The crowd for the Kent State volleyball team’s match against Buffalo tonight was significantly smaller than the more than 1,200 people who showed up for Ohio State match last weekend.
But the M.A.C. Center was no less raucous as the Flashes won their first Mid-American Conference match in straight sets over the Bulls.
“It’s so much easier to play when you have people behind you supporting you,” senior outside hitter Ashley Feutz said. “You get pumped up easier. You want to show them what you got. You want to bring something extra so you impress them and they come back.”
In the final set, every Kent State serve was accompanied with a “Kaaaaa BOOM!” from the crowd of 200. Sophomore outside hitter Lauren Jones said the fans really helped her serving.
“I definitely heard it,” she said, “but I liked it. It helps me get fired up.”
Strong hitting pushed the Flashes (11-3, 1-0 MAC) past Buffalo. Kent State recorded its highest hitting percentage of the season at .423, making only 10 hitting errors in the match.
“We took care of the ball tonight,” Kent State coach Glen Conley said. “Ten total errors – right about three a game – is perfect. That means the other team is going to have to score a lot of points to beat you. It gives you that extra little buffer that can push you though sometimes in tight games.”
Senior middle blocker Krista Groce led the way in hitting percentage at .556. In the first set, she notched seven kills in eight swings with one error. She finished with 12 kills.
“I was just focusing on getting up on time and making sure that I put the ball on the floor,” Groce said. “We knew that with Buffalo we’d have lots of seams, so I was focusing on those seams.”
Conley said the team relies on Groce and other seniors to lead the way for younger players.
“(Groce) has been through the wars,” he said. “To her, this is just another MAC match. It wasn’t the first MAC match. She played in the conference semifinals last year, and she picked up right where she left off then.”
The Flashes kept a comfortable lead in the first two sets, winning them 25-17 and 25-14. In the third set, however, a late run by the Bulls put them within two points of Kent State before the Flashes won 25-19.
Conley credited Buffalo’s strong hitters for sparking the comeback.
“When a team is in system and it has five hitters, they’re going to be hard to stop,” he said. “That’s exactly what happened. We got a nice lead there, but couldn’t put them away simply because of that. Thankfully we had that cushion and we were able to push through.”
Tomorrow, Kent State will meet Akron at 5 p.m. in the M.A.C. Center. Feutz said the team plans on using the Buffalo match as momentum heading into tomorrow.
“It’s been our focus all week to come out with the mindset to beat the team right away, not mess around and go four or five games,” she said. “We want to build on what we did today.
“We haven’t done anything yet. We won some tournaments, but this means nothing. Even though we’re going into the season at the top of the MAC with our record, it really means nothing.”
Contact sports reporter Josh Johnston at [email protected]