Kent State volleyball sweeps Eastern Michigan at home

Ashley Sepanski

Flashes score first MAC win over Eagles

Kent State volleyball team members Meridith Paskert, Lauren Jones, Liva Brivule and Jenny Keck celebrate another point scored during the 3-0 victory over Eastern Michigan on Saturday afternoon. Rachel Kilroy | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

After being shut out in its first Mid-American Conference game, the Kent State volleyball team bounced back to sweep Eastern Michigan on Saturday.

Following the loss to Ohio (17-25, 13-25, 20-25) on Thursday, the Flashes (8-8, 1-1 MAC) returned home to defeat Eastern Michigan (1-15, 0-2 MAC) in three sets – 26-24, 25-10 and 25-23.

Kent State coach Glen Conley said momentum allowed the team to capture the win.

“Volleyball is a game of momentum, more so I think than other sports,” Conley said. “It’s a struggle to hold on to it and to not let that momentum shift for the other team. We had it in the second (set) and had to get it back in the third.”

The Flashes began play with a close first set, needing two game points to win 26-24. Sophomore middle blocker Liva Brivule scored eight kills while freshman outside hitter Meredith Paskert followed with six.

“We knew we had to make big kills and digs to keep the momentum going,” Paskert said. “Whenever we make errors, we come together as a team and just focus on the next point.”

Adding to the momentum, Kent State rolled through the following set with a 15-point win. The Flashes began to seize points after Ceila Sabo interrupted the Eagles’ comeback attempt with a kill to give Kent State an 11-9 lead.

Kent State took the next 11 points before an attack error by Brivule ended the streak. Brivule recorded four consecutive kills during the 11-point run and totaled seven for the set.

The Flashes came back in the following four points with kills and attack errors by Eastern Michigan to take the set 25-10.

The final set of the match proceeded with a point-for-point battle. The Flashes and the Eagles remained within two points of each other until the final three points. A kill and block from senior outside hitter Arjola Prenga paired with a service ace from senior setter Jenny Keck pushed Kent State past Eastern Michigan 25-23.

“It only takes one or two things to shift the momentum from one side to the other,” Conley said. “You can cruise along and then a couple mistakes will cause that shift and give another team some fire and a few points they didn’t earn. We just had to break out of it.”

Keck said communication allowed the Flashes to drive forward.

“When we’re struggling on the court, it’s usually because we’re not talking,” Keck said. “When we make a lot of errors and are losing points, talking is the easiest way to get out of it.”

Keck set for the entire match and recorded 37 assists.

“Sometimes bad runs are hard to break,” Keck said. “When we talk it gives you a boost, it sort of keeps you high.”

Also leading the team, Brivule scored a career-high 19 kills against Eastern Michigan. Prenga followed with 11 kills and 13 digs.

Brivule now leads the Flashes in kills for the season with 189 while Prenga follows close behind with 183.

Freshman outside hitter Rachel Iaquaniello led Eastern Michigan with nine kills during the match while senior outside hitter Victoria Randolph followed with seven. The match against Kent State was Randolph’s second of the season because of injury.

The Flashes will compete at Buffalo next for their third match of MAC play at 7 p.m. Friday at the Alumni Arena in Buffalo, N.Y.

Contact sports reporter Ashley Sepanski at [email protected]