Still tied for third, volleyball has almost one month until MAC tournament


Matthew Brown

The Kent State volleyball team celebrates after winning a rally.

Isabella Schreck, Sports Editor

Halfway through Mid-American Conference play, the Kent State volleyball team sits at 3-6 in the conference.

The Flashes started 1-3. They have lost their last two home games.

“Anybody on any given night is going to play their best against you,” coach Haley Eckerman said. “So you have to go out and battle each and every night, no matter who’s on the other side of the net.”

KSU (12-8 overall) is tied with Buffalo for third in the MAC.

The Flashes lost to Ohio 3-2 Tuesday in the M.A.C. Center. They will travel to OU Nov. 16 for their final game before the MAC tournament begins Nov. 21.

The Bobcats finished with 63 kills to Kent State’s 54.

“It was a good fight,” fifth-year middle blocker Lana Strejcek said. “We did everything that we’ve been practicing. But there were some points where we could have worked more as a team. We’ll get there.”

Taking off from a 3-2 lead, Ohio kept ahead the entire first set to win 25-20. KSU and OU both made a four-point run during the match.

KSU began the second set 2-0 – the team’s only starting lead of the night. Once the Flashes were ahead 8-7, Ohio went on a five-point run. With 12 points on the scoreboard, KSU took a four-point run to tie the set 16-16.

Kent State scored six of the last seven points to win the set 25-20.

The Kent State volleyball team celebrates on the sideline after winning a rally. (Matthew Brown)

“It shows our fight,” Eckerman said. “It shows that when we’re locked in and we take it one play at a time, we can battle against any team.”

Kent State and Ohio went back-and-forth almost the entirety of the third set – the Bobcats won 25-23.

Ohio led 7-2 in the fourth set. Kent State stayed behind for almost two dozen serves until it tied up the match 16-16. The team did not have a lead in this set until 21-20.

The Flashes would take the set 25-21.

When scores got tight, Eckerman said she wants her team to be smart with its plays.

“It’s knowing that not every ball we’re swinging at has to be the one that is put away for a point,” Eckerman said. “It’s knowing when the right time is to go up aggressively and swing – knowing when to manage the game.”

Ohio scored six of the first seven points in the fifth set. Kills from senior outside hitter Olivia Margolies accounted for five of those points.

The Bobcats won the set 15-6. Freshman right side Mia Soerensen earned two of KSU’s points with kills.

“We can handle the challenge,” Eckerman said. “But we’ve got to do a better job at moving on to the next point and having short-term memory.”

Eckerman said her team needs to work on moving past first-set mistakes.

“We’ve had a lot of games where we’re supposed to win and then we come back and overthink the next set instead of coming out and starting over,” Eckerman said. “It’s trying to get in that mood of, ‘Next ball. Who cares what happened last?’”

KSU totaled less service and hitting errors than OU. Three Bobcats hitters had 13 or more kills.

Kent State graduate student Erin Gardener knocks the ball back from the edge of the court. (Matthew Brown)

Senior outside hitter Savannah Matthews led Kent State with 15 kills. Freshman outside hitter Mackenzie McGuire had 11, and Soerensen made 10.

Strejcek led her team with seven blocks and earned five kills. She has played for the program for three seasons after transferring from UNC Charlotte.

“This team helped me break through my shell, and I’ve definitely built up my confidence as a player and as a person off the court,” Strejcek said. “I’m just so thankful for that.”

Matthews said the recently-packed M.A.C. Center crowd gave the Flashes their energy. About 345 people attended the game. Against Akron Oct. 14 and 15, over 250 fans came each night.

“From my freshman year to now, it’s insane,” Matthews said. “It’s completely different, very ecstatic. It’s very fun to play in, and it helps the momentum a lot, especially in close games like that.”

KSU plays at Buffalo (11-10 overall) at 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

Matthews said her team is focused on “being intentional” with everything it does.

“Every team right now is tired because they’re working and playing as many games as we are,” the front-row leader said. “It’s making sure we’re still having faith in what we can do and are showing up every day to do it.”

Kent State volleyball coach Haley Eckerman cheers after the team wins a rally during the game against OU. (Matthew Brown)

In her final year with the Flashes, Strejcek said she hopes to make the most of the rest of her season.

“I want to do what’s best for the team,” she said. “I want our team to push through and make it to the MAC tournament and whatever’s beyond that, to keep pushing forward.”

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