Volleyball looks to win final regular season games after 4 consecutive 3-0 losses

Kent+State%E2%80%99s+women%E2%80%99s+volleyball+team+huddles+together+in+celebration+during+a+match+against+the+University+at+Buffalo+on+Saturday%2C+Oct.+23.+Photo+by+Morgan+McGrath.

Kent State’s women’s volleyball team huddles together in celebration during a match against the University at Buffalo on Saturday, Oct. 23. Photo by Morgan McGrath.

After suffering two 3-0 losses this weekend to Bowling Green, the Kent State volleyball team must win all three of its final games to advance to the finals. 

The Flashes’ chances of making the Mid-American Conference tournament is determined not only by their performance in their last three games of the season, but also by Northern Illinois’ game results.

The tournament consists of six teams and runs from Nov. 21-24.

Northern Illinois, which is sixth in the MAC at 7-8 and 13-12 overall, must lose all of its last three matches. 

KSU is 10-17 overall and tied with Buffalo and Central Michigan for seventh in the MAC at 5-10. 

“We’re happy with our growth,” coach Don Gromala said. “But we know that we have to finish it out now and maintain a high level of playing.”

Northern Illinois plays Buffalo Friday and Saturday and fourth place Western Michigan Nov. 17. 

Going into the weekend against Bowling Green (18-7 overall, 14-1 MAC), which is tied with Ball State for first in the MAC, Gromala said the team knew this weekend “was going to be a battle.”

With the win, BG clinches the MAC East Division title and will have a first-round bye in the tournament. 

Kent State played a close first set but only led three times, all by one point. Bowling Green took the last three points of the set to win 27-25.

The Flashes started the second set with a 3-0 lead and stayed ahead until Bowling Green tied the set at 12-12, but KSU ultimately lost 25-23. Kent State played from behind the entire third set and fell 25-21.

“The first sets were pretty back and forth,” Gromala said. “But we just couldn’t maintain that through the end.”

Junior outside hitter Taylor Heberle hit a team-high 14 kills and led the team in hitting percentage with .476. 

“Taylor had an outstanding match Friday,” Gromala said. “She’s had a couple good ones this year, which is great, but we’re going to need more than just her.”

KSU hit .229 against Bowling Green overall.

Saturday, the Flashes saw their fourth consecutive three-set loss. 

Kent State was ahead 3-1 in the first set, then Bowling Green went on a five-point run to take control, staying ahead until KSU took over at 9-7. 

The Flashes and the Falcons traded points, neither leading by more than two points the rest of the set, until Bowling Green took the last three points to win 25-23. 

In the second set, points went back-and-forth until Kent took the lead at 21-19. The Falcons stopped Kent State there and earned the next six points in a row to close out the set. 

Like Friday, the Flashes played from behind in the third set and Bowling Green finished out the match 25-18. 

Junior outside hitter Savannah Matthews led the team with 11 kills.

Freshman Kiersten Kraus stepped in for redshirt senior setter Alex Haffner and started her first game as a setter Friday. She totaled a career-high 34 assists.

“She responded well as a leader,” Gromala said. “She added a presence to the net. We’re really happy with her and excited for her, and she’s deserving of that from the work and effort she puts in.”

In the second set against Western Michigan on Oct. 30, Haffner suffered a head injury after colliding with another player mid-set. She was out for the rest of that game and sat on the sidelines this weekend.

Gromala said the team is evaluating Haffner’s injury day-by-day.

“She’s at least active,” Gromala said. “She’s starting to return to activity by doing some things in practice. We’ll see how she is come Monday.”

The Flashes play Miami, tied for last in the MAC at 4-11, Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m. in the M.A.C. Center. 

KSU plays at home for its final game Nov. 17 against Ohio, 10-15 overall and third in the MAC at 10-5. Kent State lost to OU 3-2 earlier this season on Oct. 20. 

Despite late-season lineup changes, Gromala said he looks forward to seeing people step up in the final games of the season.

“We’ve got more options now,” Gromala said. “And we’re looking forward to seeing what that does for us on the court Friday night.”

Isabella Schreck is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected]