‘Big weekend’ pushes volleyball up leaderboard

Doug Gulasy

The Kent State volleyball team came into the weekend slightly behind Bowling Green and Miami for second place in the Mid-American Conference East Division.

After the Flashes (19-6, 10-2 MAC) defeated Buffalo and Akron by 3-0 scores, they found themselves caught up again.

“It’s a big weekend,” junior captain Vaiva Laniauskas said. “This finishes our October, and so we’re going to be going into November on a high. Momentum is definitely on our side, and it’s huge.”

Right now, it appears as if the top three teams from the MAC East will receive byes at the MAC Tournament, which begins Nov. 16 in Toledo.

The Flashes received some outside help when Western Michigan defeated Bowling Green on Saturday night to push the Falcons into fourth place; Miami and KSU are tied for second behind Ohio.

While Kent State coach Glen Conley said a Western Michigan victory over Bowling Green would be “huge,” he added that he didn’t want his team to have to hope for other teams to lose so it could get a bye.

“What we wanted to do was to put ourselves in a position to have our fate in our own hands,” he said. “We don’t want to have to rely on other people. We want to rely on ourselves, and we’re in that position now.”

The Flashes defeated Akron 3-0 Saturday night, winning the games 30-21, 30-23 and 30-19. Akron never led, and the match was tied just once, at 2-2 early in the second game.

“I felt like (Saturday) night we played really well,” Conley said. “I was really pleased with our effort, with our focus, with the girls’ preparation and with the adjustments they made. (In) every phase of the game, I feel like we played well.”

Laniauskas said the team prepared a bit differently for the Akron match, which might have helped.

“Usually, coach Conley gives us a scouting report, and then we go over whatever he wrote,” she said. “(Saturday) night, we as a team created our own scouting report instead. We sat and watched the film, we decided what our game plan was, we went through all the players, and I think it just focused us in a lot more.”

Conley was frustrated somewhat with his team’s focus Friday night against Buffalo.

While the Flashes won the first two games by scores of 30-21 and 30-20, they trailed in game three, 15-12. Conley called a timeout and was animated enough that he broke his clipboard in the sequence.

“We were letting things slide on our end . intensity-wise,” Conley said. “I think that they just needed a little reminder that you can’t ever let down.

“We’re playing the game of volleyball. We’re not necessarily playing our opponent all of the time; we’re playing the game. The game is a tough game — it’s unforgiving. You’ve got to be there every time, consistently playing. So I just reminded them of that — gently,” Conley said with a chuckle.

Conley said his new clipboard had a message written on it: “Please don’t break me.”

The Flashes will face a test in their next three matches, all on the road against the teams they are fighting for a bye. The team will play at Miami on Friday night and at Bowling Green on Saturday before a match at Ohio the following week.

“We’re just really excited to be in this position,” Conley said. “There’s going to be a lot of excitement at practices, there’s going to be a lot of intensity, I’m sure, and we’ll have a lot of fun.”

Contact volleyball reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected].