Flashes can’t shake losing ways at home

Josh Johnston

Credit: DKS Editors

One by one, the Kent State volleyball team gradually left the locker room. The players headed straight for their waiting families and friends, exchanging a few quiet words and embracing in hugs. After suffering another loss Saturday night at the M.A.C. Center, the Flashes had little to say.

“We’re really frustrated,” sophomore outside hitter Lauren Jones said.

Those words could sum up the weekend for Kent State (13-10, 3-7 Mid-American Conference). The Flashes lost to Northern Illinois 3-1 after losing to Western Michigan by the same score the night before.

Passing and serving, which have been weaknesses this season for Kent State, continued to hurt the team. The Flashes missed 18 total serves this weekend, five more than their opponents.

“Serving is the one closed skill in volleyball,” senior defensive specialist Sarah Kaczuk said. “(Coach Glen Conley) always says we have to learn to have a great serve. Maybe if we had 10 errors and 10 aces – because we want to get a one-to-one ace-to-error ratio – then that might be a different story. It’s definitely a focus issue I think.”

Conley said the Flashes have been working on passing all year in practice. Although he said the ball handling improved against Northern Illinois, on-court trust issues are hurting the team.

“A lot of that is my fault because the lineup has changed so much,” he said. “We’ve had such inconsistency of play. That’s plagued us all year long. We’re going to try to get through that.

“The easy thing would be to say, ‘OK, we’re going to run the same lineup all year long.’ Lineups work when players play. There’s no need to get another player in the game when you’re winning.”

The Flashes need confidence and focus to improve their passing, Kaczuk said.

“I think right now there’s hesitation and miscommunication in passing,” she said. “We don’t have people being aggressive and talking like we should be. When we pass well, that’s what we do. We’re aggressive, we talk, we know our angles that we’re suppose to go and we just do it.”

While Kent State’s offense has suffered lately because of poor passing, it was the Flashes’ defense that disappointed Conley against Northern Illinois. Getting both the offense and defense to work on the same night is an issue of team chemistry, Conley said.

“It’s not like football where you’re able to say this group of players isn’t doing it,” he said. “This group of players is the offense and is the defense.

“It’s playing together, playing for each other. It’s like running a relay race in track. You always run faster when you’re running for somebody. Right now, we’ve got to keep running for each other.”

Except for the second set against Western Michigan when the Flashes survived four match points to win the set, Kent State failed to come back to win a set when down this weekend. Jones said the team needs to keep fighting in those situations.

“We have to go out there with the attitude and mentality that if they get a kill, we’re going to get a kill right back,” she said. “We’re just going to stay aggressive and positive and encourage each other.”

The Flashes walked out of the M.A.C. Center in disappointment twice this weekend. Conley said the women cannot stay frustrated with themselves if they want to win.

“Anytime that a team loses matches, they have a tendency to feel sorry for themselves,” he said. “That only gets you a hug from your mother. It’s not going to get you anything else. Nobody else is going to feel sorry for you. The teams you play certainly aren’t. … The only way to respond is to come out and fight.”

Contact sports reporter Josh Johnston at [email protected].