First round loss ends Miesner’s WU career

Eric Smith

The NCAA Tournament can be tough. In volleyball, like in most sports, it’s either win or go home. The No. 10 Washburn Lady Blues did the latter Friday night in Emporia, losing 3-0 (25-18, 25-21, 25-15) to No. 12 Central Missouri in the first round of the South Central Regional.

“We didn’t have a very good week of practice leading up to it,” said Chris Herron, head coach. “Our kids weren’t into it as much as they needed to be. Their preparation wasn’t that good. Let’s put it that way. Every team’s got a different personality. This team’s personality didn’t understand what it took to get to another level.”

The Lady Blues, who were making their fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance and the sixth in seven years, struggled on offense, having an attack percentage of .105 compared to .239 for UCM.

The loss for the Lady Blues not only ended the team’s season at 30-6 and 15-5, but also the careers of three seniors in Monica Miesner, Stephanie Nitz, and Carolyn Raines.

“The last game is always hard because you know you’re not going to get to play with some of the girls again,” said Kate Hampson, junior setter. “At first the attitude in the locker room was emotional. It always is. It’s going to end sometime. It just ended a little early.”

Miesner, a fifth-year senior, was a two-time All-American and made a pretty good dent on the team’s record book.

“You’re losing probably the best all-around player we’ve ever had,” said Herron. “I think [Dani] McHenry was right up there in that category. Those two kids did everything. They played defense. Were precision passers. They were decent blockers. Obviously offensive weapons. All-around those two are 1-2 on the list of great players since I’ve been here.”

Miesner finished her career with 1,510 kills, 1,857 digs, and 1,823 points which ranks third, second, and third respectively in Washburn’s history.

“Monica is probably the best volleyball player I’ve ever played with or will ever play with,” said Hampson.

Although the team is losing some experience with the seniors, they are gaining six newcomers for next year’s team, including four hitters, a defensive specialist and a setter.

The incoming freshman for next season are Jessica Fey from Crete, Neb., McKayla Gowen from Grand Island, Neb., Hillary Hughes of Black Earth, Wis., Jessica Copp of Lee’s Summit, Mo., Sami McHenry of Topeka, and Abby Wittman of Salina.

“We like that class a lot,” said Herron. “That class is really going to be a really good class for us. I think all are going to contribute to our team. I think there’s probably three of them that can come in and impact our program immediately. They’ve got a chance to start in their first year.”

Herron said someone to watch will be Copp, who was a high school All-American and won the award of best volleyball player in the greater Kansas City area.

“The way coach recruits, he tries to find players that are better than what he already has,” said Hampson. “Or players that are going to push the players he already has. So he’s a great recruiter. I know the girls coming in are very talented and are definitely going to help our team out next year.”