting percentage with .263.

Gromala said his players were “making good choices based on what they’re seeing.”

“The attackers’ teammates are doing a good job of getting them into a position for them to be successful on first and second contact,” he said.  

Sophomore outside hitter Taylor Heberle had 18 kills over the weekend along with two aces. 

“Her production gives her a lot more shots with what she could do,” Gromala said. “She did a really good job being aggressive. She used the block at the right time and took advantage of the open court at the right time.” 

“A lot of hitters may not see things as well as [Heberle] does,” Haffner said. “Her vision allows her to make really strong and aggressive swings.” 

Haffner, who leads the MAC in assists per set with 12.11, continued her strong season. She had 40 assists on Saturday and 32 on Sunday. 

Gromala said Haffner is understanding the game well.

“She really knows when to set which hitters,” he said. “She understands when a player may need another shot to keep their momentum going. Or she’ll know when to go away from a person to give them a bit of a break.” 

Haffner said communication with her teammates played into her success.

“I’m talking a lot with different hitters and we’re working to find the best openings for them,” she said. “That is really what has played into my role these last two days.” 

Sophomore opposite hitter Morgan Copley recorded 16 kills over the weekend.

Junior libero Erin Gardner had 30 digs. 

The Flashes return home to play Bowling Green Thursday and Friday in battle for first place in the East Division. 

Haffner described the team as pumped up for the game.

“There’s a lot of excitement and we’re ready to play them. We’re gonna have a lot of focus in practice,” Haffner said.

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