Zips Volleyball Battle Hard, Return Home Winless

Akron falls to Western Michigan and Northern Illinois in two hard-fought matches this weekend at James A. Rhodes Arena.


A.J. Fagerlin

The Zips Volleyball team huddles prior to the start of their match against Northern Illinois on Saturday Oct. 14.

By A.J. Fagerlin, Sports Contributor

After spending two consecutive weekends on the road, the Akron Zips Volleyball team returned home to James A. Rhodes Arena to continue their MAC play against Western Michigan and Northern Illinois on Friday and Saturday for their annual “Dig for a Cure Weekend”.

During the first match of the weekend, the Zips dropped a back-and-forth, four-set contest to the Western Michigan Broncos (16-25, 25-14, 23-25, 24-26). The Broncos jumped out to a quick 9-4 advantage in the first set before the Zips battled back to take an 11-10 lead of their own. Akron failed to hold onto the lead, as an 8-0 scoring run from Western Michigan powered them to a 25-16 victory in set one.

Akron bounced back nicely in the second set, dominating the Broncos with their offense firing on all cylinders. The Zips outhit Western Michigan .565 to .083 in the set, utilizing four scoring runs of three consecutive points or more to take a decisive 25-14 win.

In the final two sets of the match, Akron battled hard but was unable to hold down the Western Michigan balanced offensive attack. The Zips fell in each set by just two points. On the match, the Broncos had a .237 hitting percentage, and had three different player record double-digit kills.

The lone player to reach double-digit kills for the Zips was outside hitter Kayla Gwozdz, who led the team with 13 kills. Setter Emily Weigand led the Zips in assists (35), digs (10), blocks (2), and service aces (2).

In Saturday’s match against Northern Illinois, the Zips took the Huskies to five sets, but could not seal the deal, falling in another tightly-contested match (22-25, 25-19, 20-25, 25-20, 11-15).

In set one, Northern Illinois jumped out to an early 4-1 lead, but the Zips exhibited their perseverance, battling to within one point on five different occasions before eventually tying the set 15-15. A 3-0 scoring run for the Huskies gave them enough of an advantage to hold off the Zips, who were unable to even up the score again, ultimately falling 25-22.

Once again, the Zips responded to take set two, evening up the match heading into the break. Despite the Huskies scoring the first five points of the set, the Zips would once again fight to get back in the set, taking the lead at 11-10. The 5-0 scoring run that tied the set and gave the Zips the lead would be enough for Akron to hold off Northern Illinois, maintaining their lead on the way to a 25-19 victory in set two.

The back-and-forth match would continue, as Northern Illinois took set three. With the score tied at 13, the Huskies strung together six consecutive points, propelling them to a 25-20 victory.

The Zips were the team with the timely scoring run in the fourth set, scoring four unanswered points with the score tied 9-9. Another scoring run by the Zips gave them a 16-10 advantage, and Akron would hold on for a 25-20 victory of their own in set four, forcing a decisive fifth set.

The fifth set was tightly contested, as neither team was able to gain momentum early. With the score tied at 10-10, Northern Illinois was able to get their offense going, scoring four consecutive points, fueling their 15-11 set win, earning them the match victory.

The Zips offense was led by Weigand who recorded a match-high 51 assists, with Gwozdz and middle blocker Jessica Kloehn racking up 15 kills apiece. Kloehn also had a match-high six blocks, and libero Taylor Sharrits managed a match-high 25 digs during the match.

The two setbacks drop the Zips’ record to 6-14 overall and 2-6 in the conference. After their quick home weekend, the Zips will once again hit the road for two consecutive weekends. Akron will travel to the state of Michigan to take on Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan on Friday and Saturday. The following weekend, the Zips will stay in Ohio, traveling to Athens to take on Ohio on Friday, Oct. 27, and taking on Wagon Wheel Challenge rival Kent State Golden Flashes in Kent on Saturday, Oct. 15.

The Zips will return home on Thursday, Nov. 2, to host Buffalo and finish out the remainder of their regular season schedule. Home matches against Ball State, Bowling Green, and Miami will round out the Zips’ schedule as they battle for an entry into the MAC Tournament at the end of the season. Students are admitted free to home games with their Zip Card, and tickets are just $6 and are available at or on game days at James A. Rhodes Arena.