First place ranking short-lived for Kent volleyball

Doug Gulasy

Senior Anne Zakelj celebrates with other teammates during Friday’s game against Bowling Green. The team beat Bowling Green 3-1 but fell to Miami University 0-3 on Saturday. PHOTOS BY GAVIN JACKSON | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Dan Kloock

The Kent State volleyball team had sole possession of first place in the Mid-American Conference East Division after defeating Bowling Green on Friday night.

That lead would last less than 24 hours as Miami came into the MAC Center and defeated the Flashes 3-0 Saturday night.

“I felt like we were flat pretty much the whole day (Saturday),” coach Glen Conley said. “That’s my fault as a coach. We weren’t prepared to come out and play that, and I’ve just got to do a better job of preparing us.”

Preparation didn’t seem to be a major factor in Friday’s match, as the Flashes beat Bowling Green 3-1 in what Conley called a “pretty consistent” match from his team’s standpoint.

“We did some good things offensively,” he said. “We passed the ball well, we were aggressive in our serving and that paid off. It kept them out of system, so they weren’t able to run what they wanted to run.”

The only time the Flashes lost to Bowling Green was the second game, when the Falcons took an early 17-7 lead. The Flashes managed to cut the lead to two, but eventually lost 30-26.

Even though the team lost game two, senior Anne Zakelj said that the near-comeback was “definitely big.”

“That was more to show that we’re not giving up without a fight,” she said. “Regardless (of) what goes on, we’re just going to play all out and you’re going to have to play well to beat us, if you think you have a chance.”

The Flashes responded to the loss in the second game by defeating Bowling Green 30-24 in game three and finishing off the Falcons with a 30-25 victory in the fourth game.

Miami defeated Ohio on Friday, ending the Bobcats’ 47-match winning streak at home and 64-match MAC winning streak. Miami’s victory — coupled with Kent’s own — put the Flashes all by themselves in first place in the MAC East.

That would change the next day.

Before the match even began, the M.A.C. Center announcer told the crowd that the Kent State football team had defeated Ohio, resulting in a loud cheer.

Kent State fans didn’t have much to cheer about in the first match. Miami took the lead for good at 11-10 and won the game 30-25.

Lack of preparation might have been an issue for the Flashes. Zakelj said the team had focused more on Bowling Green than Miami in practice before the matches.

“(Bowling Green) was our big game,” Zakelj said. “Miami — it slipped through our fingers.”

That, along with what Conley called “flat play” from the team’s blocking and passing, made the match difficult for the Flashes.

“We did not block well at all, and we were spraying balls all over,” Conley said. “It was almost like our block was doing them more good than it was us (Saturday) night. They were hitting hard into the block, and we were just ricocheting balls all over the gym. So our defense really didn’t have a chance to do a whole heck of a lot because the block was set up so poorly.

“Passing-wise, we just weren’t able to get into our offense, so you can’t neutralize what they’re doing against our block. It just sort of fed into each other, and the result’s an ugly result.”

The result could have been prettier had the team not lost a late lead in the second game. The Flashes led 29-27 and were serving with game point, but Miami scored four consecutive points to win the game.

Conley said the match would have “maybe a different outcome” if the Flashes had won the second game.

“(Winning the second game) gives Miami a lot of momentum because it gives them a lot of breathing room,” he said. “What happens in those situations — when you go up 2-0, you can take a few more chances, and that’s what Miami did. They came out in game three, very aggressive, serving and so forth because they had nothing to lose … They’ve got three games in order to win one, whereas we’ve pretty much got to nail it down.”

Miami never trailed in the third game, winning 30-26 to finish off the three-game sweep. The Redhawks’ victory put them in a three-way tie for first place in the MAC East with Ohio and the Flashes.

Meanwhile, the Flashes will try to become the second team to defeat 17th-ranked Ohio when the Bobcats come to the M.A.C. Center on Thursday at 7 p.m.

Zakelj said the team would be focused against the Bobcats.

“It’s going to be a focused, intense (team) and nobody’s going to be screwing around,” she said. “We’re there for business, and it’s going to get done. No matter how it needs to get done, it’s going to happen, and we’re going to be ready for OU.”

Contact volleyball reporter

Doug Gulasy at [email protected].