Lady Blues defeat UCM in matchup of MIAA foes

Hillary Hughes sends over one of her 17 kills during the match against the University of Central Missouri Jennies. Washburn won 3-1 to stay undefeated in MIAA play.

Rob Burkett

The Lady Blues came into Friday nights match ready to defend their No. 5 ranking against their conference arch rivals, No. 7 ranked University of Central Missouri.

Both teams came into the match defending double digit winning streaks, Washburn and UCM at 13 each. With more than 1,000 fans in attendance, for the pink-out game the atmosphere had all the trappings of a post season match.

Starting out UCM led early, taking advantage of 7 attack errors. The Lady Blues seemed to be a little too excited and played an uncharacteristically sloppy first set. Despite the slow start, Washburn closed the lead which was as many as 6 points before finally running out of opportunities, dropping the first set 22-25.

After regrouping during the set break, the Lady Blues came out focused ready to fight back into the match. In what was a tight second set, the Jennies and Washburn traded points back and forth throughout the set. Neither team fell behind by more than 3 points down the stretch of the second set. Led by Hillary Hughes, junior outside hitter, with 7 kills in the set. Washburn finished the set with help from the Jennies which committed 3 straight attack errors, giving up the set to the Lady Blues 25-21.

“We knew coming in we had to shut down their [middle hitters] and [outside hitters],” said Hughes. “They took regional hosting from us last year and that was a huge blow to us. We came back this year, we just want to kill them for that.”

The third and fourth sets featured more one sided outcomes as Washburn came out of the intermission on fire. In both sets the Lady Blues put together leads and never looked back as they managed to hold off UCM for the win.

Washburn head coach Chris Herron credited his team for responding depsite the early adversity.

“They are so good, so good,” said Herron. “We had to be focused tonight. You can’t have any emotional lows when we’re playing a team like this or we’ll get our butts kicked. I thought we did a good job of being resilient, we got down big time in the first game, came back and got the momentum.

Herron gave credit in particular to Hughes who finished the night with 17 kills.

“I thought Hillary Hughes was huge for us,” said Herron. “She just kept bangin’ them in there for us, getting us key points.”

Moving forward, the Lady Blues now look to take on the Bearcats of Northwest Missouri State University 7 p.m. Oct. 25 at Lee Arena.