Volleyball team serves for MAC

Wesley Freeman

With the season rapidly approaching, there is one common goal on the mind of the Kent State volleyball team: winning the Mid-American Conference Championship.

“I feel that we have a group of girls that are willing to do whatever it takes,” senior communications studies major Kristen Barr said. “We always have the team in our best interest, and we are all aspiring to do great things this year.”

The Flashes will return 10 upperclassmen and will add three incoming freshman to the team. Kent State will open up its season on Aug. 27 at the Spartan Classic at Norfolk State, where the team will face Providence, North Carolina Greensboro, Navy and the tournament hosts.

The Flashes’ home opener is Aug. 31 against Pittsburgh at the M.A.C. Center.

“I expect us to continue to get a feel for each other and build our team chemistry,” senior middle blocker Celia Sabo said. “I am really excited, and I can’t wait to show everyone what Kent State has this year.”

Last season, the Flashes finished seventh place in the MAC with a 7-9 conference record and 15-17 overall.

“Where we finished last year is nowhere that we want to be,” Barr said.

Glen Conley will be going into his fourth season as the team’s head coach and brings more than 20 years of coaching experience to the team.

“I feel like we are narrowing the talent gap in the conference,” Conley said. “We have a very talented group of girls this season, and as long as they continue to show their strong work ethic and dedication through the preseason, I like our chances.”


2009 record: 14-17 (7-9 MAC)

Key returner: Sophomore middle blocker Meredith Paskert. In her freshman campaign, Paskert was just one of three Flashes to play all 118 sets last season. She also led Kent State with 32 service aces.

Key departure: Arjola Prenga. The outside hitter from Albania recorded a team-high 395 kills last season while posting a 4.25 kills per set ratio.

Key breakout: Sophomore setter Zuzana Markova. Markova, one of four international players on the team, averaged around five assists a set last season despite only playing 68 sets. She will look to fill the hole left by graduating senior Jenny Keck.

2009 MAC Championship finish: 3-2 loss to Buffalo in first round

2010 Prospects: After a breakout season three years ago, the Kent State volleyball team hit a wall and has been slowly recovering since then. With 10 returners and only a few holes from graduation, the Flashes will look to continue their upward movement.

Kent State gave a preview of what to expect this season by winning all four matches at the Kent State “Spring Fling,” played at the M.A.C. Center last April.

The Flashes beat Saint Francis, West Virginia, Kosovo and Pittsburgh.

Earlier this summer, Conley announced the team would have one more weapon this season with the addition of Rob Cline to the program’s coaching staff.

“Rob is very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. He’s excited to return to his alma mater and help create a championship volleyball program,” Conley said in a press release.

“He’ll serve as our offensive coordinator and work with the setters. We’re all very excited to have Rob join our staff.”

The preseason rankings for the conference will be released Aug. 15, but that does not seem to concern the Flashes much.

“We are not worried about rankings, what really matters to us is what we do,” Barr said. “Every day in we step on the court for practice we are looking for progress.”

“The most important thing I want my girls to realize is that if you want to accomplish your goals you must have a strong work ethic,” Conley said.

“You can have talent, but if you are not trying to improve every day, you will never reach your full potential. If I can get that through them then we have a shot.”

Contact sports reporter Wesley Freeman at [email protected].