Team hopes for better results

Josh Johnston

Flashes look to end losing streak tonight in first round at NIU

The regular season didn’t go the way the Kent State volleyball team expected.

Coming off of a semifinal finish at the Mid-American Conference tournament last year, the Flashes had hopes of contending for the title this season.

That was before they went 3-13 against conference opponents. Now, the Flashes (13-16) will enter their first MAC Tournament match tonight at Northern Illinois as the 11th seed out of 12.

“This is our shot,” Kent State coach Glen Conley said. “This is our chance to try and redeem a season that we were disappointed in.”

Being close to the bottom in the seeding doesn’t make a difference, senior middle blocker Krista Groce said.

“You can’t go into a match thinking, ‘Oh, we’re the underdogs,'” she said. “Even if we are, that’s more motivation for us to go out there and prove what we have.”

Northern Illinois beat the Flashes 3-1 when the teams met in the regular season on Oct. 25. Conley said the Huskies took advantage of poor blocking by Kent State in the win.

“We were running a 5-1 (offense) at the time, and our smaller setters were causing us some blocking matchup problems,” he said. “We’ll try to fix that (this time). We’ll try to get a little bigger lineup against them.”

Blocking the Huskies’ outside hitters will be important for the Flashes to stay competitive, Conley added. Northern Illinois’ attack is led by Meagan Schoenrock, who leads the MAC in kills per set.

“They’ve got a lot of power on the outsides,” Conley said. “(They’ve) got some good hitters. Schoenrock is one of the best hitters in the conference. They’re going to use her pretty well.”

Kent State will come into the match tonight with a nine-match losing streak. The Flashes haven’t won in more than a month, but Groce said anything is possible in the tournament.

“When the MAC Tournament comes around, all sorts of things happen,” she said. “Obviously you have the standings during the season, but anything could happen at this point.”

Even though Northern Illinois holds the sixth seed, Conley said he thinks Kent State will put up a good match.

“It should be a competitive match,” he said. “We want to show up, compete hard and play to the best of our abilities and see what happens.”

Contact sports reporter Josh Johnston at [email protected].