Haley Eckerman’s first year shows volleyball’s ‘potential’ for next season

Isabella Schreck, Sports Editor

It has been a year of “figuring things out” for Kent State volleyball coach Haley Eckerman.

In her first season as a Division I head coach, Eckerman led her team to its best starting record since 2014.

The Flashes finished the season tied for ninth place at 4-14 in the Mid-American Conference and 13-16 overall.

“It’s been trying to figure out the lineup, trying to figure out the girls that we have currently and trying to figure out recruits,” the four-time All-American said. “That’s been the biggest thing is trying to navigate the season with what we have and how we can continue to be better next year.”

Kent State ended its season with a 3-0 loss at Ohio Wednesday. The team does not qualify for the six-team conference tournament starting Nov. 20. Ball State and Bowling Green tied for first in the MAC at 15-3.

Eckerman played outside hitter for four seasons at the University of Texas, where she was awarded Big 12 freshman of the year in 2011 and player of the year her following three seasons. Eckerman played overseas for four seasons after graduation.

In 2018, Eckerman began coaching at her hometown’s Waterloo West High School. She assistant coached at Lamar University, Tarleton State and, most recently, Texas Christian University.

Eckerman said working closely with athletes outside of games was the biggest change from being an assistant coach to a head coach.

“The biggest part is being able to navigate the off the court things more than the on the court things,” she said. “As an assistant coach, you have those conversations about off the court things with players but you don’t have to make decisions and figure out what’s best for your team based on those decisions.”

For advice, Eckerman turned to past coaches and staff members. At Kent State, she talked with women’s basketball coach Todd Starkey, softball coach Eric Oakley and soccer program leaders.

“It comes down to the decision of who’s going to play, the culture of the team, balancing everything and staff and making decisions when it comes to staff,” Eckerman said. “It’s to know when you should make a decision and try to figure out if it’s the right one, how it’s going to affect the team.”

Final game and season highs

Kent State hit a season-low 28 kills at Ohio Wednesday.

The Flashes started the first set with a 3-0 and kept ahead, bringing the score to 21-18. Then, the Bobcats scored the next six points to take over at 24-22.

KSU lost the first set 25-23. OU beat the Flashes in the second set 25-12 and the third set 25-15.

The team totaled its lowest hitting percentage of the night at -.029. The Bobcats hit its highest at .355.

“We showed our potential in moments,” Eckerman said. “It’s frustrating when you don’t show it every single night and when you know as a staff what your team can bring to the table.”

Senior outside hitter Savannah Matthews led the team with seven kills and a season-high 14 digs. Freshman right side Mia Soerensen totaled six kills and freshman middle blocker Sadie Wright had five.

Matthews, who competed her last season with the Flashes, is second on the team in kills with 244. Freshman outside hitter Mackenzie McGuire is first at 295.

Graduate student setter Alex Haffner leads the team with 27 service aces and 991 aces. Graduate student Danie Tyson recorded a team-high 92 blocks. Both women are out of eligibility for next season.

Eckerman said this season showed her team’s potential.

“We had moments that showcase how tough we could be and how well we could compete in the conference,” Eckerman said.

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