Tough test ahead for WU

Eric Smith

There is only one place in the MIAA that the conference-leading Washburn volleyball team has never won. Sapp Fieldhouse in Omaha, Neb. At 7 tonight, against Nebraska-Omaha, the team will get its chance.

While the No. 6 Lady Blues volleyball team (15-0, 3-0) has only played their twice, coach Chris Herron said the team is cupcake by any standards.

“Tough environment, very loud,” said Herron, who led Washburn to a 1-1 split in last season’s matches against the Mavericks. “Not the biggest crowd in the world but they’ve got a band, the announcer is obnoxious, so I just think the environment is tough. We’ve got our work cut out for us. And they’re really good, they have everyone back. I think I picked them to finish second in conference so I know they’re going to be a really good team.”

UNO (13-3, 3-0), the MIAA’s newest team, is ranked 21st in the nation, third in conference and beat Washburn 3-1 last season in Omaha.

“Passing was a big thing last year. We couldn’t pass,” said Ashley Shepard, junior. “We weren’t blocking very well either. We’ve been working a lot on both of those things in practice.”

The Lady Blues, who set the school record for most wins to start the season, 15, on Saturday, will look to even the overall series versus the UNO Mavericks at three wins apiece.

The Lady Blues will then take on No. 9 Central Missouri (12-3, 2-1) at 7 p.m. Friday in Lee Arena.

“We always know that [UCM] has some big hitters,” said Shepard “I think they had the freshman of the year last year. So we just need to step up and get some good blocks on them. We just have to play aggressive. We have to step up big this next week to play a lot better than we did this weekend.

“Both [UNO and UCM] are always really tough competition. We just know that we have to bring our A game. Can’t have any mistakes like we had [Saturday]. We just have to get on top of it. We can’t let down at any moment. We have to hit hard, serve, get our serves in especially, everything’s just got to be good.”

There are five players on Washburn originally from Nebraska that are looking forward to the homecoming of sorts for the game tonight.

“It’d be fun for them to go back to their home state and get to play in front of their friends and family that don’t have to travel as far,” said Shepard. “And I know a lot of their friends aren’t able to come to Kansas to watch them play all the time. I know they’ll want to go up there and play really well and give it a good show.”