Volleyball team gets first win of season

Ashley Sepanski

Victory ends record 18-match losing skid

The Kent State volleyball team started the season 0-7, recording the worst losing streak in program history that dated back to last year. Against Cornell on Saturday, the Flashes put an end to an 18-match drought, winning the team’s first match since defeating Ball State on Oct. 17, 2008.

After losing to George Mason and Morehead State in their first two matches of the Patriot Invitational in Fairfax, Va., the Flashes shut out the Big Red in three sets, 25-18, 25-20 and 25-13.

“We needed to win,” Kent State coach Glen Conley said with a sigh of relief. “The girls really wanted it.”

Conley said hard practices, new recruits, tough teams and a stretch of away games led to Kent State’s victory over Cornell. He said the Flashes were determined and focused to put the game away.

Senior outside hitter Arjola Prenga starred in the match against Cornell, leading the team with an average of seven kills per set and 43 total kills for the weekend. The two matches Kent State played Saturday against Morehead State and Cornell were Prenga’s first of the season. After the tournament, she was named to the Patriot Invitational all-tournament team.

“I feel really good about how I played this weekend,” Prenga said. “But my team helped me. I have to thank my teammates and my coaches.”

Also leading the team was junior libero Kristen Barr, who recorded 18 digs during the match against Cornell and 56 total digs for the tournament. Sophomore middle blocker Liva Brivule finished with 15 blocks at the invitational.

Prenga said the Flashes played well during the tournament but didn’t see the results in the first two matches. She said the team has spent the season getting comfortable and needs to be more confident.

Conley said Kent State could have and should have taken the whole invitational.

“The first two matches were frustrating,” Conley said. “I believe we have a better team and could have won.”

Earlier in the tournament, Kent State led its first two matches 2-0 against both Morehead State and George Mason before losing in five sets. Saturday, Morehead State came back to win the third and fourth sets 25-21 and finished off the fifth set 15-6.

After the Flashes gained a 2-0 lead against George Mason Friday, the Patriots regained control in the third set. With the Flashes up 24-22, George Mason rallied for four points to take the set. George Mason continued the momentum for two more sets to finish the match 25-16 and 15-11.

Despite their earlier losses, Conley said the Flashes were happy to win their first game of the season.

“We’re getting home late so I don’t know if we’ll go out and celebrate,” Conley said. “But, we’re very happy.”

Prenga said regardless of the team’s excitement, Kent State plans to stay focused.

“We have more important games to worry about,” Prenga said. “I don’t need to (celebrate). I have my teammates, they are my family.”

The Flashes will next travel to Dayton on Friday to play in the Raider Challenge hosted by Wright State. The Flashes will face off against St. Peter’s on Friday and face Evansville and Wright State on Saturday.

“We are going to play good this weekend,” Prenga said. “We hope to win again.”

Contact sports reporter Ashley Sepanski at [email protected].