Volleyball athletes try to find some time for fun between school work, sports

Ashley Sepanski

Flashes deal with busy schedules on and off the court

After helping sophomore middle blocker Liva Brivule stretch after practice, Kent State assistant coach Ernest Vasquez extends his hand and helps Brivule to her feet.

“You have a social life?” he asks.

“No, not really,” she shrugs.

“Just school and grades right?”

“Just school, practice and the bus.”

“And you love it right?”

Brivule smiles, laughs and shouts “Oh yeah, woo hoo!”


After another week of practice and studying, the Flashes will face off against rival Akron and Buffalo this weekend. Kent State (11-15, 4-8 Mid-American Conference) defeated Akron (13-14, 4-8 MAC) 3-1 the first time they met this season.

Senior outside hitters Brionna Patterson and Liz Martin currently lead the Zips’ offense. Patterson holds a season total of 438 kills while Martin recently scored a career-high .480 hitting percentage against Youngstown State.

Looking to shut down Akron’s offense, Kent State middle blockers Liva Brivule and Celia Sabo lead the Flashes with blocks. Sabo trails Brivule’s 106 blocks this season with 87. During Kent State’s last match against Akron, the Flashes out-blocked the Zips 18-6.

When the Flashes last faced Buffalo, they lost 3-1 to the Bulls on Buffalo’s home court. Buffalo currently holds third place in the MAC East.

Freshman libero Tori Beckman leads the Bulls with 444 digs, the most ever recorded by a Buffalo freshman. Junior setter Lindsey Schlegel also leads the Bulls with a season-high 957 assists and is fourth all-time at Buffalo with 2,819 career assists.

Leading Kent State’s defense, junior libero Kristen Barr has recorded 359 digs for the season and was recently named the MAC East defensive player of the week. Senior setter Jenny Keck, named the MAC East offensive player of the week in October, holds 558 assists and 111 digs.

The Flashes open the series of home games this weekend against Akron at 7 p.m. Friday in the M.A.C. Center.

An average week for a Kent State volleyball player consists of six practices and two games. On top of that, the team spends several hours going over film, scouting reports and new strategies.

Also, if games happen to be away, throw multiple-hour bus trips into the mix, and that’s a volleyball player’s schedule.

Most, if not all, Kent State athletes share this routine and are rarely seen doing much else. They do, however, have another important part of their daily schedules: class.

Although scholarships and the opportunity to play for a Division I team may have brought athletes to Kent State, the team’s players arrived on campus first and foremost to attend college.

All season, several days a week, athletes transition to students and try to balance homework and exams with volleyball. Junior libero Kristen Barr and junior middle blocker Celia Sabo said, in time, they adjusted to the workload.

“I literally every day am either in class, playing volleyball or sleeping,” Barr said. “You get used to it. It’s one of those things that come with being a varsity athlete, so I think you just learn to manage your time. You know when you can take time to maybe go watch a television show or something like that.”

“It’s what I look forward to every week,” Sabo added. “(Watching) The Hills.”

Barr and Sabo said their classes are either early in the morning or in the evening to fit around practice. Balancing practice and classes can be difficult

“You kind of just have to decide between what’s your priority at the time,” Sabo said. “If you have an exam, obviously that’s going to come first, but if it’s like homework and it’s during practice time, you’re not going to skip out on practice because that could cost you your spot.”

Barr said not having class on Fridays allows her to focus on games during weekends.

“Once it hits Thursday, because we usually play Friday (and) Saturday, I’m done with school,” Barr said. “I worry about that Saturday night after my game’s over.”

Barr and Sabo said Vasquez, along with an athletic academic adviser, help keep the team on track.

At the beginning of each semester, the team receives a 15-week grid filled with any homework, exams or projects due each week. Vasquez said the grid allows him to monitor the team’s progress.

“If they have a busy week we say ‘OK, how’s your week going this week? We saw you have two tests, are you all right?'” Vasquez said. “That way we’re able to monitor week by week and just kind of keep track.”

Vasquez said the team also has mandatory study hours, which several of them work on during bus rides. If the players keep their cumulative GPA above a certain point, they do not need to complete those hours.

Vasquez said the methods in place have pushed the volleyball team to have the second-highest cumulative GPA of all the sports teams.

“We have a system for our girls, as far as what their values are, and at the top of that is grades,” Vasquez said. “So, if anything is going to get subtracted from that, it’s volleyball, or you know, night life. Grades are the No. 1, so that’s how we keep it.”

Contact sports reporter Ashley Sepanski at [email protected].