Snapping a streak

Josh Johnston

Flashes end four game slide on road trip

It took two hours and 11 minutes.

It took five sets – including 29 ties and 13 lead changes.

It took five match points in the fifth set.

But finally at Worthen Arena in Muncie, Ind., the Kent State volleyball team snapped its four-match losing streak by defeating Ball State 3-2 Friday.

It took only 19 hours more, however, for Toledo to upset the Flashes 3-1.

Sloppy passing plagued Kent State (13-8, 3-5 Mid-American Conference) against Toledo, causing the offense to never find its typical fast rhythm. The Flashes committed five ball-handling errors and five serve reception errors.

“This day came totally down to the pass,” Kent State coach Glen Conley said. “When you don’t pass, you don’t even have a chance. Your passing breaks down and everything breaks down. There’s not much you can do.”

With Kent State unable to put together a quick offense, the Rockets’ defense dug up attack after attack by the Flashes. Toledo finished with 76 digs, with four players reaching for 10 or more digs.

“We wanted to attack their weaker blockers,” junior setter Katie Veatch said. “We also wanted to attack fast, and we got away from that. (Toledo) just sat back on their heels and dug everything, pretty much.”

Veatch said it wasn’t just passing that hurt the team, though.

Match Notes

&bull Stayin’ Alive: When the Flashes were down a set to Ball State, they responded with stiff defense – holding the Cardinals to a .081 hitting percentage in the second set and .000 in the fourth set.

&bull Stayin’ Alive, part 2: Ball State survived four match points against Kent State. The Cardinals notched three kills and a block to prolong the match.

&bull Back to high school: Because of renovations to Toledo’s Savage Hall, Kent State played the Rockets at St. Ursula Academy, a private, all-girls high school near the university’s campus.

“If one part of our game goes down, the rest of it has to pick up,” she said. “We’re not doing that. We have to pick up for our teammates, but we’re not doing that.”

Serving also created problems for the Flashes. Kent State missed 11 serves, its most since the Bowling Green match two weekends ago. Sophomore libero Kristen Barr made four service errors, her most in one match all season. In her eight previous matches, Barr had only missed a combined three serves.


Video by Randy Ziemnik | KentNewsNet

Against Ball State on Friday, Kent State made short, quick passes to its middle hitters to outpace the Cardinals’ defense. As a result, senior middle blocker Krista Groce recorded 12 kills and a team-leading .321 hitting percentage.

“It came down to us working hard,” Groce said. “We did not let anything drop without somebody hitting the floor. We just busted our butts, and I think that’s what won the game for us.”

The Flashes also hit six service aces against Ball State. Junior middle blocker Brianne Wille scored four aces for the team. Wille said Conley worked with her during practice last week to improve her serve.

Ball State won the first and third sets to force Kent State to come from behind twice during the match. Conley said he thought the Flashes showed a tremendous amount of heart and fight.

“I think we just decided to say we’re going to take some rips tonight and see what happens,” he said. “I have to give them a lot of credit for that because that’s exactly what the girls did.

“We were down two sets to one. We could have easily folded and been home by now, but they decided, ‘No, we’re here, and we’re going to play.'”

The win against the Cardinals marked the Flashes’ first victory in three weeks. Wille said coming together as a team helped break the losing skid.

“We’ve been playing individual-wise,” she said. “It just seems like when we all pull together, we seem to get it done.”

Despite the win over Ball State, splitting the weekend frustrated the Flashes.

“It’s always good to win one,” Veatch said, “but we obviously really felt like we should have come in and won (against Toledo). We’re definitely disappointed, and we’re just going to go in on Monday and work hard for the next weekend.”

Kent State will need to rebuild its confidence in its passing and ball-handling during practice this week, Conley said.

“Confidence is huge,” he said. “It’s not rocket science what we’re trying to do here. We’re not trying to put a man on the moon or anything like that. We’re playing volleyball – it’s really not that hard.”

Contact sports reporter Josh Johnston at [email protected].