By Julien Benjamin, Staff Writer and Taylor Blackmon, Staff Writer
The volleyball team earned a split in their second week of conference play at home, falling Friday to Jacksonville 0-3, but rebounding Saturday for a 3-1 win over North Florida.
With the absence of Junior Kelly Marcinek, Sophomore Anaiah Boyer emerged as a leader on the court against Jacksonville, leading the Owls with 14 kills, followed by redshirt freshman, Amariah Boyer who tallied nine kills. Freshmen Liesl Engelbrecht and Sydni Shelton also both stepped up with seven kills each.
“We’ve got some young people on the court, and they’ve got to learn how to compete at a high level while still playing really free and loose,” KSU head coach Schunzel said. “And tonight, I thought we were really average for most of the night, mentally.”
Saturday, however, was a much different story for the Owls.
After trailing 22-20 in the fourth set, with a two set to one lead, KSU went on a 6-2 run to claim a 3-1 victory over the University of North Florida Saturday afternoon.
KSU (10-4, 2-1 Atlantic Sun) showed intensity in the fourth, taking an 11-5 lead to open the set as they looked to close the match. However, UNF went on a 10-4 run to tie at 15, led by serves from Ambre Desaulnay. The Owls took a 17-15 lead, forcing a UNF timeout, but could not hold off the Ospreys as they would later be tied at 20.
UNF took a two point lead after a kill by Morgan Van Alstine and an ace by Kayla Fessler, but the Owls quickly tied the game with back to back kills by Anaiah Boyer to even the score at 22. The Ospreys never reached set point, despite taking a 24-23 lead, as KSU depended on a kill from Kristi Piedimonte to tie the game. Later off of serves by Katarina Morton, the Owls took the final two points of the match to win the fourth set 26-24.
“I challenged our team pretty well after last night,” head coach Keith Schunzel said after the match. “I didn’t think we were where we needed to be mentally to compete at a high level in a conference match. We didn’t play poorly last night, but we just didn’t battle enough.”
KSU came out strong in the first set with an 8-3 run to go up by five, 17-12. The Ospreys cut the deficit several times, but kills by Boyer and freshman Maddie Jones, with two assists from Piedimonte, secured the first set for the Owls, 25-21.
“We had a different presence at the beginning of the match,” Schunzel said. “We came out intense, and we fought hard.”
KSU dropped the second set 25-22 after the Ospreys went on a 8-3 run to end the frame. UNF led for much of the set, after falling behind early to the Owls, 2-1. KSU later tied the Ospreys at 12, and then again at 17 each, before taking a two point lead at 19-17. UNF took a quick timeout before going on their run to tie the game at a set apiece.
KSU took the third set 25-22, using an 11-4 run during the middle of the frame, sparked by Cierra Royster’s serves and multiple assists to set up kills by Piedimonte. Boyer picked up six kills, and Piedimonte had 13 assists in the set.
KSU continues conference play this upcoming weekend with road games at Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson.
“Our conference is really good,” Schunzel said. “I’m just proud of our kids and what they have done. We’ve got a talented bunch and tons of potential with this team.”