Flashes match up with MAC’s best

Amanda Vasil

Senior Anne Butts (1) and Lindsey Skorupan (9) attempt to the block the spike from Akron player Jennifer Stewart (9) during a Sept. 24 game at M.A.C. Center.

Credit: Jason Hall

Serve hard, block hard, hit hard.

As the Kent State volleyball team faces two conference opponents this weekend, strong in all three facets, it plans to toughen up and break out of its second place, three-way tie in the Mid-American Conference East Division.

The Flashes (6-9, 2-2 MAC) open up against Toledo at 7 p.m. tonight and finish the weekend at home against Ball State at 7 p.m. tomorrow night at the M.A.C. Center.

Kent State coach Mora Kanim said she feels both teams are similar in the way they perform on the court, which allows the Flashes to focus their practice in a few key areas.

“These are teams that play best together and can execute the best,” Kanim said. “Both teams serve well, both teams have big middles that are very effective and both teams are very scrappy. It allows us to prepare one way to match up to two teams, which is very rare.”

Serving will be vital for the Flashes this weekend, especially against Toledo (10-6, 3-1 MAC) who currently leads the MAC in aces with 1.63 service aces per game. They also lead in opponent hitting and rank third in digs with 17.76 per game.

Another key to Kent State’s success is its strong hitting. They will hone in on this skill against the MAC leader in digs, Ball State (9-5, 3-1 MAC), which has an average of 19.25 digs per game and ranks second in blocks with a 2.67 average per game. The team also is third in opponent hitting.

While the team has shifted gears to focus its attention on serving and hitting, blocking is an area improving week by week, Kanim said.

During the team’s 3-0 sweep against Central Michigan last Saturday, the Flashes recorded a season-best 15.5 blocks. Freshmen Krista Groce and Ashley Feutz tallied seven blocks apiece, including one solo block from Feutz.

“We blocked really well against Central last weekend, and we need to build on that,” Kanim said. “It’s not one of those things where now we’re a good team. We still have defensive areas to work on.”

Some of those defensive aspects include digging and passing, junior Sarah Wilber said, which the team has been working on since the beginning of its season. This weekend the team plans to include new defenses to counteract strong hitters from the opposing teams, as well as assist Kent State’s offense.

Wilber said the team is beginning to come together in all areas of play and credits the success to an increase in team work.

“A lot of it is coming from both front court and back court,” Wilber said. “Front court is starting to see where they need to put up blocks which is helping our back court because they’re in spots where they can play defensively behind it.”

Kanim continues to look for improvement from both the offense and defense but also stays true to focusing on one match at a time.

“In this conference, if you look past your next match you’re making a big mistake,” she said. “I like it that way, and it shouldn’t be any other way. Friday night is going to be a battle, and when that’s done Saturday night will be a battle. You can’t lose focus on an opponent for any minute.”

No matter what happens each night this weekend, senior Katie Mang said she hopes the team stays positive and continues to work together to win.

“Every MAC team is equal, so any given night, anything can happen,” she said. “We want to get up there this weekend and break out of the tie.”

Contact volleyball reporter Amanda Vasil at [email protected].