The Kennesaw State volleyball team traveled plenty over the weekend, first defeating the New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders 3-1 on Friday, Oct. 28.
Sophomore defensive specialist Maddie Jones recorded seven service aces, which tied a school record for the most in a single match. She earned two each in sets one and two and another three in set four to help KSU close out the match.
The Owls jumped out to a six-point lead in the first set and won 25-17.
The Highlanders (9–19, 1-9 ASUN) responded in the second, composing themselves well enough to battle KSU to a 19-19 tie before the Owls used a late push to win the set 25-20.
NJIT built on its success and took a 9-4 lead in the third. KSU did not back down easily, however, rallying back to take a 14-13 lead. The Owls extended that lead to 17-15, but the Highlanders answered with a six-point rally to take a 21-17 lead.
Ultimately, the two squads found themselves in a 25-25 deuce, which NJIT won by scoring the next two points and taking the set 27-25.
KSU came back much sharper in the fourth set, jumping out to a 9-4 lead. The Highlanders tried to close the gap, but the Owls finished strong and won the set 25-18 and the match 3-1.
“I’m proud of our team for battling through some adversity tonight and coming out on the good side,” head coach Keith Schunzel said.
Aside from Jones’ seven aces, she also recorded seven digs. Outside hitters Sydni Shelton and Anaiah Boyer had big games as well — Shelton led the team in kills with 20 while Boyer contributed 10 kills.
Boyer was one of three Owls in double digits for digs. Junior libero Katrina Morton led the team with 18 digs and junior setter Kristie Piedimonte had 10, also leading the Owls with 48 assists.
Schunzel was happy to get the win but knew the teams’ business trip wasn’t over.
“We’re going to enjoy this win tonight and tomorrow we’ll get down to Upstate — who is playing great volleyball right now — and prepare to give another great road effort,” Schunzel said.
Less than 24 hours later, the Owls found themselves in Spartanburg, South Carolina, taking on the University of South Carolina Upstate (11-16, 3-7 ASUN).
Although KSU came away with win No. 15 of the season against the Spartans, the match was a five-set thriller that kept the Owls on their toes.
Aside from the end of the first and third period, KSU had a tough time gaining separation from USCU.
After battling to a 19-19 tie in the first period, KSU scored the next six points to win the set 25-19. It would be short-lived, however, as the Spartans built a 10-4 lead and won the second set 25-16.
KSU returned the favor in the third, turning what was initially a close match into a 16-11 lead that eventually blossomed into a 25-18 victory for the Owls.
Set four was the most intense of the afternoon. Although the Spartans held the lead for most of the fourth, KSU tried to spoil their comeback attempt by taking a 20-19 lead — which would have sealed the match for the Owls if they had held onto it.
The Spartans responded, however, tying the score back up at 21-21 before taking back a lead they would not relinquish and winning the set 25-23.
This match marked the sixth time this season the Owls have gone into a fifth set. That experience seemed to help them remain composed, taking an 8-5 lead at the switch and finishing USCU with a set score of 15-8 to win the match 3-2.
Boyer led the team with 22 kills against the Spartans and added 19 digs along with three service aces. Senior opposite hitter Kelly Marcinek also came up big in the kill column with 19 and added eight digs. Piedimonte tallied 58 assists and 11 digs. Morton again led the Owls in digs on Sunday with 21.
KSU will play its final two road matches next weekend against Stetson University (4-21, 1-7 ASUN) on Nov. 4 and playing Florida Gulf Coast University (22–4, 8-2 ASUN) on Saturday, Nov. 5.