Volleyball team searches for offensive spark


Kent State Senior middle blocker Liz Reikow and senior setter Jenny Buczek block the ball during a game against Morehead State Friday, September 5, 2014. The Flashes won 3-0.

Jimmy Miller

The Kent State volleyball team’s road trip last weekend resulted in poor offensive play and two crushing losses.

“We just weren’t seeing the block and putting the ball away,” senior outside hitter Lauren Engleman said. “The blockers on the other side were reading what we were doing.”

The Flashes (10-9, 2-4 MAC) fell to Bowling Green State University and Miami University their last time out on the court in straight sets.

The Flashes will try to regain footing Friday when the team plays the University of Toledo. They will then continue West as they head to Indiana to compete with one of the best squads in the Mid-American Conference: Ball State University.

“It’s a big weekend,” Kent State coach Don Gromala said. “It’d be great for the group with all the hard work this week in practice to come out with a couple (wins).”

While the Toledo Rockets are seeking their first conference victory of the year, they managed a four-set win over Kent State last season. Meanwhile, the Ball State Cardinals hold a 5-1 conference record this season and will be coming from a match with last year’s MAC champion, Ohio University, Friday night.

“A balanced offense will be pivotal this weekend,” junior middle blocker Bridget Wilhelm said. “For our offense, it’s very helpful when the block on the other side doesn’t know who to key on. When we have a couple of us or everyone getting hot and hitting really well, the other block struggles.”

There will be fresh but familiar faces on the court Friday for Kent State, as Gromala said lineup changes will be necessary this weekend.

“We’ve got plenty of depth,” Gromala said. “You can’t go out for a weekend and struggle. (Having) back-to-back matches where things aren’t going as they should, there’s no reason someone else shouldn’t get their shot.”

Senior outside hitter Tinuke Aderemi-Ibitola, who started the season as Kent State’s primary offensive weapon, will start again Friday after stiff competition at the position briefly edged her out.

Gromala will try to renew the rhythm of his offense as he is giving freshman setter Brittney Jakscht the starting nod. Jakscht and senior setter Jenny Buczek have been competing for the role all season long.

Any position on the court at any given time could be up for grabs. Starting jobs on the team are earned, not handed out, Gromala said.

“We were just losing points that were ones we couldn’t be losing,” Gromala said. “Our goal as a program is to play more consistently, so if you’re not playing consistently, then you’re not going to be contributing on the court. You have to earn that.”

The team currently holds a 1-6 away record this season but remains perfect (6-0) at home. Six of the team’s final eight matches are in the M.A.C. Center, but taking a handful of road wins back home might be crucial to rising up in the conference standings.

“We love playing at home, but we love playing on the road, too,” Wilhelm said. “We just need to prepare better. If we come in ready to play, it should be fine.”

Contact Jimmy Miller at [email protected].