WU athletics enjoyed productive fall season

Eric Smith

The Washburn fall sports season echoed the gold in the leaves.

The volleyball, football and soccer teams advanced to postseason play in their respective sports while the golf team won three out of its five tournaments.

The Washburn Lady Blues volleyball team had its greatest season ever, advancing to the semifinals of the NCAA Division II national tournament before losing to Western Washington in four games. The team went 12-1 at home, 17-1 in the conference and 38-4 overall. They finished ranked third in the nation, setting several team and individual records.

“It was a great season,” said senior hitter Tessa Jones. “Obviously we wanted to go further than we did. But we’re really happy, and we’ve never been that far before so it’s just a great year to end on for me personally.”

Probably the greatest and most exciting game of the year for the Lady Blues came in the quarterfinal game of the national tournament.

“Playing against Tampa, being down two games and coming back to win would definitely be the most memorable moment for this season,” said Jones.

The Washburn football team finished 8-4 on the year, including a 7-2 conference record. Their season came to an end with a heartbreaking loss to No. 4 West Texas A&M by the score of 39-40.

“We started off a little slow, going 2-2 in our first four games,” said senior wide receiver Jake Lebahn. “Then we kind of got it together for the last part and ended up taking second in the conference. Our goal was to win the conference, but we didn’t quite get there.

“The main thing was getting to the playoffs for the second time in three years. So that was definitely one of the goals we achieved, getting to the playoffs.”

The Ichabod football team lost three of its four games to opponents ranked Nos. 7, 5 and 4. Those three losses came by a total of 12 points. One of their many bright spots of the season came on senior day against No. 18 Pittsburg State.

“My most memorable moment would have to be on senior day beating Pitt State,” said Lebahn. “That was the second time for me to beat them and doing it at home was pretty unforgettable.”

The Lady Blues soccer team made the playoffs for the second consecutive year, going 10-6-5 overall and 8-2-4 in the conference.

“The season went pretty good,” said junior forward Jessica Mainz. “We worked really hard. It didn’t quite end the way we wanted. We had a lot of things throughout the year that we did well that we can count on for next year.”

With only one senior on the team, the young team had a difficult challenge to face after going 15-1-6 the season before and making it all the way to the NCAA Regional finals.

“This season was bittersweet,” said Mainz. “We always want to keep taking steps forward and not go backward. We played in the conference tournament but didn’t quite get to where we were last year, so we know we still have a lot to work on.”

The Ichabod golf team finished the fall season on a good note headed into next season, winning its final tournament on the last hole.

“Our last tournament of the season was probably our most memorable moment as a team,” said junior Matt Salome. “I think we were down like 13 shots going into the back nine of the second day of the tournament. We ended up coming back and winning by two shots.

“As a team, I think we shot 12 under par just on that back nine just to come back and win. It was just really exciting to see everyone come in and finish. To know it was that close and then ending up being able to pull it out.”

The Washburn golf team finished the fall season winning its seventh-straight MIAA points event. The team won three tournaments in the fall both as a team and individually with three different winners for each one.

“We had a really good fall season,” said sophomore Matt Lazzo. “We played good as a team. We came up a little short in South Carolina, though, which is a national tournament that we wish we could’ve done better in. We have a couple of more national tournaments in spring, like in California, that we’d like to do better in. Besides that we did well.

“We had three wins out of five, and we’re looking forward to the spring.”

The Washburn fall sports programs are starting to build a strong tradition.

“It’s special,” said Lebahn. “It just shows you that Washburn fall sports are definitely at the top echelon of the MIAA. I mean, it just goes to show you that all of our coaches and student athletes are definitely working hard, and it’s showing out on the field.”

This year could quite possibly be one of the greatest for Washburn sports, depending how everything pans out. However, for the fall, it is clear that the teams will be great for years to come.

“It feels good to be part of a group of successful sports programs at Washburn,” said Lazzo. “Football, soccer and volleyball did really well this past season. The basketball teams are now doing really well. It’s nice to know that everybody’s doing well.

“It’s not like one team is better than all the other teams out there. Our sports program is kind of looked at nationally as a juggernaut now that everybody is getting really good. So it feels good to be a part of that.”