Flashes riding with confidence for rematch bout


Freshman outside hitter Kelsey Bittinger from the Flashes blocks the ball against Northern Illinois at the annual ‘Dig for the Cure’ volleyball match at the MAC Center on October, 24, 2014.

Jimmy Miller

Junior middle blocker Bridget Wilhelm has been here before.

With the Kent State volleyball team riding a wave of confidence into the final home stretch of the season, the Flashes host Ohio University in a second attempt to knock off the reigning Mid-American Conference champions.

Perhaps it’s pure coincidence that the Flashes beat the opponent in four sets last season under similar circumstances, but it could mean the making of a repeat storm as Kent State hosts the Bobcats Thursday in the M.A.C. Center.

“We were very excited to play OU,” Wilhelm said. “Any time a team steps into our gym, we take it very personally. That was a fun win, and we hope we can bring that same energy and execution into our gym (Thursday).”

After a dominant offensive weekend and an upset over Western Michigan University, Kent State (12-11, 4-6 MAC) will square off with the Bobcats (17-4, 10-0 MAC) and play Central Michigan University (9-13, 4-6 MAC) on Saturday.

“Any kind of confidence is good confidence right now,” Kent State coach Don Gromala said. “As long as we’re taking care of the ball and blocking like we should be, we can make it a very exciting match.”

The race for the conference tournament in late November brings two critical matches to Kent’s home court, particularly Saturday’s match with the Chippewas. Central Michigan and Kent State remain tied for seventh in the MAC, along with the University at Buffalo, as all three teams eye a climb to eighth or higher in the rankings.

One team might be left out come tournament time.

“Every match is going to be huge from here on out,” Gromala said. “Obviously the teams we’re evened up with are going to be big, but if you win another match you’re not expected to, that’s going to help you out.”

Kent State brings a rejuvenated but balanced offense to the court this weekend. Senior outside hitter Tinuke Aderemi-Ibitola has regained her confidence to be a surefire offense threat, and freshman outside hitter Kelsey Bittinger continues to show promise at the position. The pair of middle blockers—Wilhelm and senior Liz Reikow—will also play major roles in the weekend’s offensive scheme.

Freshman libero Challen Geraghty and senior defensive specialist Kaylee Koller will lead the defense into the match, accounting for 559 digs this season. Geraghty averages 4.16 digs per set.

“As defenders, that’s our job to expect the unexpected,” Koller said. “We have disciplined on our part.”

The Bobcats hosted the Flashes in Athens to open conference play this season. Kent State dropped the first set, but convincingly managed a second-set victory. While the next two sets were dogfights, the Bobcats squeaked by and earned the victory.

Kent State will play the Chippewas for the first time this year Saturday.

“Every team in the MAC is out to get us and we’re out to get them,” Koller said. “It’s not like we can take one team more lightly than the other.”

Contact Jimmy Miller at [email protected].