Lady Blues bound for Kansas City

Eric Smith

Winning the first eight matches of the volleyball season is a great feat but something that has been done by the Washburn Lady Blues before. However, not losing a set, now that’s quite a different story.

The Washburn volleyball team is 8-0 in match play and 24-0 in set play through two tournaments in the 2009 season, the latter something never accomplished by a Chris Herron-coached Washburn team.

“I’ve been doing this for several years, and I’m not sure exactly what’s going on,” said Herron, head coach of the Lady Blues in his eighth season. “Either our team is really good or else the teams we’re playing aren’t.”

Whatever it is, coaches across the United States see Washburn as a reckoning force with the Lady Blues moving up four spots to No. 6 in the nation in the most recent American Volleyball Coaches Association ranking of the top 25 teams in Division II, which was released Monday.

The Lady Blues will look to keep their winning ways going this weekend at the Rockhurst Fall Classic in Kansas City, Mo. The team begins play at 11 a.m. Friday versus a 1-8 Midwestern State team that Washburn beat last season 3-1, and coach Herron is familiar with. He said that MSU’s coach called him in the preseason to find out where Washburn was playing so that they could “chase” the Lady Blues, meaning follow them in tournaments.

“That’s motivation for me,” said Herron. “And I’m going to do my best to make it a motivation for my team too.”

The Lady Blues continue play in Kansas City Friday afternoon at 3 versus Upper Iowa (6-3).

At 9 a.m. Saturday, the Lady Blues take on Eastern New Mexico (2-6) before finishing the tournament at 3 p.m. versus Ill.-Springfield (5-2).

While Washburn appears to be rolling on all cylinders, they have been practicing all week, including Labor Day, making sure to fix errors from the week before. Senior setter Kate Hampson said the team would probably work on serving to try to avoid so many errors, as well as working on not allowing the opponent to get on a hot streak.

“We look really, really, good and then for four or five points, we don’t look so good. We need to work on eliminating runs by the other team,” said Hampson.

The Rockhurst tournament is a much-needed break for many of the Lady Blues, who have grown tired of long road trips to tournaments with the last two being in Colorado and Texas.

“We don’t have to travel as far, which will be nice,” said Ashley Shepard, junior outside hitter. “We don’t have to do any seven-hour or nine-hour bus trips. Our backs are hurting from sleeping on the bus.”