MU’s record win streak comes to end in five-set heartbreaker

R-H Staff

KENT — The Miami University volleyball team saw its 20-match win streak come to an end as it fell in a 2-3 (24-26, 25-21, 25-19, 24-26, 10-15) decision to Kent State Saturday evening. It was the first RedHawk loss since fall in five sets to Illinois State over two months ago on Sept. 3. Miami is now 21-5 overall and 13-1 in the Mid-American Conference. The Golden Flashes improve to 14-13 overall and 7-7 in the MAC.

The entire match was a back-and-forth battle that featured several long rallies. Kent State had 108 digs in the contest, while Miami finished with 96. It was led by junior libero Maeve McDonald, who recorded a career-high tying 33. The RedHawks also put down 12 blocks in the match, led by senior middle hitter Paige Hill, who had eight (three solo and five assisted).

Senior setter Krista Brakauskas finished with a double-double of 33 assists and 12 digs. Her first dig of the match made her the 15th player in school history to reach 1,000 career digs. She is the first setter to accomplish that achievement.

Brakauskas was not the only player to record a double-double for Miami on Saturday. Sophomore setter Mackenzie Zielinski had 22 assists and 12 digs. Sophomore outside hitter Stela Kukoc finished with 10 kills and a career-high 16 digs for a double-double of her own.

In what was a theme throughout the night, Kent State built an early lead in in set one. Hill, junior right side hitter Katie Tomasic and junior middle hitter Meredith Stutz each had kills, but the Golden Flashes built a 12-7 advantage and forced the RedHawks to call timeout. In what would also be a theme on the night, Miami would fight back into set. Tomasic put down three straight kills, while two blocks from Hill helped tie the score at 15. KSU eventually pushed the lead back to four at 21-17, but Tomasic had two kills as part of a 4-1 run that made it a one-point match. The Golden Flashes got set point at 24-21, but the ‘Hawks fought it off three times to tie the score. The comeback would not be completed as Kent State scored two in a row to take a 26-24 win.

Trailing 0-3 in set two, a kill from Zielinski, a service ace by junior right side hitter Olivia Rusek and a block from Tomasic and Hill quickly tied the score. Trailing 8-10, a kill and a service ace from senior outside hitter Maris Below started MU on a 5-0 run that helped it gain control. Two kills apiece by Hill and Kukoc helped make it 20-14. Kent State would get as close as three points, but kills from Tomasic and Stutz finished off a 25-21 victory.

The RedHawks again fell behind 0-3 to begin set three. This time Miami rallied with an 8-1 run to take an 8-4 advantage. Hill had three kills, while Tomasic put down two during that stretch. The Golden Flashes fought back, as despite a block and a kill from Rusek, KSU eventually took a 15-14 lead. Miami answered with a 7-2 response to make it 21-17. Leading 23-19, a Golden Flashes service error and a solo block from Kukoc completed a 25-19 win and gave Miami a 2-1 lead in the match.

The ‘Hawks struggled as set four began, falling behind 2-10. Kukoc and McDonald started a rally with service aces, while a kill from Rusek pulled them to within five at 8-13. Trailing 12-18, Miami began a near miracle comeback. Rusek had two kills as part of a 6-3 run that made it 18-21 and forced a KSU timeout. Out of the break, a Golden Flash attack error and back-to-back kills from Rusek and Stutz tied the score. Kent State scored the next two in a row, but kills from Stutz and Hill along with an attack error gave the RedHawks match point at 24-23. Miami was not able to capitalize on the opportunity as the Golden Flashes scored three in a row to steal a 26-24 victory and send the match into a fifth and deciding set.

Despite the heartbreaking way the fourth set ended, Miami battled evenly with Kent State to begin set five. Hill, Tomasic and Stutz each had kills as the teams traded side outs to a 3-3 tie. The Golden Flashes went on a 6-2 run that gave them a 9-5 lead and proved to be the deciding factor in the set. Below and Rusek tried to rally the RedHawks with back-to-back kills to pull them within two, but four straight by Kent State made it 13-7 and put the score out of reach. The Flashes finished off a 15-10 win to take a 3-2 victory in the match and end Miami’s record win streak at 20 matches.

Tomasic led the RedHawks with 14 kills, and also had four blocks. Stutz set a new career-high with 13 kills, while Rusek had 12. Hill finished with 10 kills to go with her eight blocks, while Below had eight kills and 13 digs.

Miami returns home for the final week of the regular season as it looks to lock down the top seed in the upcoming MAC Tournament. The RedHawks host Akron on Friday at 7 p.m. and then welcome Buffalo for Senior Night on Saturday at 5 p.m

R-H Staff