Volleyball falls against MAC West teams

Ashley Sepanski

The Kent State volleyball team dropped below .500 this weekend after falling to Western Michigan and Northern Illinois on the road.

Kent State coach Glen Conley said playing two top teams at their home courts was a challenge for the Flashes.

“Western Michigan had over 1,000 people show up,” Conley said. “You have to produce in those environments. We had a chance in both matches, but didn’t (produce).”

The Flashes (11-13, 4-6 Mid-American Conference) traveled to Kalamazoo, Mich., Friday to face Western Michigan (15-9, 7-2 MAC). Kent State fell to the Broncos in four sets. A kill by sophomore outside hitter Liva Brivule gave the Flashes the first point but Kent State could not spur momentum to take the lead.

As the Broncos moved ahead, Kent State trailed by only a few points until a rally tied the set at 8-8. The Broncos slipped away, however, with a five-point streak that brought the score to 13-8 before Kent State took a timeout.

The Flashes came back and made up points, working to press the Broncos through two set points at 24-20 and 24-21 but lost the set 25-21 after an attack error.

“We wanted to get the first kill on track,” Conley said. “We wanted to hit well, but it didn’t turn out that way.”

After Western Michigan took the second set 25-20, Kent State regrouped during the third. The Broncos stayed ahead for most of the set, but the Flashes refused to quit as sophomore outside hitter Maigan Larsen’s kill put Kent State in the lead 21-20. After a Western Michigan timeout, the Flashes held on to the lead and finished the set 25-22 with a kill by Brivule.

Kent State’s success did not last during the fourth set as the Flashes dropped the match 25-21 after a Western Michigan ace.

“I think overall it was a tough weekend, especially (Friday),” freshman outside hitter Meredith Paskert said. “(Our biggest challenge) was probably trying to play together.”

Junior libero Kristen Barr held down the Flashes’ back row with 41 digs in the match, the most by any MAC player this season. Her career-high number of digs also placed her second all-time at Kent State in digs in a match.

Brivule paced the team with 19 kills, and senior outside hitter Arjola Prenga followed with 11 kills during the match. Prenga is ranked 11th in the country in kills per set with 4.59.

The Flashes failed to rebound Saturday at Northern Illinois (12-11, 6-4 MAC). Kent State trailed the Huskies for most of set one until a kill and a Kent State attack error ended the set, 25-22.

Northern Illinois opened the second set with a 4-0 lead and captured minor point runs throughout the set. Three attack errors in a row ended set two, 25-12. Conley said the Flashes gave away the second set.

“We put up a good fight in games one and three, we just had little things that hurt us,” Conley said. “We weren’t there in game two.”

Both teams closely paced each other during the third set, fighting to tie the score 10 different times. After a Northern Illinois kill brought the score to 24-23, the Flashes fought through 11 set points before eventually dropping the set to the Huskies. Repeating the pattern, a kill and a Kent State attack error ended the set, 30-28.

“Saturday we tried to come back and play together to prove ourselves,” Paskert said. “Saturday I wanted to try to get above a negative hitting percentage and just play hard.”

Brivule led the weekend with 33 kills and junior libero Kristen Barr assisted the defense with 55 digs.

Kent State will next host Ohio at 7 p.m. Thursday in the M.A.C. Center to continue Mid-American Conference play.

Conley said the Flashes are determined to fight for each upcoming game.

“We look at each match individually,” he said. “(We hope) to get it turned around. It’s cliché, but in sports you’ve got to play one at a time. We’re excited about it.”

Contact Ashley Sepanski at [email protected]