The crowd filed out of the M.A.C. Center on Saturday evening as music played softly on the arena loudspeakers. What had been a loud arena merely minutes before was now quiet.
Binghamton University had just handed the Kent State volleyball team its first loss of the season, holding on for a 3-2 victory to take first place at the Mizuno/Golden Flash Invitational.
The Flashes’ major problem was falling behind 2-0 in the match, as they lost the first two games by scores of 30-26 and 30-28. The team made a furious comeback, winning the third and fourth games, both by scores of 30-27, but Binghamton took the deciding fifth game 15-9.
“You fight (to come back),” junior captain Vaiva Laniauskas said. “Every team’s going to be different, every point is a point, so you focus on one point and you get it back, and that’s your goal. You focus on one point at a time.”
The Binghamton match was the fourth this season where the team dropped the first game. Still, Kent State coach Glen Conley said he wasn’t worried about that developing into a trend.
“It happened (Saturday), but it has not been a trend, and I don’t think that’s a real issue,” he said. “The reason that we fell behind in those games was basically our own errors, so it wasn’t like the other team was doing anything against us. We just made some uncharacteristic errors.”
Binghamton took advantage of those errors. The Bearcats built leads of nine points in the first game and five in the second. They held off Kent State comebacks in both games.
“I think the two teams mirrored each other,” Conley said. “We just made it very difficult on each other to score. There’s a lot of scrappiness. You saw a lot of balls come back over the net that in other matches are not coming back over the net, and that’s a tribute to both teams about how hard we fought.”
“Binghamton certainly has that characteristic as a team,” he added. “They’re not going to give up, and neither are we.”
One loss clearly isn’t going to make the team give up, either. Both Laniauskas and Conley said that lessons could be learned from the loss.
“We had a game plan and didn’t always follow it, so you’ve got to get back to the basics,” Laniauskas said. “And if you have a game plan, you’ve got to execute. You definitely learn. You learn from every single loss — or win, for that matter.”
Conley said the loss showed him the team’s weaknesses and what he needs to do better as a coach.
“For me, it’s probably a bigger wake-up call than even for the team, I’d say,” he said. “I have to do a better job of coaching, and of hiding those weaknesses that all teams have, and we’ve got some.”
Conley added that the loss also “crystallizes some strengths” of the team because the Flashes did some things well in the losing effort.
The team’s strengths have led it to a 9-1 start. Even though the Flashes lost their last match of the weekend, they won their first two, defeating Youngstown State 3-0 Friday and Canisius College by the same score Saturday afternoon.
Still, the team ultimately will be measured by how it responds to losses. The 2006 team had losing streaks of four and seven, but Conley expects his team to respond well.
The Flashes will have a major test this weekend as they head to Clemson, S.C., for the Clemson Classic.
“If we go in there 10-0, 0-10, it doesn’t matter how you go into that next weekend,” Conley said. “That’s a tough tournament down there in Clemson, so we’re going to respond well and practice hard this week and see what we can do.”
Contact volleyball reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected]