Volleyball misses last chance for MAC win

Josh Johnston

Losing streak reaches nine matches after defeat at EMU

Victories have taunted the Kent State volleyball team for the past month.

The Flashes, on an eight-match losing streak, saw a chance to win against Eastern Michigan on Saturday. After falling behind 2-0, Kent State rallied to force a fifth set at the Convocation Center in Ypsilanti, Mich.

However, winning eluded Kent State (13-16, 3-13 Mid-American Conference) again, in what has become a recurring story for the team: failing to finish.

“It was more heartbreaking,” junior middle blocker Lindsay Daniels said. “We just fight, and we had the opportunity, and we had it right there, and it just slipped out of our grasp.”

The Flashes lost to Ohio on Thursday and Miami last Saturday in close 3-0 matches. The loss against Eastern Michigan was Kent State’s last chance to improve its conference record before the MAC Tournament begins Tuesday.

Match Notes:

A different streak broken …<>

Kent State broke a streak of 20 straight lost sets by winning the third set against Eastern Michigan. The Flashes had not won a set since taking the first set against Northern Illinois on Oct. 25.

… But still nine in a row

With the loss, the Flashes finish the regular season with a nine-match losing streak. The last time Kent State lost nine in a row was 1994.

Never a day off

Sophomore outside hitter Lauren Jones was the only Kent State player to play all 106 sets in the regular season this year.

“Neither one of us (Kent State or Eastern Michigan) have won a game in the last month,” Daniels said, “and so it was a big push for both teams to try to grab that last game.”

In the first two sets combined, Eastern Michigan scored 30 kills with only five errors, compared to 26 kills with 13 errors by the Flashes. Kent State coach Glen Conley said his team wasn’t competing early, so he changed the lineup.

“The people who are going to compete are going to be on the court,” he said. “That’s what we need to do: find those people (and) make sure we reward them with playing time.

“If you’re going to fight, you’re going to earn a lot of bonus points if you can work through a lot of stuff.”

Daniels, who only played in 15 sets this season before Saturday, had a breakout match with five blocks and a .571 hitting percentage.

“I think it was great that (Conley) had the confidence in me to put me in when we were struggling, and I just kind of ran with it,” Daniels said. “We practiced hard every day in practice, and I just did what I had been practicing in practice all week.”

Junior outside hitter Tamy Leipelt, who had also seen limited playing time, notched 13 kills and two service aces.

“I was proud of the girls who were in there fighting,” Conley said. “At the end of the match – in games three, four and five – I thought we did a pretty good job. Some of the younger kids stepped in and played pretty well.”

The Flashes outhit the Eagles in sets three and four, but Eastern Michigan scored nine kills in the fifth set to close out the match.

“We let them run with a few points to go, and in a 15-point game, you can’t do that,” Daniels said about the fifth set. “It was tough; it was hard because we did fight back so much, and we wanted it so bad.”

With the loss, Kent State takes the 11th seed for the MAC Tournament. The Flashes will travel to DeKalb, Ill., to play No. 6 Northern Illinois at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Contact sports reporter Josh Johnston at [email protected].