Volleyball seeks rivalry week rebound

Doug Gulasy

If the Kent State volleyball team has its way, the football team won’t be the only squad beating Akron this weekend, and it won’t be the first, either.

The Flashes (9-4) will look to put an end to their four-match losing streak when they open Mid-American Conference play at Akron (8-5) tonight at 7.

“You get one shot at Akron on their home court, and this is it,” coach Glen Conley said. “We want to make sure that we’re prepared to take advantage of that.”

Conley said the team wasn’t panicking about its losing streak, but wants to see the Flashes “ramp up our intensity.”

Sophomore Jenny Keck said intensity has been prevalent in practice this week.

“If you just walk through the gym during some of our drills that we’re doing, it’s so loud in here,” she said. “It’s really loud and everyone’s just excited. So going after a ball, it’s always the first thing on your mind, like, ‘Nothing hits the floor.'”

Intensity usually isn’t a problem for the Flashes when they play the Zips anyway.

“There’s a lot of rivalries that we have, but just because of how close they are to each other, their fans come to our place and our fans go to their place because of distance,” senior Anne Zakelj said. “It just makes the game that much more exciting and interesting.”

Conley said he expects a “great” atmosphere at the match.

“I expect them to be really fired-up, (and) I expect us to be really fired-up,” he said. “It should be a whole lot of fun. It should be a lot like the Cleveland State match earlier this year (which the Flashes won, 3-2).”

Akron and Kent State have a hotly-contested rivalry in most sports, and volleyball is no exception. Last season, the Zips’ 3-2 victory over the Flashes on Sept. 29 was its only conference victory of the season, but Kent State holds an all-time series lead of 30-27.

The Flashes can make that series lead 31-27 by, in the words of Keck, “doing what we can do best.”

“We are a very scrappy team,” she said. “We are loud, and we go after everything.”

Conley, meanwhile, wants to see the Flashes stop making what he calls uncharacteristic mistakes, which reached a “low point” at the Clemson Classic last weekend, where the Flashes went 0-3.

“It’s not just a hitting error, it’s a hitting error on a bad pass,” he said. “If it’s a bad pass, we’re not trying to crush the ball. We have a good defense. We want to keep our defense in the game, we don’t want to take the ball out of our defense’s hands.

“Now if they earn their points, that’s fine,” he added later. “We want to make the team earn their points.”

The Flashes will be preparing for a match at Buffalo (1-15) tomorrow afternoon, at the same time the football team is playing Akron. However, if Zakelj’s comments are any indication, the players will still be rooting for their fellow Kent State team to knock off the Zips.

“If (Kent State) can get as many Akron wins as possible, that would be fantastic,” she said. “(We can) put them out of their misery, just beat them in every single sport that we have.”

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Doug Gulasy at[email protected] .