Returning players prep freshmen for volleyball season



Nick Shook

The scene in the M.A.C. Center was one of optimism as the Kent State volleyball team warmed up for a mid-afternoon practice Friday.

Kent State coach Glen Conley paced the hardwood floor of the gymnasium, instructing his team on what he expected of them for the day.

For Conley, who’s in his fifth season at Kent State, his 2011 squad is unlike any he has coached since his days at Edinboro University when his team won 33 games on their way to a conference title.

The Flashes return only four players from last year’s team that finished third in the Mid-American Conference East Division. While growing pains are expected with a squad consisting of eight new faces, Conley said he’s not worried about his team’s potential.

“A lot of times freshmen don’t know what is possible,” Conley said. “They just want to play ball. It’s the preconceived notion that, well you’re too young and you won’t be able to win this year because of your freshmen and stuff like that.”

Conley and the Flashes benefit from returning a senior who started 30 matches and finished third on the team last season with 226 kills—outside hitter Maigan Larsen.

Conley will look to Larsen to mentor the young Flashes roster and provide leadership during match play.

The Lancaster, Wisc., native said that while she does feel pressure as the team’s lone senior, the other four returners on the team have taken a leadership role as well.

“I’m really proud of our team right now,” Larsen said. “Those incoming freshman are great girls — great attitudes and work ethic. Coming into preseason, they jelled perfectly because they have the same type of work ethic as us.”

The team also returns junior middle blocker Kathy Krupa, sophomore defensive specialist Hannah Herc and sophomore setter Aleksandra Nowak.

While all four veterans are expected to be steady contributors for Kent State, the Flashes were picked to finish last in the East Division this season.

Larsen said she doesn’t mind, and she hopes that teams see Kent State as nothing more than a team that’s rebuilding.

“Oh, I love it,” Larsen said. “I love being the underdog. If people want to look at us that way then do it because they won’t come to the gym ready, and we’ll be ready every night. It will be fun.”

The Flashes open the 2011 season on Aug. 26 at the SIU-Edwardsville Invitational before hosting Youngstown State on Aug. 30.

Contact Nick Shook at [email protected].