Washburn dominates conference

Robert Burkett / Washburn Review

Dominance, described in the dictionary is the ability to have control over ones destiny or circumstances or to impose control over another. For the Lady Blues then, the road trip couldn’t be described as anything but.

Starting out Friday afternoon, the Lady Blues set out like the four horseman of the apocalypse, bent on destroying anything that dare step in their path.

Their first destination, Bolivar, Mo. is a small town deep inside the state and a nearly four-hour trip from Topeka. The inhabitants, the Southwestern Baptist University Bearcats (9-18), are one of the lesser teams of the MIAA conference and this became apparent as Washburn arrived in town.

During warm-ups, the contrast between the Lady Blues and the Lady Bearcats was a stark reminder of the difference in talent arrayed on the floor.

Washburn, featuring Breanna Lewis, junior right side hitter at 6-foot 5-inches and Jessica Fey, junior right side/middle hitter at 6-foot tall looked every inch the athletes that had earned a 26-2 record coming into the match. In contrast their opponents, near the bottom of the conference standings, averaged in height at 5-foot 6-inches and looked like a high school team compared to the Lady Blues.

This was further borne out as the match started with Washburn dominating in their first set both through their play and also from errors made by the Lady Bearcats. The Lady Blues thus was able to take the first set 25-11.

The second set was in contrast to the first set. Washburn came out less focused and were caught flat-footed as Southwestern Baptist went on an early run to take the lead. After a time out though, the Lady Blues came out and regained their form as they scored two quick points en route to a 25-16 win.

The third set began as it ended with Washburn jumping on their opponents early, 4-1 and never looking back. At points throughout the set, the Lady Blues went on 5 and 7 point rallies as they sped through the final set winning 25-16 and a sweep of SBU.

The Lady Blues were led throughout the match by Lewis who finished with 9 kills while Amanda Guess, junior setter led the way in assists with 18 and Hillary Hughes, outside hitter and Guess pacing Washburn with 11 digs each.

After the match Chris Herron, Washburn head coach gave his assessment of the teams performance.

“I felt like we hit the ball well,” said Herron. “Our defense was pretty solid and we did what we needed to.”

Leaving Bolivar, Washburn continued their odyssey back into their home state of Kansas arriving in the town of Pittsburg, the home of “the jungle” and the Gorillas of Pittsburg State University.

Coming into the match Washburn seemed relaxed and loose as the teammates joked back and forth with each other prior to the match. The seemingly relaxed nature of the squad belied the focus and intensity they brought to the match that followed.

Starting out Herron attempted to put their opponent in perspective.

“[Pittsburg State] just beat a good Emporia State team last night in a 3-2 match,” said Herron. “So we need to take them seriously.”

His charges took the words to heart, coming out in the first set with all cylinders firing as they jumped out to a lead 10-2 before the Lady Gorillas finally called time out in order to attempt to regroup under the intensity of Washburn’s efforts. After the time out Washburn traded points for a short bit before they eventually turned on the heat and finished off Pittsburg State 25-14.

The second set was more of the same, as Washburn got the early lead 4-0 and then never looked back led by Jessica Kopp, sophomore outside/middle hitter and Hillary Hughes, sophomore outside hitter who finished the match with 12 and 11 kills respectively.

The third set was more of an even fight as both teams went back and forth exchanging heated points before Washburn finally broke away late in the set on a 5 point run that broke the back and will of Pittsburg State, winning the final match 25-19 and taking the match 3-0 to finish off an impressive road swing for the Lady Blues who only trailed twice the entire weekend through six sets of play.

Afterward Herron reflected on the road trip.

“It’s always good this late in the year to go head out on the road and play as well as we did,” said Herron.

Finally, with the Lady Blues returned from their road trip rested and ready to play, Fort Hays State University (7-23 overall and 0-18 in conference) came to Lee Arena to play victim in a Senior Night massacre.

As the Lady Blues took to the court, the seniors of the team, Ashley Shepard, Kelci Wigger, Molly Smith and Ali Ward were all honored for their time in the program.

In the first set, Washburn came out on fire as the seniors led the way. Ashley Shepard, outside hitter started and played aggressively throughout her rotations coming away with a near error free performance with 3 kills on 14 total attacks. The set also featured a 7-point run to end the set 25-15 for the Lady Blues.

The second set was the most impressive of the three with two runs of 7 points apiece en route to a dominating 25-8 set win.

The third set was just more of the same as Washburn traded points back and forth until midway through the set when the Lady Blues went on a 5 point run that gave them the breathing room they needed to put their opponents away 25-17 to finish off a 3-0 sweep.

The team overall, was led in kills by Hillary Hughes in kills at 10 on 17 attacks, while Abby Whitman led the team with 24 assists. Molly Smith, dominated with 22 digs, outpacing all players from either team by twice as many.

Moving forward, Washburn begins its preparation for the “Turnpike Tussle” as they travel down I-35 to Emporia to lock horns with the Lady Hornets.

“We just have to get ourselves ready for them,” said Hughes. “It’s a huge rivalry game and they’re going to have a ton of fans there for the game.”