Volleyball team hopes to ‘prevail’ in weekend opener

Josh Johnston

Junior Brianne Wille tips a ball toward freshman Lauren Simon and sophomore Kristen Barr during the Coach-on-Five drill Aug. 11. Daniel R. Doherty | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Senior Ashley Feutz wants only one thing out of her last season on Kent State’s volleyball team.

“I want a ring,” she said confidently. “I want that (Mid-American Conference) championship ring.”

The entire team seems to have that same confidence. On the whiteboard at practice, in their lockers and all over the locker room, “MAC Champs” is written to remind the women of their goal.

“Our season’s so long that you have to keep it in the back of your mind at all times,” Feutz said. “That’s ultimately the goal; it’s what we play for.”

Before the women can begin their quest for a MAC title, however, they must face competition from outside the league first. The Flashes play Colgate at 7 p.m. today for their first match of the season and first of three matches this weekend at the Colgate Classic in Hamilton, N.Y.

As the former coach at Army, Kent State coach Glen Conley has seen the Patriot League’s Colgate and its coach, Ryan Baker, before. Conley said the past experience should give Kent State a slight advantage.

“I know his team and the players he has,” Conley said. “That should help us.”

To prepare for the match, the women scrimmaged with the reserve team playing the part of Colgate’s offense and defense. Senior Krista Groce said the practices greatly benefit the team.

“We have a mental idea of what the other team might possibly do,” she said. “It’s really helpful with actually seeing it instead of watching it on film.”

Colgate, picked to finish third in the Patriot League, will most likely be Kent State’s toughest challenge this weekend. For the Flashes to win, Conley said the team will need to serve and pass well.

“It comes down to junior high volleyball,” he said. “If we’re passing well, we’ve got some hitters that are going to be able to do some damage. If we’re serving well enough, our block is really strong.”

Two hitters who will do some of that damage are Feutz and sophomore Lauren Jones. The team’s leading returner in kills, Feutz has racked up 953 kills in her career at Kent State. As a freshman, Jones finished third on the team in kills with 300.

Kent State also plays Boston College at 11 a.m. and West Virginia at 5 p.m. Saturday. Despite both teams being picked to finish low in their respective leagues, Conley said both matches should still be a good test for the Flashes.

Groce said the team will still have to come into every game “pumped.”

“We have to have high intensity when we play,” she said. “When we are intense and have lots of energy, we’re ready to go.”

Senior Vaiva Laniauskas said the team needs to work hard and work together.

“(It’s) doing what we set out to do,” she said, “so if we have a game plan, following the game plan and just working hard, being the scrappiest team out there.”

Although teamwork and intensity will help, Conley said what he really wants to see is wins.

“We’re always looking for wins,” he said. “I’m looking for wins every time we go out. That’s why we play the match is to win. That’s why our shirts say ‘Prevail.’

“We want to come away with 3 wins this weekend, and that’s the obvious focus. I think that should be the focus of every team going in there. That’s definitely our focus.”

Contact sports reporter Josh Johnston at [email protected].