Flashes take Bulls by the horns

Doug Gulasy

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The Kent State volleyball team fought all season to get a first-round bye in the Mid-American Conference Tournament, but fell just short.

In the end, missing out didn’t even really matter.

The Flashes (21-9) defeated Buffalo 3-0 last night at the M.A.C. Center in the first round of the MAC Tournament, advancing themselves to the tournament quarterfinals.

“We were on,” Kent State coach Glen Conley said. “The girls were looking forward to this; it’s the first round of the playoffs, and that’s what we’ve been shooting for all year long. They were ready, they brought their ‘A’ game, and it showed.”

The Flashes made winning the match look easy, defeating the Bulls in the individual games by scores of 30-19, 30-11 and 30-14.

Kent State committed just eight hitting errors for the night, had a hitting percentage of .420 and held the Bulls to a hitting percentage of .075.

The Flashes had better statistics in all three of those categories in just one match this season: a 3-0 victory at St. Francis on Aug. 26.

A five-point span in the third game illustrated what senior Anne Zakelj called dominant play by the Flashes.

With the Flashes leading 14-10 and Buffalo serving, Flashes sophomore Lindsay Daniels recorded a kill.

After the Bulls committed an error, freshman Lauren Jones and junior Ashley Feutz got kills of their own, with Jones’ kill deflecting off the head of a Buffalo player. Finally, Jones blocked a Buffalo kill attempt.

In just five plays, a slimmer four-point lead had become a wide nine-point margin, and the Bulls couldn’t recover.

“Everyone was just on the same track,” Zakelj said. “Nothing can stop us when we’re on the same track.”

Three players had double-digit kills for the Flashes: senior Anja Knabe-Paulsen, Zakelj and Jones. Feutz added nine of her own.

With the victory, the Flashes advance to the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament, where they will play Bowling Green at 5 p.m. Friday at the SeaGate Convention Centre in Toledo.

The teams split their meetings this season, with the Flashes winning 3-1 at the M.A.C. Center on Sept. 28 and Bowling Green winning the rematch 3-2 on its home court Nov. 3.

“We feel like we match up well against them,” Conley said. “It’s going to be on a neutral floor; we’ve played very well on neutral floors all year long. We’re excited about it. We’re going to keep our same routines and just go out and play another match and try to play it great.”

Zakelj expects another tight match between the two teams.

“It’s going to be back and forth,” she said. “We want to just win most of them – get the majority and we’re good to go.”

Even though the team didn’t get the bye it had wanted all season, Conley said the team took playing last night as a positive rather than a negative.

“It’s a match situation, so you get the jitters, and you still have the same excitement and all the energy that you wouldn’t have in a practice,” he said. “So it gives us another good tune-up going into the playoffs.”

Contact volleyball reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected]