Blues face Hays tonight

Eric Smith

The No. 7 Washburn Lady Blues volleyball team is nearing the midpoint of its conference season, and overall sophomore Breanna Lewis said the team is happy where it’s at.

“I think we’ve started to play more as a team definitely,” she said. “There was that one week where we kind of struggled. We knew we had to come together as a team from then on out.

“We all get along really well. But it’s just gotten so much better. We play together and we mesh so much more.”

It seems every week in the MIAA season is a test, and this week is no different. The week begins with the Lady Blues (22-2, 6-2) taking on Fort Hays State (6-16, 2-7) at 7 tonight in Lee Arena before taking on eighth-ranked Emporia State (19-2, 6-1) at 7 p.m. Friday in Emporia.

While Hays is ranked in the lower half of the conference and has just two wins in the MIAA, Washburn is still putting in a lot of preparation for a Tiger team looking for vengeance after losing its last six to the Lady Blues.

“They’re a lot better than they were last year I think,” said Lewis. “They’ve got some big outsides [hitters] that are powerful but I think if we play our game, it shouldn’t be a problem.”

And for the Friday night match in Emporia, the Lady Blues have split the last six meetings with the Hornets, and haven’t won at ESU since 2006.

“We don’t want to look past Fort Hays because that can always come back and bite you but Emporia is definitely one of our biggest competitions and our biggest rivals,” said Lewis. “And they’re not as strong as they were last year, but they’re still a very strong team. Especially with Arica Shepard on the outside. I think stopping her is a big part of the game. We’ll be working a lot with that.”

While Shepard is a force, having won three MIAA Volleyball Student-Athlete of the Week awards for outside hitter this season, two Lady Blues, setter Kate Hampson and outside hitter Mollie Lacy were named winners of the awards this week. Those offensive awards are paying off in matches, as Lewis said offense is one of the team’s strong points.

“I think we’re executing really well offensively. And we’ve talked a lot about how we really need to pick up our defense. And I think this last week we [did that],” said Lewis. “If we pick up our defense, our offense can help carry us.”