Flashes fall short at KSU Invitational

Amanda Vasil

Danielle Holt prepares to hit the ball during a game against Dartmouth on Friday afternoon at the M.A.C. Center. Kent State won 3-1.

Credit: Ben Breier

The Kent State volleyball team dropped two 3-0 matches against Robert Morris University and Syracuse University during the last day of the Kent State Invitational Saturday.

Poor hitting and blocking aided in the 30-26, 30-27, 31-29 loss to the Colonels Saturday afternoon. Senior outside hitter Danielle Holt posted a match-best 16 kills and .324 hitting, while sophomore Anne Zakelj contributed with 14 kills. Senior Anne Butts tallied 30 assists.

Defensively, sophomore Laura Jensen compiled a team-best 12 kills, while junior Sarah Wilber added three blocks.

In the 30-19, 30-25, 30-26 loss to Syracuse Saturday night, poor hitting and lack of team energy contributed to the Flashes’ (4-6) .078 hitting final. Holt led the team once more with 12 kills, while Butts recorded her third double-double of the season with 15 assists and 12 digs.

Despite the losses the team endured this weekend, Holt walked away with a few more career distinctions. As she finished her Frid ay night match against Eastern Kentucky University, she added her name to an elite group of volleyball women becoming the fourth player in school history to compile 1,000 digs and 1,000 kills in her career. She now holds 1,552 kills and 1,010 digs, while also becoming only the second player to reach 1,500 kills in a career.

Holt was also named Kent State Invitational All-Tournament after ranking second in kills with an average of 5.14 per game and third in aces with 0.50.

Kent State coach Mora Kanim said she feels Holt was a major contributor to the team’s overall performance this weekend, both offensively and defensively.

“Holt is a phenomenal player,” Kanim said. “She has a lot of momentum. I’m sure she would trade in her success for some wins.”

Friday night’s match against Eastern Kentucky took the biggest toll on the Flashes. The Flashes won the third game, 30-20, but fell with close scores of 30-24 in the first game, 30-28 in the second and 30-27 in the fourth.

“It definitely took the wind out of our sails,” Kanim said, “but it’s not an excuse.”

Holt said she feels Eastern Kentucky was the strongest team in the tournament in passing, hitting and defensive plays.

“It was tough to find a spot to hit or serve,” she said. “We knew their tendencies, and we knew how they played. They were a good team and they were ready for us. We just didn’t fulfill.”

During the match, sophomore outside hitter/setter Anja Knabe-Paulsen grabbed her first double-double of the season with 14 kills and 16 assists, while Jensen and Butts led with 23 digs and 40 assists, respectively.

Although fans were spread thin in the M.A.C. Center throughout the weekend, Holt said she felt more at ease playing at home rather than traveling on the road.

“It’s nice to play on our home court where we practice every week,” she said. “It’s comfortable and something we’re used to.”

The Flashes will work on team-building and communication this week in hopes of a stronger finish next weekend.

“We’re still trying to figure out everyone’s personalities and how they celebrate plays,” Holt said. “We’re just trying to understand each other.”

The team also hopes to tighten up their defensive blocking and transition plays.

“Besides siding out, we need to just keep playing and playing until the ball hits the floor on the other side,” Knabe-Paulsen said.

The Flashes will conclude the tournament series this weekend at the Lady Trooper Invitational, hosted by Western Kentucky University. They square off against Mercer University on Friday at 5 p.m.

Contact volleyball reporter Amanda Vasil at [email protected].