Kent State Volleyball Outlasts Eastern Michigan In Five Sets
Larsen, Krupa enjoy career nights as the Flashes secure second victory in last three tries.
KENT, Ohio -- The Kent State volleyball team dug deep and tapped into its five-set magic once again, outlasting Eastern Michigan, 3-2 (18-25, 25-19, 25-19, 18-25, 15-12), Saturday (Nov. 5) in a Mid-American Conference match at the M.A.C. Center.
Playing at home for the first time since Oct. 15, the Golden Flashes (10-19, 3-11 MAC) impressed the home crowd with their tenacity and improved to 8-3 in matches that go the distance in 2011. Kent State defeated the Eagles (20-9, 8-6 MAC) for the first time since 2009.
A pair of upperclassmen enjoyed career nights in helping to power the Flashes their second victory in their last three matches. Senior Maigan Larsen (Lancaster, Wis.) piled up 27 kills to lead the match and match her career high. Larsen has reached double digits in each of the last three matches and a team-high 19 times in 2011. Junior Kathy Krupa (Burbank, Ill.) tallied a career-high 18 kills and hit a career-best .500 in addition to leading the team with five blocks (one solo, four assisted). She has reached double figures in kills 10 times – including two of the last three matches. Larsen and Krupa were joined in double figures by freshman Tinuke Aderemi-Ibitola (Ellicott City, Md.), who posted 11 kills. Sophomore Aleksandra Nowak (Damnica, Poland) directed the offense with a match-high 59 set assists and achieved a double-double with 11 digs. Five Golden Flashes reached double digits in digs, led by a match-high 20 from freshman Bridget Grdina (Mentor, Ohio). Sophomore Hannah Herc (Eden, N.Y.) contributed 17 while senior Brooke Zeigler (Parkman, Ohio) added 13 more. Freshman Jenny Buczek (Orland Park, Ill.) rounded out the group with 10 digs.
After hitting just .179 in the first set and losing by seven, Kent State responded with a six-point triumph in the second to tie the match. Larsen totaled nine kills to lead the charge as the Flashes hit .341. Three kills by Larsen, one apiece from Aderemi-Ibitola and Krupa and a service ace by Herc allowed Kent State rattle off six unanswered points and jump out to an 8-2 advantage. The Eagles put together a 13-8 rally to pull to within one at 16-15 and force Kent State to burn its second timeout. The Flashes overcame the adversity, though, using three more kills by Larsen to spark a 9-4 run to close the set and even the match.
Kent State's defense shut down the Eastern Michigan attack in the ensuing set, limiting the Eagles to a -.030 hitting percentage en route to another 25-19 win to take the 2-1 match advantage. Krupa totaled five of her kills and two assisted blocks during the frame to propel Kent State to the set victory. The Flashes never trailed during the third set, taking a 16-11 lead courtesy of multiple kills by Larsen and Krupa. The Eagles shaved the Kent State lead to four at 19-15, but the Flashes once again surged down the stretch. Kills by Larsen and Aderemi-Ibitola and a double block by Krupa and Nowak sealed the set triumph.
The Eagles did not quit, though, winning the fourth set by seven to force the match to go the distance.
Kent State responded like champions in the final showdown. A service ace by Buczek and two kills by Aderemi-Ibitola gave Kent State a 4-2 advantage early, but three straight points for the Eagles put Eastern Michigan in the driver's set at 5-4. Four kills by Larsen, one by Aderemi-Ibitola and a solo block by freshman Lauren Engleman (Cincinnati, Ohio) helped Kent State keep pace and tie things up at 11-all. Kills by Krupa and Larsen put the Flashes ahead 13-11 and force Eastern Michigan to burn a timeout. A kill by the Eagles closed the gap back to one point, but Krupa and Larsen finished Eastern Michigan off with back-to-back kills to secure another exciting five-set victory.
Kent State wraps up the 2011 campaign next weekend with a pair of home matches against division rivals.
The Flashes host Akron Friday (Nov. 11) at 7 p.m. in round two of the volleyball portion of the PNC Wagon Wheel Challenge, which is based on a time-honored competition for the historic wooden Wagon Wheel Trophy awarded originally in 1945 to the winner of the annual Akron-Kent State football game. For the 2011-12 academic year, the PNC-sponsored rivalry will broaden the competition to include 15 NCAA varsity sports, with victories in each sport adding one point to the challenge standings. In keeping with tradition, the annual winner of the football contest will gain possession of the historic wooden Wagon Wheel trophy, while the school that accumulates the most total points in all varsity matchups for that academic year will receive an overall series trophy. Kent State currently holds a 2-1.5 edge over Akron in this year's challenge. The Zips swept Kent State, 3-0, on Oct. 8 at Akron to gain a half a point.
Kent State battles Buffalo Saturday (Nov. 12) at 7 p.m. on Senior Day as the Golden Flashes honor Larsen and Zeigler for their contributions to the program.