Volleyball calls for ‘White Out’ against nationally-ranked Ohio

Doug Gulasy

If the Kent State volleyball team hopes to bounce back from its first Mid-American Conference loss of the season, the Flashes will have to do what just one MAC team has done since 2003 – beat Ohio.

The Flashes will host the nationally-ranked Bobcats tomorrow at 7 p.m. in the M.A.C. Center in a battle between two teams tied for first place in the MAC East Division.

“Obviously it’s a big match just because they’re so good,” Kent State coach Glen Conley said. “Everybody shoots for Ohio and wants to beat them, but it’s a conference match just like the others have been.

“As far as magnitude goes, that’s how we’re approaching it. We’re not looking at it as – this is definitely not a do-or-die match or anything like that – but, yeah, it’s big.”

Ohio comes into the match ranked 21st in the country. The Bobcats have won the past four MAC championships and have been ranked in the CSTV/American Volleyball Coaches Association Division I Coaches Top 25 Poll for 34 straight weeks, dating back to 2005.

“To beat them, since they’ve dominated the MAC the past few years…and also, to beat a top-25 team, would say a lot for Kent,” sophomore Katie Veatch said.

The Bobcats enter the match finding themselves in unfamiliar territory – with a loss in conference play.

Miami snapped Ohio’s 64-match MAC winning streak when the Redhawks defeated the Bobcats 3-1 Friday.

“We have always known that if we play how we know we’re capable of, we can beat them,” Veatch said. “We can beat OU – we’ve thought that from the beginning of the season – but it’s nice to see that they’re human.”

While the Bobcats are human, they play well enough at times to seem more than that. Ohio leads the MAC in hitting percentage – Bobcats players account for the entire top five individual leaders in that category – and ranks second in assists and kills.

Conley called Ohio’s statistics “very impressive.”

“They are so strong, and they run an offense very close to what we run,” he said. “They run a very fast offense – they try to keep it fast-paced … they pass well. When you have a team passing well and running a fast offense, (it’s) very difficult to get them out of system.”

Conley said the Bobcats didn’t have many weaknesses his team could exploit but said he could try to use some of Ohio’s strengths against it.

“(It’s) sort of like the Asian principles of those martial arts things,” he said. “You use the people’s strength against them, and sometimes that’s what you have to try to do.”

One strength Ohio has when it plays at home is a large crowd – the attendance at the Bobcats’ match against Bowling Green was 3,689.

In the hopes of having such a crowd for this match, a “White Out Night” promotion is planned. Fans are being asked to come to the match wearing white.

Junior captain Vaiva Laniauskas said crowds “are definitely an advantage.”

“They pump you up,” she said. “You come out, you have a big crowd, your intensity is running high, you’re very focused on the game. You want to win even more if people are in front of you.”

There could be another motivation for the Flashes to win. Ohio has defeated the Flashes in the teams’ last 10 meetings, and Laniauskas wants that to change.

“We both have the hunger to win,” Laniauskas said. “I think we might be just a little bit more (hungry) because we are sick of losing, and we have changed this program completely this year. I think we have the want to win more than OU does.”

Contact volleyball reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected]