New volleyball coach brings experience, energy

Doug Gulasy

The news that a new volleyball coach would be coming to Kent State was “a little scary” at first to senior Laura Jensen.

“As a senior, everybody’s kind of looking up to you about what you’re supposed to do and how things are supposed to be run,” Jensen said. “So it’s hard because you kind of have to start off from square one, just like everybody else does.”

However, new coach Glen Conley managed to win Jensen and her teammates over with his approach.

“He was pretty direct with what he wanted and what he expected, and he made the transition as smooth as possible,” Jensen said. “He was very open, very welcoming to all the girls -and he made it known that he wanted all of us here. He really did a great job coming in and starting to change the attitude of the program, and we’re very lucky to have him here.”

If Conley equals his previous success, Kent State volleyball fans will surely echo Jensen’s sentiments. In 17 years with Houghton College, Edinboro University and, most recently, Army, Conley’s teams have won 351 matches with a winning percentage of .659.

One major change Conley made was installing a newer, faster offense than what the players were used to, but Jensen said the new system “makes a lot of sense.”

“We’re not an overly tall team, so we have to kind of use our athleticism and ball control to score points, and the system allows us to do that,” she said. “It gives us a lot of options for how we want to run plays and where we want to run things from, and it really lets us put our best attacker on their weakest blocker.”

The team put its new system to the test for the first time Friday and won an away match at Iona 3-0, winning the individual games 30-22, 30-22 and 30-15.

Conley said the offense was “a little behind where we’d like it to be right now” after the Iona match but added that the Flashes would have “a very strong team when the offense comes around.”

“I definitely think that the defense is very strong, very disciplined,” he said. “We were very impressed, watching the film after the (Iona) match. We didn’t miss assignments, we read the hitters really well, we were very disciplined.”

The Flashes will have some obstacles to overcome this season. Last season’s team finished 13-16, dropping its final seven matches. Because of that performance, the 2007 Mid-American Conference Volleyball Coaches Poll picked the Flashes to finish fourth in the MAC East Division.

Conley said he didn’t mind the poll because it was based on what happened last season and the teams picked to finish in front of the Flashes — Ohio, Bowling Green and Miami — were all “very strong teams.”

The Flashes will count on captains Jensen and junior Vaiva Laniauskas to lead them, but Jensen said they wouldn’t be the only two leaders.

“We don’t rely on any one person to win a match for us,” she said. “We’re very balanced. We don’t have any one go-to player, and that’s going to help us because we just need one person to step it up on any given night.”

And what does the new coach think?

“The only prediction that I will make is that this team is going to show up and fight and that we’re going to be mentally tough,” Conley said. “We’re not going to give matches away, people are going to have to beat us. And that’s all that you can hope to do, really.”

“I feel very good about this team and where we’re headed in the season in front of us just because I trust the heart of the team,” he said.

Contact volleyball reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected].