The Kent State volleyball team headed into the weekend coming off of four straight five-set games.
The Flashes would be swept in back-to-back games, not winning a single set.
“It was a tough weekend,” coach Don Gromala said. “We felt pretty good after the last couple weeks of competing and executing, and we had a good week of practice. But we struggled defensively and didn’t have enough opportunities to score.”
On Friday, the Flashes lost 3-0 against Northern Illinois. The first set was back and forth. The game was tied at 19-19, but Northern Illinois pulled away and took the set 25-22.
KSU fell in the second set 25-17 and in the third 25-19.
“The biggest challenge was the middle attacks,” Gromala said. “It was a different style of play from what we saw in previous weekends. We could have done a better job looking into how we could defend it.”
KSU lost all three sets of Saturday’s game against Western Michigan. After falling 25-12 in the first set, the Flashes took a blow offensively.
Ahead 7-3 in the second set, the Broncos sent a strong hit over the net. Freshman Kiersten Kraus passed a high ball which stayed in the back row. Going for the second touch, redshirt senior setter Alex Haffner slid into sophomore defensive specialist Bryn Roberts and hit her head.
Haffner staggered back to the front row during the play, but afterwards was on the sidelines for evaluation. The Flashes won the rally after an opposing service error, but Haffner did not play the rest of the match.
Kraus, who played back row during the weekend and as an opposite hitter earlier this season, stepped in as setter. She totaled a career-high 18 assists.
“Her ability to get to the ball and give us a decent attack was really important,” Gromala said. “She did a good job of getting our pins in good positions.”
Haffner had eight assists that night and 27 Friday. Overall in the Mid-American Conference, she is in seventh place in assists, averaging 9.84 per set.
Kraus said she felt prepared to help out her team and make plays.
“I was in the mindset that I was going to go out there and do everything I could to better the ball,” Kraus said. “I didn’t tell myself to be perfect because I knew that wasn’t going to happen, but I wanted to go out there and work hard.”
Gromala did not have an update on Haffner’s injury over the weekend, but he said “it is not a season-ending type of injury.”
“We’re not counting on her being back next weekend,” Gromala said. “But we know that we will take care of her with our great medical staff, and that she will take care of herself. She will be back and ready to go as soon as she can.”
Western Michigan won the second set 25-14.
In the third set, KSU had a stronger back-and-forth performance and “did some really good things by being active and aggressive,” Gromala said.
Kent State, however, did not gain more than a one-point lead. After tying the set at 13-13, KSU stayed behind the rest of the set, falling 25-19.
With less than a month until the six-team MAC tournament, KSU is tied with Northern Illinois and Central Michigan for sixth place at 5-8. The Flashes are 10-15 overall. Toledo is fifth at 8-5 and 16-9 overall. Western Michigan and Ohio, both 8-5 in the MAC, are tied for third place.
In overall MAC player standings, freshman middle blocker Ainsley Guse is fourth in blocks overall, totaling 1.05 per set and fourth in hitting percentage with an average of .338.
Senior libero Erin Gardner holds second place in digs with 5.33 average digs per set. Kent State is third overall in digs, averaging 2.26 per set. Bowling Green leads with 2.53.
The Flashes play at Bowling Green, 16-7 overall and tied with Ball State for first in the MAC at 12-1, Friday and Saturday.
Kraus said that building on their chemistry will help her team improve as the end of the regular season nears.
“Everyone has their own personality on the court, and everyone does something really well,” Kraus said. “It’s just finding that rhythm and everyone playing together.”
Isabella Schreck is a reporter. Contact her at email@example.com.