Flashes volleyball down Chippewas in five sets

Jimmy Miller

Box Score

It’s pretty difficult to look past senior middle blocker Liz Reikow.

She stands at 6-foot-6 inches tall, earned the Mid-American Conference East Defensive Player of the Week honors just a month ago and averages 1.15 blocks a set.

Then again, as Central Michigan University learned Saturday night, it’s pretty difficult to hit the ball past her as well.

Reikow’s seven blocks and 15 kills—both team-highs—helped salvage a too-close-for-comfort match. The Flashes would win in five sets, but the win certainly didn’t come easily.

With the match tied at 13 apiece in the fifth set, senior defensive specialist Kaylee Koller served a floater that hit the court for an ace. The next rally, Reikow assisted on a block, ultimately ending the match in a 15-13 set.

“It was crazy going through my head, “Reikow said. “(My thoughts were) just kind of put the ball away, do whatever you can, take care of the game plan.”

Kent State’s (13-12, 5-7 MAC) bout with the Chippewas held heavy MAC tournament implications. Coming into the week, Kent State, Central Michigan (9-15, 4-8 MAC) and the University at Buffalo were all tied for seventh in the conference, while only the top eight teams make the tournament.

“I’m not saying (the win) is giving us breathing room,” coach Don Gromala said. “We’re worried about ourselves. We want to create our own destiny and then earn it.”

The Flashes hosted a high-energy Chippewa squad at the M.A.C. Center, and Kent State’s scrappy defense led to what appeared to be a blowout, as the Flashes took the first two sets, 26-24 and 25-20.

Central Michigan stormed back later with a 25-19 third set victory and then a 25-19 fourth set win. Ultimately, a dramatic fifth set came down to the wire. After leading it 4-1, the Chippewas watched their lead vanish as the two teams exchanged points to the end.

“Obviously an exciting match because it was close, but I don’t know if it was a great match for us,” Gromala said. “I think we played just not very clean volleyball.”

Gromala said the offense didn’t play their best match, and because of a slow start, he made the decision to switch setters from freshman Brittney Jakscht to senior Jenny Buczek.

“We were getting uncomfortable offensively, and it starts with the pass,” Gromala said. “It’s tough with these kids these days. Every day, someone different is on.”

Freshman libero Challen Geraghty sealed up the defense in the match with a team-high 19 digs, while Koller and junior defensive specialist Sarah Mills contributed 15 of their own.

Kent State travels for the final time in the regular season Friday to square off with the University at Buffalo and the University of Akron on Saturday. Both teams took on the Flashes already at the M.A.C. Center, as Kent State swept the Bulls and defeated the Zips in four sets.

“Just walking away with two wins would be pretty crucial for the MAC tournament,” Reikow said. “Akron and Buffalo are both very strong teams who are very similar to us.”

Contact Jimmy Miller at [email protected]