Volleyball returns home undefeated

Doug Gulasy

Sophomore setter Jenny Keck (3) and senior outside hitter Anja Knabe-Paulsen (7) watch as senior defensive specialist Laura Jensen (5) bumps the ball against Cleveland State last Tuesday. ELIZABETH MYERS | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

The Kent State volleyball team opened its season by playing in New York. Then it went to Cleveland for a match with Cleveland State. Most recently it traveled to Williamsburg, Va., for a tournament at William and Mary.

One place where the Flashes have not yet played is at home.

That will change this weekend as the team will make its 2007 home debut by hosting the Mizuno/Golden Flash Invitational today and tomorrow in the M.A.C. Center.

“It’s always exciting because first matches at home, you have the most fans, obviously,” junior captain Vaiva Laniauskas said. “Most parents come in, and you have a bigger audience than you’ve ever had cheering for you.”

Of course, Laniauskas hopes to see more than just family members at the matches this weekend.

“I would love for the community of Kent to come in and watch us play,” she said. “I think that’s been lacking in the past. Then the student body, I would say I hope they find volleyball exciting and they come out and cheer us on.”

One of new coach Glen Conley’s goals for the program when he took over was to create excitement for the fans, and he hopes to see some excitement at the matches.

“We’d just like to see them bringing the roof down, being really excited and just real loud,” he said. “That’s the atmosphere you want to play in front of. You want to play in front of a raucous crowd, and the team sets the tone for that. We have to play well.”

Playing well hasn’t really been a problem for the Flashes thus far. Their record stands at 7-0 heading into the weekend matches.

A trio of teams will look to put a blemish on that perfect record this weekend: Youngstown State, Canisius College and Binghamton University.

Conley said Youngstown State (5-3), who the Flashes play at 7 p.m. tonight, could give his team some problems with its size, but he believes his own team has a speed advantage.

“We’ll try to just run a faster game than maybe what they want to run, and hopefully that’ll work,” he said.

The Flashes play Canisius at 1 p.m. tomorrow. The Golden Griffins enter the match with a 1-6 record, but Conley said that record is misleading.

“They’ve played some very tough teams this year, and they’ve played them tough,” he said. “So we’re expecting a good match. They’ve got a lot of freshmen, and those freshmen are contributing.”

The third team looking to give the Flashes a loss is Binghamton (3-4). The Bearcats and Flashes will play at 5 p.m. tomorrow.

“They’ve got some tall girls, they’ve got some big middles, and they’ve traditionally been a very strong team,” Conley said. “They’ve been to the NCAAs, winning their conference. … I really think it’s going to be a real challenge with Binghamton.”

Conley, a Middlefield native, will also be making his first home appearance as the Flashes’ coach. He said a lot of his family, “from (his) mother on down,” will be attending the matches.

Laniauskas said that if the Flashes don’t want to disappoint their families and other home fans, they can’t overlook any of their opponents.

“A new team is a new team every single time, so you never go into a match thinking you’re 7-0 and you’re going to beat them,” she said. “You have to work hard, no matter what.”

Contact volleyball reporter Doug Gulasy

at [email protected].