Lady Blues volleyball falls short of high expectations

A successful team is something that ebbs and flows in the world of collegiate sports. From one year to the next, for the Lady Blues volleyball team, success is expected.

With the track record that the team had from last year, expectations were high for the 2011 season. They started out ranked in the top ten of the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll, rising to as high as No. 3 throughout the year.

 Starting out in non-conference play, the Lady Blues took to the road to play in a series of  tournaments that took the team to first Wichita Falls, Texas and then on to Denver, Colo.

In the opening tournament in Texas, Washburn asserted its dominance early, losing just one set in the four matches they played. Led by junior right side hitter and middle hitter Jessica Fey and senior right side hitter and middle hitter Mollie Lacy, the Lady Blues who each had standout matches where they finished with 12 or more kills, were able to play strongly to open the season.

“We played well to open the year and that’s helped us build confidence,” said head coach Chris Herron, after the tournament. “We’re looking forward to moving forward.”

The following tournament the Lady Blues faced off against top talent from around the region, including No. 1- ranked Concordia University-St. Paul. Washburn advanced through the tournament field to the finals before falling in their first loss of the season against Concordia. Fey, Lacy and senior rightside hitter Breanna Lewis led the team throughout the tournament with one of the trio racking up at least 14 kills in each match. During the tournament, Lacy became just the 14th player in Lady Blues history to compile 1,000 kills.

Afterward, the Lady Blues returned home looking to take on the MIAA conference slate. With five straight matches, Washburn once again returned to early season form, dropping just one set in the five-match stretch. During the stretch Fey gave stellar play as she was named MIAA conference player of the week during the beginning of the opening conference slate.

Next, Washburn would play the role of host school as the Lady Blues took down the field in the Ramada Inn Lady Blues Fall Classic including a five set battle against then No. 8 Angelo State University. Lewis was named tournament MVP leading the Lady Blues with 39 kills.

After finishing off the last of their regular season tournament obligations, Washburn once again entered into the heart of MIAA play, winning 13 straight matches and 14 overall, eight of which they swept their opponents in straight sets. With their only loss coming against conference archrival University of Central Missouri, the Lady Blues finished off the season 29-2 going into the NCAA playoffs.

Due to the way seeding works in the playoff system, Washburn ended up with the second seed in their region. The regionals would prove to be a familiar setting however as UCM, having just defeated the Lady Blues less than two weeks before, hosted the regionals. Washburn would advance to the regional finals before the season finally came to a close against UCM.

The team had a successful season, taking a portion of the regular season MIAA crown. With a tenth consecutive winning season Herron also achieved 300 career wins with Washburn, taking his overall win total to 386. Individually, the team also had standout performances, as Lewis finished the year with 373 kills which led the team while sophomore setter Abby Wittman dominated in assists, racking up 922.

“I’m just really proud of the year that we had,” said Herron.