Volleyball to take on MAC East rival Ohio

Josh Johnston

Teams tied coming into today’s match

The Kent State volleyball team and Ohio’s volleyball team resemble each other these days.

Both teams are led by coaches relatively new to the Mid-American Conference, second-year Kent State coach Glen Conley and first-year Ohio coach Ryan Theis. Both teams are 2-2 in the MAC after beating Buffalo and Akron at home and then losing to Miami and Bowling Green on the road. Both teams lost to Bowling Green in five sets and were swept by Miami last weekend.

But go back to before this season, and the similarities end.

Ohio held a 64-match winning streak in the MAC before losing to Miami twice last season. The Bobcats have taken the last 13 matches against Kent State.

So when the Flashes (12-5, 2-2 MAC) meet the Bobcats at 7 p.m. in the M.A.C. Center, Kent State will look to beat Ohio for the first time since 2002.

“My first four years here, (Ohio was) the team in the MAC,” senior outside hitter Ashley Feutz said. “Our side of the conference is really strong in general. There’s four teams who are big contenders. So that’s kind of fun that this year we can (beat them). It’s our game.”

Until last year, when Kent State lost 3-1 to Ohio in the MAC Tournament semifinals, the Flashes had not even won a set against the Bobcats in four years. Still, Feutz said she thinks the team has the ability to win this season.

“I think there’s competence behind our confidence this year,” she said, “whereas before when we went into it, we were like, ‘Oh yeah, we’re going to beat Ohio.’ This year, what we’ve learned and what we’ve done so far will give us the competence.”

Kent State will have to recover from two frustrating losses last weekend to compete well, Conley said.

“We, as a team, are disappointed in ourselves,” he said. “We didn’t lose (last) weekend because of one, two or three people; this was everybody, the coaching staff, the players. It was just a frustrating time, but I don’t see anybody down in the mouth or feeling sorry for themselves.”

The Flashes are still optimistic about this weekend. Feutz said the two losses only made the team more primed for Ohio.

“Our fight is up,” she said. “We realized (last) weekend that we’re a team, but we’re not the team we thought we were. So we want to be that team by (tonight).”

Kent State will have to improve its blocking to contain Ohio’s spread-out offense. Four players for the Bobcats have registered more than 100 kills this season. The Flashes only recorded three blocks during the five-set match against Bowling Green last weekend.

“(Ohio has) some big hitters,” Feutz said, “some girls who can put a ball down. If we can put some hands in their faces, that’ll be a big advantage to us.”

Junior Ellen Herman leads the Bobcats’ offense with 218 kills, but Conley said the Flashes will have to keep tabs on the entire team.

“They’ve got so many weapons that if you focus on one, they’ve got three or four that can hurt you at once,” he said. “So we’re just looking at them on a whole and trying to come up with a good game plan for them as a team.”

Whether Kent State moves ahead of Ohio tonight in the MAC East standings will depend on the Flashes’ focus and fight, Feutz said.

“We have to go out there and leave everything on the floor,” she said. “We have to have no regrets when the game’s done. If we do that, then there’s no doubt in my mind that we will win. We’ll kill them.”

Contact sports reporter Josh Johston at [email protected].