Volleyball team needs to improve fifth-set performance

Tom Crilley

Reaching the fifth set of a volleyball match is comparable to going into football’s overtime or baseball’s extra innings.

By that time, the teams have split the first four sets and know what each other are made of. The fifth set is more like a shootout because it’s the first team to 15 points, rather than the first to 25.

Kent State has had five five-set matches this season, but the team has come away with only one victory. The Flashes have fifth-set losses to Syracuse, James Madison, Murray State and Akron.

Kent State coach Glen Conley said the key to winning five-set matches is execution.

“You just have to play with confidence,” he said. “Executing the game plan I think is the most important thing in game five. Everybody knows each other. You’ve already been through four games. You know where they’re serving. Nobody’s changing anything major at that point in time.”

Conley also said momentum plays a big role in game five outcomes, but it doesn’t always transfer from game four to game five.

“Actually, the statistics prove that the team that wins game three normally will win game five,” he said. “When teams get on a roll and they start winning a few of those they start feeling like ‘Hey, we can win these.’ And when you lose a few of them you feel like ‘Oh, here we go again.’”

Poor passing has afflicted the Flashes throughout the season, and that has been the difference maker in some of their close, game-five losses. Conley said any time there’s a game five, teams try to get the ball to the hitter who has performed at the highest level during the match. Poor passing has prevented the Flashes from being able to do that at times this year.

“I like to play the hot hitter, and I like to go with matchups,” he said “I believe in that more than anything else. We’re not going to try to out-coach ourselves or out-think ourselves. In game five (against Akron) Maigan (Larsen) got the final three kills right before the switch. So we were leading 8-7 and she didn’t get another set the rest of the night. Those are the kinds of things we try to make sure don’t happen.”

The Flashes’ passing is what cost them the match at the end of the fifth set last Saturday. Larsen had 14 total kills, and sophomore middle blocker Meredith Paskert had 12. Conley wanted to get the ball to them, but it didn’t happen. After the 8-7 lead, the Flashes dropped eight of the next 12 points and lost the match, 15-12.

Conley said his team needs to improve on being able to get good passes to the setter. He wants his players to know who the hot hitter is and get the ball to her.

Kent State is hoping to display an improved passing game on the court this weekend when they face Miami tonight at 7 and Bowling Green tomorrow at 7.

Contact Tom Crilley at [email protected].