Team uses swinging style offense to gain edge

Josh Johnston

Kent State volleyball coach Glen Conley admits his team is on the shorter side.

Most of his players stand at 6-foot or under. Matched up against Mid-American Conference opponents such as Ohio, which lists its shortest blocker at 6-foot-2-inches, the Flashes use speed to get around its taller competition.

“In every sport, if you’re faster than the other team and you have the same skills, you’re going to win,” Conley said.

To take advantage of its speed, Kent State uses a swing offense. Sophomore outside hitter Lauren Jones said the system allows hitters to attack on either the left or right side of the net. Conley compared it to running an option play in football where players improvise to trick the defense.

“You’re basically only limited by imagination and skill,” he said. “Our girls are very skilled, so it’s just a little bit of the imagination and getting comfortable with the offense.”

Before Conley arrived and instituted the new offense last season, Kent State had failed to post a winning season in four years. With the fast offense, the Flashes won 22 matches in 2007. So far this season, the team has quickly established themselves as possible MAC contenders with a 5-1 record.

Senior middle blocker Krista Groce said timing is crucial with the swing offense. Middle blockers have to be already in the air as the setter touches the ball, she said.

“(Timing) all comes with the ball,” Groce said. “Once the ball leaves (the passer) we’re watching that ball the entire time when it’s on our side of the net.”

Groce, who experienced both Conley’s and former coach Mora Kanim’s offenses, said she likes the new strategy more.

“We’re not as tall as some of the other teams,” she said, “so our fast offense sort of picks us up there with the other teams.”

In the MAC, Ohio is the closest team to running a fast offense. Ohio’s offense also takes advantage of its taller players, Conley said. In contrast, Miami relies on a slower, more powerful offense.

“I really don’t think that one is superior to the other,” he said. “If Miami tried to run our offense, it would not be to their strength, so it would work badly. If I tried to use Miami’s, it just wouldn’t work.

“That’s what sports is about. (It’s) trying to maximize your strength and minimize your weakness.”

Contact sports reporter Josh Johnston

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