Volleyball shuts down Falcons 3-1

Amanda Vasil

Freshman middle hitter Ashley Feutz hits the ball while Miami tries to block it at a home game at the M.A.C. Center on Friday. Kent lost to Miami University of Ohio, 30-8, 30-25, 30-22, but regrouped to beat Bowling Green Saturday.

Credit: Steve Schirra

When a season’s more than half over and the team has a losing record, the last thing a coach expects from her players is confidence.

But confidence, mixed in a with a win, is just what Kent State coach Mora Kanim got this weekend.

After dropping a 3-0 decision to Miami of Ohio Friday with scores of 30-18, 30-25 and 30-22, the Kent State volleyball team (8-15, 4-8 Mid-American Conference) pulled out a 3-1 victory over Bowling Green, snapping a two-match losing streak.

Although the Flashes fell 30-25 to the Falcons in game one with poor hitting and defense, they sprang back for an intense win in game two. The two teams stayed close throughout the set until the Flashes finally pulled ahead for the 35-33 win after a Bowling Green attack error and a kill from senior outside hitter Danielle Holt.

The players calming down their nerves and regaining focus made all the difference in game two, Holt said.

Kanim said there were some definite changes made from game one to game two that calmed her down as well.

“We made some good adjustments,” she said. “We had talked about some things in our scouting report that we were not executing. But by the middle of game two, we executed the game plan the way we wanted to.”

The Flashes went on to take the third set 30-25 with a .472 hitting average, 20 kills and only three errors.

In the final game of the match, Kent State saw seven lead changes and 14 tied scores. The Flashes took nine of the 13 final points with strong serving and hitting to win 31-29.

Five Kent State players recorded double-digit kills, including a double-double from Holt and a triple-double from sophomore Anja Knabe-Paulsen. Holt registered 18 kills and 14 digs, while Knabe-Paulsen grabbed her third triple-double of the season with 14 kills, 34 assists and 13 digs. Freshman redshirt Ashley Feutz added 16 kills, while sophomore Anne Zakelj tallied 14 kills.

Junior Sarah Wilber led the offense with a .444 hitting average and 15 kills, while also adding four of Kent State’s 10 blocks, including one solo block. Senior setter Anne Butts guided the Flashes with 35 assists.

Kanim said she never had a doubt in her mind that the team was going to win the match. The only thing that surprised her at first, was the amount of belief the team had in itself.

“I am just so impressed that at 8-15 our team can go out and show that much poise and that much confidence when they needed to,” she said. “I give all the credit to our team because they have every reason not to believe right now. The fact that they came out and believed that they could get it done is phenomenal.”

In Friday night’s match, Miami (15-7, 8-3 MAC) averaged .466 hitting as it held the Flashes to a .208 hitting average. Leading Kent State’s offense were Holt and Wilber, as Holt recorded 13 kills and Wilber tallied 10 kills. Wilber also contributed two blocks and a .571 hitting average.

Many of Friday night’s errors disappeared Saturday as the team buckled down to play hard defense. Hitting, blocking and serving also improved from Friday to Saturday, Holt said.

“We missed a ton of serves (Friday),” she said. “The thing we did (Saturday) was put the ball in easy and let them make the errors. We tend to make a lot of hitting errors when we’re under pressure, but we worked on that all week in practice, and it definitely showed.”

Ultimately, the team’s confidence and concentration on each game led it to a win, Holt said.

“The one thing we did was stay focused,” she said. “Usually when we come down to the ending points, people start making a lot of errors. We were definitely looking for players who tend to make errors to come through and make clutch plays.”

The Flashes continue their five-match run at home as they take on MAC East leader Ohio at 7 p.m. Thursday at the M.A.C. Center.

Contact volleyball reporter Amanda Vasil at [email protected].