The Kent State volleyball team played its worst offensive game of the season in a Tuesday loss to Ohio University, hitting at a season-low percentage of .160.
Despite the performance, the Flashes kept the sets close as three of the four were decided by two points.
“We put ourselves in too deep of a hole,” coach Don Gromala said. “We weren’t playing like we normally do. Next time we have to be smarter about when to attack aggressively. We have to step up or our season will be done.”
KSU lost the first set 25-23. The Bobcats would come storming out in the second and win by a commanding 12 points.
Junior opposite hitter Melissa Kolurbasi said the team has to start games stronger.
“We can’t wait until the very end to start fighting,” she said. “We need to come out hot and then keep it going. It was just too late today.”
In the third set, OU would have a 24-20 lead before the Flashes would go on a six-point run to avoid the sweep.
The fourth would see KSU fall behind 22-16 and again the Flashes would score six straight to tie it up. The Bobcats would still win 25-23.
The Flashes are 12-7 and in second place in the East Division of the Mid-American Conference. OU is 10-7 and in third place in the East.
“We gave away some points in certain scenarios,” Gromala said, “and if we had gotten those it would have been a whole different ball game.”
Kolurbasi said an increase in the team’s spirit helped spur the comebacks.
“We had a high amount of energy as a team,” she said. “We knew what we were supposed to do, so it wasn’t anything technical. The energy helped us start working better as a team.”
The Flashes’ offense started out strong in the first set, but hit only .120 the rest of the way.
Gromala said the team struggled with where they were hitting the ball.
“Our hitters were trying to force some high-risk shots,” he said. “And we need to do a better job knowing when’s the right time to place the ball to make it hard for the other team to counter versus when to attack violently.”
Kolurbasi had a team-leading 13 kills along with four block assists.
“[Kolurbasi] did well with what was given to her,” Gromala said. “She adjusted offensively really well to OU’s defense. She also did really good with the block. She put a lot of pressure on their defense and forced them to change things up.”
Freshman outside hitter Maluhia Ma’a had her first career double-digit kills game with 12.
Gromala said Ma’a saw the game really well.
“[Ma’a] was really smart about where she was placing the ball,” he said. “She knew exactly how to go about attacking the ball and she wasn’t forcing anything.”
KSU allowed the Bobcats to hit .349 through the first two sets.
“We weren’t seeing things well,” Kolurbasi said, “and we weren’t responding to the things we did see. We didn’t see the openings on the floor well and couldn’t tell where the hitters were going to place the ball.”
Gromala said his defense eventually stepped it up.
“We started putting some pressure on them,” he said. “That made them uncomfortable and they started giving away some points. That made the game more back-and-forth.”
OU only hit .135 in the last two sets.
KSU’s final regular season series is at Western Michigan, which is 15-4 and in first place in the West, on Friday and Saturday.
The Flashes clinch a spot in the MAC Tournament with one of the following scenarios:
Miami RedHawks lose one game
Ohio Bobcats lose two games
Gromala said the team needs to start these next matches on a stronger note.
“We have to get some better execution off the get-go,” he said. “We want to force the other team to have to earn points.”
Jimmy Oswald is a sports reporter. Contact him at email@example.com.