Volleyball offense sizzles in pair of conference matches at M.A.C. Center


Kent State’s junior Kelly Hutchison and senior Liz Reikow jump together to block the ball during a game against Western Michigan on Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014. The Flashes won, 3-1.

Jimmy Miller

Box Score — NIU

Box Score — WMU

A resurgence of senior outside hitter Tinuke Aderemi-Ibitola wasn’t enough enough for Kent State against Northern Illinois on Friday, but consistent play and a more balanced offense led to a 3-1 victory over Western Michigan University on Saturday.

“I think technique-wise I focused on really just jumping high, getting my arm up and swinging high, not down into the blocks,” Aderemi-Ibitola said. “I think everyone played all-around great (Saturday).”

Aderemi-Ibitola finished with 37 kills through the weekend, including a career-high 24 against the Huskies.

“(The outside hitters) went up and swung high and hard and aggressive, and kept the ball on the court,” Kent State coach Don Gromala said. “(Aderemi-Ibitola) did it last night and did it again tonight.”

Kent State (12-11, 4-6 MAC) showed backbone in Friday’s Mid-American Conference match, but only managed one win in the third set, 31-29. Gromala said defense ultimately cost Kent State the match, its first home loss of the season.

“Defensively, we just weren’t there,” Gromala said. “We just missed some digs we could’ve had.”

The Flashes jumped out to a hot start Saturday, taking the first set over Western Michigan, 25-18. Kent State’s offense continually went to freshman outside hitter Kelsey Bittinger, who tallied six kills in the set and a team-high 17 in the match.

The Broncos piled up points in the second set, pulling away in the match after an initial 4-4 score. Kent State attack errors and the timely emergence of offense helped Western Michigan notch the second set, 25-20. With their backs against the wall in a 24-17 match, the Flashes made a resilient three-point run that ended in a ball-handling error from freshman setter Brittney Jakscht.

“They kind of got us stuck in some tough serving patterns, and we just couldn’t get out of it,” Gromala said. “Our team made good adjustments and grinded through it.”

The Flashes came out in the third set and established an early lead. The Broncos kept knocking on their door, but Kent State held Western Michigan off in a 25-19 set victory. The Flashes came out hot again in the fourth set, and despite some late drama with Western Michigan storming back, Kent State took the win, 25-21.

 “Just overall, (we had) good defense,” Gromala said. “We served tough, we weren’t trying to get aces. “We blocked when we needed to, some big blocks especially in the fourth set.”

The Flashes return to the M.A.C. Center on Friday for a rematch with conference foe Ohio University, who defeated Kent State in four sets in Athens, and then a Saturday match with Central Michigan University.

“It’s unreal how many teams are battling for a couple spots (in the MAC tournament),” Gromala said. “We’re probably sitting right in the middle of the pack again. We’re not focused on that, we’re focused on playing each opponent with our best.”

Contact Jimmy Miller at [email protected].