Freshman middle blocker Ainsley Guse walked away from the first game of the Golden Flash Invitational with the third-highest hitting percentage in Kent State volleyball history.
Guse hit .812 against Youngstown State Thursday with 13 kills in 16 attempts without any attack errors. The highest hitting percentage in KSU history is .846 by Becky Neglia vs. Florida International in 1996.
“She’s playing to her advantage and her strengths,” coach Don Gromala said. “Ainsley plays smart, finding ways to make things happen. Especially for a younger player, being able to broaden herself the way that she has so far has been really nice. She had a great match, and her team helped with that.”
Guse also led the team with five block assists. So far this season she leads the team in hitting percentage (.404) and blocks (42).
“I completely attribute this game to Alex Haffner,” Guse said. “She was setting me up so perfectly.”
Guse is the only freshman on the team to play all 42 sets of this season.
“I really try to focus on what my coaches are telling me in practice and during a game,” Guse said. “With hitting, they’re always telling me to turn my hand more so I am not hitting into a block, and I try to repeat that in my head to stay consistent.”
The Flashes beat the Penguins in four sets. They hit .373, their highest percentage this season; the previous best was .276 against Southern Illinois Edwardsville.
KSU dominated the first set 25-7, its biggest margin of victory all season. Its previous best came when the Flashes beat Saint Francis 25-12 on Aug. 31.
“We had an awesome fanbase here, and our team feeds off that energy,” Gromala said. “We played a tough tournament last weekend, and we were determined to show everyone that we are a better team than our record shows.”
Attendance was announced at 322, and the south bleachers were almost filled with students.
Subsequent sets were all closer.
The team won the second set 25-20 but never led in the third, falling 25-15.
“First contact is a huge part of the game, so I think that was the change throughout the match,” Gromala said. “They passed better in the second set and on, and we didn't serve as tough. We didn’t pass as well, and they served tough.”
The Flashes jumped to a 5-0 lead in the fourth set and went on to a 25-18 win. KSU is now 5-6. Youngstown State is 2-8.
The Flashes play their final game of the invitational at 4 p.m. Saturday at the M.A.C. Center against Duquesne (4-5).
“We know that we need to focus on ourselves more,” Gromala said. “Sometimes we need to know when to be assertive and a little bit smarter rather than trying to force the point off the serve or the attack. If everything is not going perfect, that’s okay.”
Isabella Schreck is a reporter. Contact her at email@example.com