Bobcats too much for Flashes

Doug Gulasy

Sophomore setter Jenny Keck sets junior middle blocker Krista Groce up for a spike in the match last night. Heather Stawicki | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Ron Soltys

The Ohio Bobcats are ranked 21st in the country and have lost just one conference match since the last presidential election.

Last night, they showed the Kent State volleyball team why.

Ohio (12-4, 4-1 Mid-American Conference) defeated the Flashes 3-0 at the M.A.C. Center. The victory put the Bobcats by themselves in first place in the MAC East and gave the Flashes their second consecutive loss.

“You put everything into (the match), and (losing) just feels like a kick in the gut,” Kent State coach Glen Conley said. “When you see the team fight as hard as they fought and you see the effort that they put forth, you hurt for them as well.”

The 3-0 score may make the match look like a blowout, but the Flashes held leads in all three games, and each one was decided by single digits — an improvement over last season, when the Bobcats won games with scores of 30-14, 30-17 and 30-19.

Senior Anja Knabe-Paulsen believes the Flashes are more capable of beating the Bobcats than they were last season.

“Last year was like OU was the team you always almost looked up to,” she said. “You were like, ‘Oh, they’re undefeated.’ But this year, they are so beatable. We can beat them, and we fought so hard tonight. It was just little mistakes we did (that caused the loss).”

Knabe-Paulsen said such mistakes included being in the net and making ball-handling errors.

“(Ball-handling errors) should be almost close to zero,” she said. “We had a couple of those, and the games were not that far apart from each other. So if we had those points back …”

Another area where the Flashes made mistakes was serving. The team had 11 service errors on the night.

Conley said the errors came from the fact that he wanted the team to “serve tough” to counteract the strengths of the Ohio offense.

“They’re hitting .300 and something on the year, and that’s like a batting average,” he said. “So when you have a team hitting over .300, you’ve got to do something. So like pitching, we’d rather walk them sometimes than let them take a swing at a ball.

“We felt like our only chance was to serve tough … that was a strategy we had, and if you’re going to serve tough, you have to accept some service errors.”

Ohio took the first game from the Flashes by a score of 30-25. One of the reasons was the Bobcats’ blocking — Ohio had six blocks in game one.

“They did a nice job (blocking) in that first game,” Conley said. “I think we made some adjustments as the match went on, and we started hitting a little bit better, but we had some holes to hit to and we didn’t hit to them.”

In the second game, Ohio took an early 8-1 lead, and the closest the Flashes could come was within three points. The Bobcats took the game, 30-23.

Still, Conley said the team didn’t give up and he was proud of the way the team continued to fight, even as Ohio clinched the match with a 30-26 victory in game three.

“I told them that I’m just really proud of the way we fought, and that’s what we need to do,” he said. “We need to come out and fight like that every match.”

The next chance for the Flashes to fight will be tomorrow, when the team travels to play Central Michigan.

Knabe-Paulsen said the team would be ready to play the Chippewas after the loss to Ohio.

“This will just make us more hungry,” she said. “(After) a loss, you always want to bounce back, and you just want to fight harder.”

Contact sports reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected].