Volleyball splits first weekend back at M.A.C.C. with school down the road


Matthew Brown

The Kent State volleyball team members on the sideline celebrate after winning a rally.

Isabella Schreck, Sports Editor

Coach Haley Eckerman said it’s hard to beat a team twice.

After two weeks of away competition, Kent State’s volleyball team won all three sets of its Friday game back home by at least four points.

Saturday, the Flashes lost by two in each of their three sets against Akron.

“They made the right changes, and we didn’t adjust to them,” Eckerman said. “We let them control the game.”

KSU split its Crystal Clinic Wagon Wheel Challenge Series with the Zips. The team is now 12-7 overall and remains in third place in the Mid-American Conference East at 3-5.

Akron is fifth in the MAC East at 1-7 and is 6-13 on the season.

“We can’t take any competition lightly,” Eckerman said.

Friday, the Flashes made only 19 total errors – nine were hitting errors and three were service errors. The team hit at least a .316 hitting percentage throughout all three sets.

“It was great to be at home, and the crowd was great even though we had our fall break,” Eckerman said. “I was a little worried that we weren’t going to get anybody in there, but those who showed up were awesome.”

The first set went back and forth, and neither team led by more than two points until the score was tied 20-20. Then, KSU scored six of the final seven points to win the match 25-21.

From 4-4 and on in the second set, Kent State stayed ahead. It went on a nine-point run to take a 12-4 lead and eventually took the set 25-12 after a kill from senior outside hitter Taylor Heberle.

Heberle totaled seven kills on the night.

Kent State graduate student Danie Tyson (left) and senior Taylor Heberle (right) leap to block a spike. (Matthew Brown)

The Flashes won the third set 25-19 after scoring five of the match’s final six points. This was the team’s fourth three-set win of the season.

“We were really getting a flowing going,” Eckerman said. “We were getting runs. It was okay if we made a mistake because we were siding out right away.”

Freshman outside hitter Mackenzie McGuire, who ranks third in the MAC in kills with 234, led the team in kills with 13. She accounted for 13.5 of her team’s 53 points total that night.

Kent State freshman Mackenzie McGuire lunges to save the ball during the game against Akron. (Matthew Brown)

Saturday, the Flashes totaled 19 hitting errors alone. This was the team’s third three-set loss of the year.

“With that game, it was like every rotation we were just going through it so quickly,” Eckerman said. “The game felt so fast, and we felt like there was no control.”

Kent State was never down by more than three points in the first set. The match went back and forth starting at 19-19. The Zips took the set 27-25.

Akron started the second set with a 4-0 lead and stayed ahead until the score tied up at 22-22. The team took the set again by two points, 26-24.

“We struggle with pressure,” Eckerman said. “After the second set, I talked to the girls about getting back to where we’re controlling. It felt like they were controlling everything – controlling the momentum.”

After an eight-point run in the middle of the third set, the Flashes were ahead 13-8. But they could not maintain the lead.

The Zips went on two separate runs of at least five points. They won the match 25-23.

“We struggled to stop them offensively; we struggled to put the ball away,” Eckerman said. “It’s just going in with a lack of focus and a lack of urgency and thinking that because we beat them once easily that they were just going to lie down.”

McGuire and senior outside hitter Savannah Matthews earned 11 kills each.

Graduate student Danie Tyson, who totaled six kills on the night, became the 16th player in program history to hit 1,000 career kills. She led her team with four blocks.

Sophomore setter Kiersten Kraus, who set alongside graduate student Alex Haffner, Friday and Saturday, totaled 28 assists on the week. This is her highest weekend total of the season.

Kent State sophomore Kiersten Kraus sets the ball during the game against Akron. (Matthew Brown)

“For her, it was getting the confidence in her,” Eckerman said. “And with confidence came consistency.”

The Flashes play Ohio at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the M.A.C. Center. The Bobcats are 11-8 overall and second in the MAC at 5-3.

“OU played Buffalo this weekend — they were at 1-1 with them, and it was two tough five-set matches,” Eckerman said. “The biggest thing is we can’t expect a team to play how they played the night before. It’s expecting everybody to have a target on our backs and that they’re going to come in and play their best game.”

Isabella Schreck is sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].