The Kent State volleyball team entered the third set in Tuesday’s game against Ohio up two sets and looking for a sweep.
The Flashes would hit only .186 over the next three sets, blowing their lead and falling to the Bobcats 3-2.
“We came out pretty strong in those first two sets,” sophomore outside hitter Savannah Matthews said. “But then the energy really tapered off, and we had no momentum. That’s what really killed us.”
KSU won the first two sets of the matchup in the M.A.C. Center 25-18 and 25-22.
“We executed really well at first,” coach Don Gromala said. “And we were doing some good things. We got the Bobcats out of rhythm. But we didn’t have that execution later in the game.”
OU would come storming back and take the third set by a commanding ten points. The fourth was close at first, with the Flashes holding a 19-18 lead at one point. But the Bobcats would score seven of the next eight points to win 25-20.
The fifth set started as a back-and-forth fight, with the score being tied 8-8 at one time, before OU would go on a 7-3 run to win 15-11.
KSU is 11-5 and in second place in the East Division of the Mid-American Conference. The Bobcats are 7-6 and in fourth place in the East.
“We were playing another good team,” Gromala said. “We were on our heels defensively. And we were just giving up a lot of kills. We have to get creative in finding some other ways to keep the ball off the floor.
KSU averaged 12.6 digs per set, their lowest average of the season.
“We’re typically a pretty good digging team,” Gromala said. “But we didn’t get many digs tonight. Ohio stepped up their game and we didn’t.”
Freshman libero Bryn Roberts had 18 digs while redshirt junior setter Alex Haffner had 15.
Haffner also had 48 assists and two block assists.
The Flashes’ defense held the Bobcats’ offense to a .151 hitting percentage in the first two sets. But in the last three sets, OU hit .374.
Matthews said the front row struggled to contain the Bobcats’ defense.
“We were not putting up as solid of a block as they were,” she said. “And that cost us points because our back row wasn’t able to read and figure out where to go.”
Gromala said OU had a better mentality on offense.
“They had an aggressive mindset that we missed,” he said. “They were better than us on a lot of one-on-ones in both attacking and blocking. They made plays when we didn’t.”
KSU had a hitting percentage of .199 on the day after starting with a .257 percentage in the first two sets.
Matthews led the team in kills with 19 while sophomore opposite hitter Morgan Copley had 13. Junior middle blocker Danie Tyson had 8 kills with a .273 hitting percentage.
Matthews said the offense had to return to the basics.
“We can’t force anything,” she said. “We just weren’t placing the balls in the right spots like we were in the first two sets.”
Gromala said the offense needed to “find some inner strength.”
“We were making things happen and we did some good plays offensively,” he said. “But when OU stepped up we kinda retreated. If someone is stopping us we need to make a change and step up.”
The Flashes had 10 service errors.
Matthews said the poor serving made a big impact at the end.
“Poor serves kill the momentum,” she said. “And it was a huge factor at the end there. Some of our servers were trying to be aggressive and went too hard. Being aware of what your body is doing back there is a big part.”
The Flashes will next play Northern Illinois, which is 7-10 and in fifth place in the West, on Friday and Saturday.
Matthews said the team intends to go into the game with more consistency.
“We tend to go on an emotional roller coaster during the games,” she said. “We need to maintain the same level of energy and confidence throughout the match.”
Jimmy Oswald is a sports reporter. Contact him at email@example.com.