Third time not the charm as the Blues lose to UNK in the first round of the NCAA tournament

Washburn Review

Washburn knew they had a tough region ahead of them.


The Lady Blues had a regular season only losing three games, but still found themselves a six-seed in the newly rearranged Central Region. Their opponent? The Lopers of the University of Nebraska-Kearney, one of two teams to defeat the Blues this season. Washburn looked to exact revenge when it mattered most, the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Lopers had other things in mind, defeating Washburn for the third time this season and ending the Lady Blues’ season early.


Washburn (31-4, 15-2 MIAA) struggled offensively getting out-hit .315 50 .194. After getting an early 3-2 lead in the first set, the Lopers took over and Washburn would never lead in the match again. Washburn was very confident coming into their match up.


“We have to put our focus on Kearney,” said Abby Whittman, junior setter for Washburn. “We know that we can we just have to show everyone else.”


Whittman was limited after injurying her ankle. A major key in Washburn’s hitting attack, Whittman only managed seven assists. But sophomore Gracie Petersen stepped in nicely and finished the night with 25 assists and 10 digs. Even with great play from Petersen, the Blues big hitters came up a little short.


Senior Jessica Fey, who recently garnished MIAA player of the year and Daktronics Central Region player of the year honors, was only able to come up with 11 kills on .250 hitting. Fellow senior and outside hitter, Hillary Hughes, struggled mightily only managing three kills with three errors. The normally sure-handed Hughes ended the match with a .000 hitting percentage.


MIAA second team selection Jessica Kopp was one of the few bright spots for Washburn. The senior rightside hitter had 14 kills to only two errors. But Kopp’s performance was not enough, as the three WU seniors finish their careers on a sour note, something Whittman hoped to avoid.


“It would feel so nice to win for the seniors,” said Whittman.


Had Washburn won they still had a tough schedule ahead of them. Five-time defending champion Concordia-St. Paul, the host of the Central Region, is the team to beat but Washburn won’t get that chance. After not making it out of the regional play last year, the Lady Blues were hoping for a better finish this season. Washburn still managed to win 31 games while finishing as runner-up in the MIAA.