Volleyball rallies for seventh straight win, tournament title

Ashley Sepanski

Improved blocking leads Flashes to three weekend wins in first home matches

Watch the volleyball team in action.

There were a few close calls, but the Kent State volleyball team refused to give up its winning streak.

The Flashes swept their home tournament this weekend, a first for the team under coach Glen Conley, evening out their season record to 7-7.

The Flashes faced Utah State on Friday and lost the first two sets, 25-21 and 25-16, before seizing a come from behind victory in the final three sets, 25-22, 25-16 and 15-11.

The following match Saturday morning against Butler had a similar five-set struggle. After taking the first set 25-15, Kent State fell 25-18 and 25-19 in the next two.

The Flashes reversed the score in the next set to win 25-19 and claimed the match in the fifth after a series of close rallies. After a timeout called by Butler with Kent State up 12-9, the Bulldogs fought back to tie the Flashes, 13-13. Junior middle blocker Ceila Sabo and sophomore right side Liva Brivule made back-to-back kills to take the match for the Flashes.

“Butler is a very, very good team,” Conley said. “They responded. Butler made some very good adjustments, and it took us a while to pick up on those adjustments.”

Kent State shut out Robert Morris on Friday in the opening match of the tournament.

Conley said taking risks and being determined tipped the scale. The team also focused on serving tough and triple blocking during the weekend.

“Even though we missed serves, we actually think we served very well this weekend,” Conley said. “We’re trying to serve strong and that means taking more risks.”

Kent State finished in the negatives on the weekend with serving, making 21 errors to 14 aces.

In defense, the Flashes had three players blocking at a time instead of two for most of the tournament.

“We showed (the players) the statistics,” Conley said. “We made a lot of errors in the first two games (against Utah State), so I think the focus for us is that the girls knew that. They said ‘Lets clean it up, lets start tripling.'”

The triple blocking continued against Butler after the Flashes totaled 16.5 team blocks in the match against Utah State.

Junior outside hitter Lauren Jones said the team also played each set five points at a time to stay focused and keep up energy.

“We try to have that intensity right from the start,” Jones said. “Sometimes we get away from it, but we try to stay positive.

“Everyone makes mistakes. We’re just trying to get over it and focus on the next point.”

Conley said team determination and confidence helped seal the win.

“I think the team is starting to believe in themselves,” Conley said. “Young teams have to learn to believe in themselves.”

Sabo said the team was resolved to win.

“Before the fourth game (against Utah State), (Kristen) Barr told us whatever happens just laugh about it,” Sabo said. “It helps us stay positive, and you can’t get down about stuff.

“For me, I don’t ever want anyone to beat me in my own gym.”

Senior outside hitter Arjola Prenga, along with Jones and freshman outside hitter Meredith Paskert, was named to the all-tournament team.

Kent State will hope to keep its winning streak alive this week as it begins conference play with a match against Ohio at 7 p.m. The Bobcats have defeated the Flashes in their last 15 meetings.

“I think there’s another level (for the team),” Conley said. “We’re working to get there.”

Contact sports reporter Ashley Sepanski at [email protected]