A new season ushers in a new era for Kent State volleyball.
Don Gromala, who was introduced as Kent State's eighth head volleyball coach in the program's 37-year history on April 17, 2012, has his sights set on building the Golden Flashes into a Mid-American Conference championship contender.
A nine-year coaching veteran, Gromala is deep rooted in the tradition of midwest volleyball, having spent the previous four seasons as an assistant coach at perennial top-25 power Ohio State and four years at Ohio University. Alongside first-year assistant coaches Steve Bailey and Kim Kuzma, Gromala looks to tap into that championship experience from his coaching background and use it to take Kent State volleyball to new heights.
The 2012 Golden Flashes are led by senior middle blocker Kathy Krupa (Burbank, Ill.). Krupa led the team in attack percentage (.304), total blocks (115; 27 solo, 88 assisted) and blocks per set (0.97) and ranked second on the team in kills (281), kills per set (2.36), points (353) and points per set (2.97) -- all of which were career bests. Her .304 attack percentage ranked ninth in the conference. She totaled five or more blocks a team-high 14 times and reached double digits in kills 11 times, the second-most on the team. Sophomore Liz Reikow (Holland, Mich.), who stands at 6’-6”, and freshman Bridget Wilhelm (Euclid, Ohio) will compete for playing time in the middle.
Junior setter Aleksandra Nowak (Damnica, Poland), who ranks fifth in school history with 8.91 set assists per set and sixth with 1,559 set assists, returns to direct the Kent State passing game. She led the squad with 962 set assists and 8.91 assists per set in 2011, ranking ninth in the MAC in the latter. Sophomore Jenny Buczek (Orland Park, Ill.) gained valuable experience at the setter spot last season and provides the Flashes with solid depth at the position.
Kent State is young at both the outside hitter and right side hitter spots. Sophomore Tinuke Aderemi-Ibitola (Ellicott City, Md.) brings explosiveness to the Kent State attack and looks to build upon a freshman campaign in which she finished the season ranked third on the team in kills (164), kills per set (1.78), points (187) and points per set (2.04). Sophomore Lauren Engleman (Cincinnati, Ohio) and freshmen Morgan Semmelhack (Elmhurst, Ill.), Kelly Hutchison (Columbus, Ohio) and Haley Schneider (Farmington Hills, Mich.) will all battle for playing time in 2012.
Junior defensive specialist/libero Hannah Herc (Eden, N.Y.) ranked second on the team in digs (290), digs per set (2.48), service aces (23) and third in service aces per set (0.20) in 2011. She is joined on the defensive end by sophomore Kaylee Koller (Amherst, Ohio), who comes to the Golden Flashes by way of Lorain County Community College, and freshman Alexis Rains (Aliquippa, Pa.).
Kent State opens the 2012 regular season Aug. 24-25 in Fort Wayne, Ind., at the IPFW Invitational. The 2012 home schedule kicks off with the Kent State Mizuno Classic (Sept. 7-8). The Golden Flashes will host 11 matches at the M.A.C. Center in 2012.