KSU is learning how to drive

Josh Johnston

The volleyball team works to end four match losing streak

Kent State volleyball coach Glen Conley sees his position as like a father teaching his child how to drive. He’s not the one in the driver’s seat, but he needs to make sure the new driver is doing everything right.

“When you first get in the car,” Conley said, “you make sure they check the mirrors, you make sure that the tire pressure’s checked, the oil gauge. It’s a simplistic approach to it, but you make sure everything’s fine.”

So when the new driver becomes more comfortable behind the wheel – or starts the season at 12-3 – the driving instructor sits back.

“You figure, ‘Hey, they know pretty much what they’re doing,'” Conley said. “So I quit checking to see if they’re checking their mirrors, to see if they’re checking this, to see if they’re checking that.”

And then the crash happens.

The Kent State volleyball team loses four straight Mid-American Conference matches.

“I think we sort of hit a tree,” Conley said. “Maybe we were backing up and backed over the cat. It happened on my watch as the driver’s ed guy. I think it’s my fault that I didn’t hold the team to its standards that we have set here.”

The troubles began two weekends ago when Kent State traveled to defending MAC Tournament champion Miami. The Redhawks soundly beat the Flashes in three sets. The team then lost a five-set match at Bowling Green.

The Flashes returned to the M.A.C. Center this past weekend, only to be swept by Ohio and beat by Central Michigan.

Kent State finished non-conference play at 10-3, but six matches into the MAC season, the Flashes are 2-4 and fourth in the MAC East.


&bull Record: 5-1

&bull Winning percentage: .833

&bull Hitting percentage: .276

&bull Kills: 252

&bull Errors: 78

&bull Opponent hitting percentage: .077

&bull Reception errors: 9


&bull Record: 5-1

&bull Record: 2-4

&bull Winning percentage: .333

&bull Hitting percentage: .218

&bull Kills: 258

&bull Errors: 105

&bull Opponent hitting percentage: .235

&bull Reception errors: 17

“We played a stronger non-conference season than we did last season, and we were doing better in the MAC,” he said. “I think we’ve just hit a rough spot where we’ve lost a couple of matches that we felt we’d be more competitive in, and that had an effect mentally I think.”

Conley said the Flashes’ main problem is with passing. In six MAC matches, Kent State has racked up 17 reception errors, including six against Central Michigan on Saturday. In their final six non-conference matches, the Flashes made nine reception errors.

“If we get the passing back on track,” Conley said, “the offense will click, the confidence will come and things will just start to run a little smoother.”

Monday during practice, Kent State was already addressing the passing problems. Spread across two courts, the players focused on getting the ball to the setter. The setters worked on placing the ball for the hitters. Freshman setter Lauren Simon’s hands were taped together to stress hand placement.

“(Practices have) been more intense,” sophomore outside hitter Lauren Jones said. “Again, we’re getting back to what we have been doing because we kind of got away from that. They’re more intense, but it’s a good intense – it’s not bad.”

The Flashes still have hopes for a MAC title, but they realize they’re in a must-win situation.

“We have to go out there with the attitude that we’re going to win,” Jones said. “If you go in there like, ‘Eh, I don’t know,’ then you’re definitely not going to (win). We have to go into every single game expecting to win, expecting to put balls away that we need to and making plays.”

Conley said he views the next four matches, all against MAC West opponents, as crucial. However, he does know something about midseason turnarounds. As the coach at Army in 2001, his team started out 3-7 before winning 10 of its last 13 conference matches and making it to the Patriot League tournament championship match.

“We’re pretty much in the playoffs,” Conley said. “You can’t look at it any other way. To get where we would like to be, we need to start stringing some good matches together and getting some W’s.”

The team needs to return to the way it played in the early season, Jones said.

“We’re always talking of high intensity,” she said. “We’re always going after balls – nothing hits the ground. We’re running the plays properly. That kind of stuff is what we’re about, and we haven’t been executing that stuff.”

To do all that and avoid any more crashes, the Flashes will have to focus on all the things they’ve let slide, Conley said.

“We just have to make sure we get back to checking all the mirrors and doing all that stuff so our insurance rates don’t go crazy,” he said.

Contact sports reporter Josh Johnston at [email protected].