About halfway through the 2010 season, the Kent State volleyball team recently found itself a couple of matches under 0.500 as it plunged into the Mid-American Conference portion of the schedule.
But its senior captain was already becoming very impatient.
“If our team decides to come out and work hard and play our best in every game, then we have a great chance to do well and finish high, but we haven't always done that so far,” Kristen Barr said. “The potential to win the MAC is definitely there. We have the talent and the ability, but we need to have the focus and commitment to accomplish that.”
Barr is a defensive specialist and libero for the Golden Flashes, and she led the team with 434 digs in 2009 — the fifth-best season total in school history.
Barr was a standout member of the Toledo Volleyball Club's national team, helping that unit go 51-3 from 2005-07 and advance to the national championships each year.
Barr was also a part of two Northern Lakes League championship teams at Bowling Green High School, and will win four letters at Kent State, where she is serving her second year as captain.
“In college, the competition level jumps up a lot from high school or club,” Barr said. “The pace is very fast, and the overall intensity is much higher. You are playing with and against the best — everybody playing college volleyball was probably the best player for their high school or club teams.”
Kent State coach Glen Conley said he has a skilled player and an emotional force in Barr, who ranks second in the Kent State record books with her 3.34 digs per set average over her career.
“Kristen is an excellent leader and has put the team above herself,” Conley said. “She does a lot of things off the court to develop this team into a solid unit, and it's invaluable. On the court, she is dynamite and brings a lot of energy.”
Barr, who had played in 60 sets this season through the first 16 matches — tops on the team — said keeping the Golden Flashes close is one of her primary off-court responsibilities.
“We've got a very tight bond, and I think that is really important,” Barr said. “The chemistry is good, everyone gets along really well, and that creates an atmosphere where we can all help each other get better every day. It's like having 15 sisters.”
Barr said that being a close-knit group will play a vital role in any success the team has, since the Flashes have a mix of players of different ages, and from all over the world.
Four of the Kent State players are from overseas.
“As a team, you want to be very close, so close that you don't want to let anyone down,” she said. “You always want to do your best for those people around you.”
A communications major who has a minor in marketing, Barr was leading Kent with 226 digs through the first 16 matches, averaging a team-best 3.77 digs per set played.
Once her college-volleyball career is over, she said she hopes to one day work in an athletic department or for a professional sports team. She will look more closely at career opportunities in December, when her senior season is completed.
“Playing a sport in college is very demanding and you don't have a lot of freedom outside of the daily routine. You feel like a robot sometimes, because every minute is programmed,” she said.
“With classes and practices and all of the matches and the travel, you have to have great time management skills. I've learned so much from the discipline it takes to play at this level, and I think it will help me a lot with my career, once college volleyball is over.”
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