Just last week the Kennesaw State University volleyball team was 1-8. Since then, the Owls have won five consecutive matches, which included four matches from this weekend in the Jacksonville State Tournament in Jacksonville, Alabama.
After falling to Georgia Tech in a five-set nail-biter of a match, KSU responded by dominating its lineup of opponents. Counting the Owls’ win against Georgia State University on Sept. 9, KSU has won 15 of their last 17 sets. In those 17 sets, the team allowed opponents to score an average of just 19 points per set.
So what explains the sudden turnaround?
Head coach Keith Schunzel has stated several times that the team played a difficult non-conference schedule and had to overcome the initial frustration. After going 19-9 in 2015 and posting the best record in school history, KSU’s expectations were extremely high when the season began.
“I think we kind of worked through that, and I think we’ve gotten to the point like, ‘Hey, let’s play good volleyball,'” Schunzel said. “What happens happens, whether its a win or loss, and we’re going to play every point the same.”
Top performers from the Jacksonville State Tournament include junior setter Kristie Pediemonte who had 161 of KSU’s 183 total assists for the tournament. She also set a career high in assists with 58 against Jacksonville on Friday.
Junior outside hitter Aniah Boyer had a big weekend, amassing 54 kills throughout the four matches, including 17 kills against Jacksonville on Friday and Louisiana Monroe University on Saturday.
Libero Katrina Morton also stepped up big in the dig column with 60 for the weekend.
The Owls look to build off a successful weekend after concluding their non-conference schedule. The team looks forward to playing Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee on Friday, Sept. 23, followed by two more road matches against Jacksonville University on Sept. 30 and North Florida on Oct. 1. Both matches will be played in Jacksonville, Florida.
One major benefit to completing the non-conference schedule is no longer having to play three or four matches in a single weekend.
“I think that’s hard to do three or four times in a weekend when you really get geared up, and then you’ve got to rest quickly, and then get geared up again,” Schunzel said. “So, I definitely prefer the two match weekends.”
The home game scheduled for Oct. 7 against Florida Gulf Coast University will also be Griffin’s Game.
Last spring, Schunzel’s son Griffin was diagnosed with leukemia. The first Griffin’s Game was held last year when KSU played the New Jersey Institute of Technology and raised more than $7,000 for Griffin’s treatment.
This year, the team is hosting the event again to raise money for other families who are going through the same struggles.
“Griffin’s game is about hope, love and community,” Schunzel said. “From very personal experience, when people give money it’s about so much more than the money. It’s their way of saying, ‘We love you, keep fighting and we’re with you.’”
Fans who attend the game will be able to buy “Fight like Griffin” shirts to support the cause.