Volleyball season ends in semifinals

Doug Gulasy

It had to end sometime.

The Kent State volleyball team lost to Ohio 3-1 in the semifinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament on Saturday night at the SeaGate Convention Centre in Toledo, ending its season.

“We did the best we could, and we just fell a little bit short,” Kent State volleyball coach Glen Conley said. “But at no point did anybody quit, (and) at no point did anybody look as though they were going to back down. We were in their face all night long. We took their best shot, and we almost overcame it.”

After the Flashes (22-10) defeated Bowling Green 3-0 in a dominant performance in the tournament quarterfinals Friday, Conley said his team was eager to have a shot at Ohio.

“OU is just a great team — obviously, 15th in the country,” he said. “They just skunked us when we were down there (in a 3-0 loss Nov. 8), and we were embarrassed by that. We’re going to try to see what we can do (Saturday).”

The Flashes didn’t get skunked Saturday night. After Ohio won the first game 30-24, the Flashes won game two 30-26. Kent State last won a game against the Bobcats in 2003 — since then, Ohio had won every meeting by a 3-0 score.

Ohio took the match by outscoring the Flashes 30-20 in game three and 30-26 in the fourth and deciding game.

Conley said Ohio senior Melissa Griffin made the difference in the match. Griffin, who was named MAC Player of the Year on Thursday, had 27 kills to lead the Bobcats to victory.

“(Saturday), it came down to this: They had one player who was better than anybody on the court, and that was Griffin,” Conley said. “We couldn’t stop her — we didn’t have an answer for what she was doing. We certainly tried.

” … In the end, they were one player too much for us, and that’s why that girl is the Player of the Year in the conference.”

Still, Conley said he “couldn’t be more proud of the girls” on his team for the way they competed in the tournament and throughout the season.

“This is a special group, and they have such a desire to win and to improve,” he said. “That carried them through. No matter what happened — if there were setbacks or disappointments along the way — they were able to look forward instead of look back.”

Conley said “it shows a lot about them as people” that they came into this season with confidence that the team could do better than last season, when the Flashes lost their last seven matches to finish 13-16.

This season, the team came one victory short of tying the program record for wins in a season. That mark, however, came in 1980, when the Flashes played 44 matches. This year’s team played just 32.

While this year’s team didn’t improve its fourth-place standing in the MAC East, that was mainly because the three teams above them — Ohio, Miami and Bowling Green — had 15-1, 13-3 and 12-4 MAC records, respectively. The Flashes tied a program record with 11 MAC wins.

Conley believes his team is ready to take the next step: becoming a consistent contender for MAC titles. After a weekend that saw the Flashes defeat Bowling Green by game scores of 30-25, 30-26 and 30-22 and give Ohio a run for its money, it could be tough to argue with him.

“I really think that we’re in a position right now to become one of the top teams in the MAC, year in and year out,” Conley said. “That’s certainly going to be our goal — that’s the program goal. I know that’s what this particular team wants, and I believe we are ready to take that step. This is going to be an exciting spring and summer to prepare for next season.”

Contact volleyball reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected].