Caspers’ huge weekend leads volleyball to sweep over Akron

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Danie Tyson (17) and Jacqlyn Caspers (8) celebrate during the Kent State volleyball team’s celebrate win over Akron on Friday Oct. 15, 2021. 

Middle blocker Jacqlyn Caspers had by far the best weekend of her college career to lead Kent State to a sweep of two games against Akron.

Caspers, a 6-4 redshirt junior from Swaledale, Iowa, had a career-high 11 kills against the Zips on Friday, then eclipsed that with 19 more on Saturday. Her 20 attack attempts on Friday and 33 on Saturday were also career highs, as were her 13.5 points Friday and 21.5 on Saturday. Her weekend hitting percentage was .471. She added a total of nine blocks in the two games.

Caspers’ weekend totals were more than she had accumulated in the Flashes’ 18 previous games combined this year and more than she had in all of the COVID-shortened 21-game season last spring. 

“We were super impressed to see how she stepped up and put some big balls away against a double block or behind the setter,” coach Don Gromala said. “It was the first time in her career having that put on her shoulders, and it was cool to see that she persevered.” 

Caspers modestly credited her success to her team’s strong performance.

“I couldn’t have done it without any of my teammates,” she said. “The passing and setting this weekend was on point.” 

On Saturday, redshirt senior setter Alex Haffner set a career high of 63 assists. Senior libero Erin Gardner passed a season-high 27 digs. 

Senior middle blocker Danie Tyson hit .300 Saturday and had a season-high six digs. Freshman opposite hitter Kiersten Kraus hit .188 and a career-high 12 kills.

On Friday, KSU recorded its first sweep of the season with 25-21, 25-15 and 25-22 set wins. 

“They were a really tough serving team with a very active setter,” Gromala said. “Those are two things we haven’t seen a lot of this year, and we did a great job defending that.”

Kent State hit .280 against Akron Friday.

Saturday, however, was a reset, Gromala said. 

“We briefly caught them off guard Friday, but they adjusted,” Gromala said. “It then went back and forth.” 

KSU won 3-2, but struggled in the first and fourth sets against Akron’s defense. The Zips hit .107 against Kent Friday but improved to .199 Saturday. KSU slipped to a .204 hitting percentage Saturday.

The Flashes played from behind most of the first set but were able to tie the game 28-28. Akron won the set after scoring two more points. That was the team’s longest set of the season.

“The two hitters that weren’t as strong Friday were stronger Saturday,” Gromala said. “They got into a good rhythm.”

KSU came back to win the second and third sets, both by 25-21 scores. Akron fought a 10-2 deficit in the fourth set and won 25-19. 

Kent State closed out the fifth set 15-11.

“We knew they were going to come out stronger Saturday,” Caspers said. “But we had it in our minds that we were going to come out even stronger.”

The Flashes are now 9-11 and 4-4 in the Mid-American Conference. They are tied with Ohio (4-14 overall) for second in the East. 

Bowling Green (12-6) remains first in the East at 8-0. Ball State is 17-3 and leads the West at 7-1. 

The wins against Akron give Kent State a point in the Crystal Clinic Wagon Wheel Challenge, a year-long competition between the schools in all sports. (It’s different from the Wagon Wheel trophy won in football.) Kent State leads 2-0 so far this year.

The Flashes have three matches this week — at Ohio Wednesday and home against Buffalo (9-12, 2-7 MAC) at 6 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday. Buffalo is fourth in the East.

Caspers said this weekend “definitely helped everybody’s confidence” going into their full schedule.

“We’re going to have a big week, but these wins were definitely a pick-me-up,” Caspers said. “It showed us that we can keep pushing through the season.”

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