Home sweet home: Volleyball opens homestand after four-straight road wins

Ashley Sepanski

Kent State hosts 4-team tourney

Three long weeks on the road have temporarily come to an end for the Kent State volleyball team. The Flashes take the stage for their first homestand by hosting the Kent State Mizuno Open this weekend.

“We’re very excited to be home,” junior outside hitter Lauren Jones said.

After losing seven-straight matches to start the season, the Flashes finally saw a turnaround three weeks into the season at the Patriot Invitational. The Flashes shut out Cornell in the last match of the invite and have been winning matches ever since. Kent State’s record now stands 4-7, and it hopes to capture more wins over the weekend.

“We’ve been working really hard,” Jones said. “It feels good to have it finally pay off. We definitely want to keep it up.”

The team practices essentially every day, even during tournaments. Whenever the team has a break between matches, they practice.

“We schedule class around practice,” junior libero Kristen Barr said, explaining why most of the team would have to miss Tuesday’s pep rally. “Most of us will be in class (at night).”

The Flashes dedication to improve has only boosted spirits despite the tough workload.

“It’s hard to keep up your energy,” Jones said, “but you have to. You have to make yourself crazy. You can’t get down. You just have to get over it.”

Kent State coach Glen Conley said the entire team has remained focused and is eager for the home tournament.

“We need the same dedication (as the first weekend),” Conley said. “We’ve worked hard, and hopefully it will pay off. We’re all excited for the home games.”

Barr said she thinks the Flashes are a great team and expect to rack up some wins this weekend.

“We’ve always meshed and had chemistry,” Barr said. “We just had different systems, and it took time to get it down to a T.”

Besides the excitement of getting off the road, the Flashes look forward to a family reunion during the tournament.

Jones said the gym will be full of the team’s family members this weekend. Jones’ family is driving nine hours to support the Flashes.

“All the families should be here,” Jones said. “I’m from Wisconsin, so only my parents are coming, but (Barr) has more people coming.”

Barr said she expects her parents, cousin, sister and uncle to attend. Barr’s family will travel two hours to watch her play.

The Flashes open the tournament at 11 a.m. today with a match against Robert Morris followed by Utah State at 7 p.m. The Colonials are 2-14 for the season while Utah State is 6-3.

Last weekend, the Aggies swept the 2009 Fiesta Bowl Tournament hosted by Northern Arizona, 3-0. Sophomore outside hitter Liz McArthur was named MVP at the tournament and is also ranked second in the Western Athletic Conference in both kills and points.

The Flashes will conclude the tournament tomorrow with a match against Butler at 2 p.m. According to NCAA statistics, Butler is one of the nation’s top-ranked hitting and setting teams.

Junior outside hitter Jessica Wolfe is currently seventh in the nation for both kills and points per set.

Barr said the team is hopeful that Kent State fans will fill the M.A.C. Center this weekend.

“It would be great to have a packed gym,” Barr said. “We just hope people come out and support us.”

Contact sports reporter Ashley Sepanski at [email protected].