Seniors look to tell a ‘Cinderella’ story as dissapointing year ends

Josh Johnston

After unlikely path volleyball seniors reflect on careers

Ashley Feutz and Vaiva Laniauskas joined Kent State’s volleyball team five years ago with three other freshmen. The two redshirted their first year.

Krista Groce stands alone as the only true senior on the team. Her only classmate, Lindsay Daniels, redshirted her freshman year.

Sarah Kaczuk tried out and made the team last year after transferring from Ashland. She’s only a junior in eligibility.

Four women. Three different classes. Yet they still make up the volleyball team’s senior class.

“When it comes to being a class, we are the senior class,” Groce said. “That doesn’t make a difference. It is sort of funny; we do have a mix.”

On Saturday before the Miami match, the Flashes honored their seniors – from the fifth years to the walk-ons.

Groce said it was hard to believe her senior year is almost over with.

“It’s shocking that it’s already here,” she said. “This season I’ve just been taking every moment for what it is and cherishing it. It’s difficult to think that it’s actually going to be over. Usually, we’ve always had the chance to say, ‘I have one more season.’ That doesn’t happen anymore.”

Laniauskas agreed. After watching four previous classes graduate, including her classmates last year, her turn to leave will be “weird.”

“It’s sad because a lot of times you only see (alumni) on Alumni Weekend, or you only see them when they come back once,” she said. “It’s very weird to say goodbye and start life.”

For Laniauskas and Feutz, some of their best memories come from their original freshman class, or the “Freshie Five.”

“Freshie Five is amazing,” Feutz said. “They’re my four best friends. It’s pretty amazing the fact that one is from Germany, one is Lithuanian and the other is Slovenian. When I saw their names, I was like: ‘What the heck am I getting myself into? Vaiva? Who names their kid that?'”

The Freshie Five consisted of Anja Knabe-Paulsen, Anne Zakelj and Laura Jensen along with Feutz and Laniauskas. Watching three of the five graduate last season was tough, Laniauskas said.

“Last year’s senior night was horrible,” she said. “We were crying and it was sad, but we knew that they were sticking around at school – except for Anja, she went back to Germany.”

Groce and Kaczuk called last season’s Mid-American Conference tournament their favorite memory.

“It was the first time I had had the chance to get to the tournament,” Groce said. “The previous years we did not win our play-in match. Just getting to the tournament, kicking BG’s butt, and then playing OU. We ended up losing, but it was just a great end point in the season.”

The four seniors came into their final season looking to lead their team to a MAC Tournament Championship title. More than two months later though, the Flashes are tied for second to last in the MAC. Still, the seniors haven’t given up hope.

“Even though we might not get a high seed (for the tournament), I mean, Cinderella stories happen,” Feutz said after Kent State’s loss to Miami this weekend. “We’re not a Cinderella story, but you want to go into the MAC Tournament with all that you have.”

Contact sports reporter Josh Johnston at [email protected].