Lady Blues’ win streak swells to 25 matches

After defeating six top 25 teams in each of the last six weeks, it would have been easy for the Lady Blues to let up during their home stand against unranked competition.

Instead, No. 5 Washburn disposed of its overmatched visitors with the same intensity it displayed against the country’s top teams. Fort Hays State (15-14 overall, 2-8 MIAA) and Missouri Western (9-19, 1-9) entered Lee Arena looking to steal a victory during Homecoming weekend but fell victim to the Lady Blues in amazingly common 3-0 sweeps.

“It’s fun playing on the day of Homecoming, having all the people on campus and coming to the game,” said head coach Chris Herron. “We got to go over to the football game for a little bit and take some recruits, which was good because there was a lot of scoring.”

There are other motivating factors besides the excitement of Homecoming that have kept the Lady Blues focused, even when playing teams at the bottom of the MIAA standings. The mindset of Washburn seniors Erica Cowhick, Tessa Jones and Mandi Cox are perfect for a team that is winding down a nearly unbeaten season. The Big Three do not want their careers to end, which means each remaining match is filled with anticipation and excitement whether it is against upper or lower level competition.

“I’m not really looking forward to the end of the season at all,” said Cowhick. “I’m a senior, so I just want to keep on playing.”

The players are enjoying each match rather than looking ahead to what the postseason holds. At one point, the team’s only flaw was that it played down to its competition. Now the Lady Blues are fully focused on each opponent, which has translated into eight straight easy 3-0 wins, including Thursday’s sweep against FHSU.

In game one, Washburn was behind by as much as three and trailed 21-20 late. A 5-0 run broke a 25-25 tie and gave the Lady Blues a 30-25 win. The game was the closest of the three, with 12 ties and five lead changes.

“We came out a little bit flat,” said Cowhick. “We just had a few days off from practice, so we didn’t start real well.”

Game two went Washburn’s way from the beginning, and the Lady Blues never trailed in the 30-22 win. The third game started out close, with FHSU holding a slight lead up until the 8-8 mark. But, once Washburn took the lead in game three it did not give it back, winning 30-23. Junior Monica Miesner had 16 kills and 20 digs, and Tessa Jones added 15 kills of her own.

Breaking down the problems in a sweep sounds like nitpicking, but Cowhick felt the team could have played stronger. In the next match, the Lady Blues fixed what Cowhick saw as a flaw and won easily against MWSU 30-20, 30-16, 30-20.

“We played harder this time than the Fort Hays State match,” said Cowhick. “We had more energy and more blocked balls.”

The extra effort kept the Griffons from scoring beyond the 20-point mark. Anna Simpson-Mills set a career high with 14 kills. Miesner and Jones each added 13 kills against one of the worst team in the MIAA.

With last week’s two wins, Washburn’s match winning streak improved to 25. The team has not lost a single game in its last 27 tries. Although the recent matches may have been easier, the team will soon face more difficult competition.

“Now we get Rockhurst, Pittsburg and Southern,” said Herron. “We get right back into the upper echelon of teams, so we need to get that nostril flare kind of thing where we’ve got to get after it.”