Lady Blues crush competition in Fall Classic

After winning a classic top 10 matchup at Truman State, the Lady Blues returned home to sweep a classic of their own.

In the first of five matches last week, No. 5 Washburn survived a battle between the MIAA’s top two teams, winning at No. 6 TSU 3-2. Three days later, the team swept four home matches 3-0 in the Lady Blues Fall Classic. With the wins, the Lady Blues improved to 25-1 overall, 6-0 in the MIAA and extended their win streak to 20 matches.

Their streak looked as if it might end at 15 when Washburn lost the first two games 25-30 and 22-30 at TSU (21-4, 5-1). The experience of playing, and beating, five ranked teams in the last three weeks helped the Lady Blues come back to win the final three games 30-25, 30-25, 15-11.

“Every ranked team we’ve played, we’ve been down,” said head coach Chris Herron. “I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. Look at what they’ve done, you can’t argue with what they’ve done.”

Beating the Bulldogs looked good on paper because of the high rankings and both schools’ impressive records, but the come-from-behind win is even more crucial because of its postseason implications.

“The top team in each region will be a host site,” said Herron. “If we were to win out, we would be the host. That’s really hard to do though with the teams we play, and the other teams that are in the region.”

With all the ranked opponents Washburn has beaten, those that are unranked are always in danger of being swept. That was the case in the Fall Classic, where the Lady Blues swept all four of their competitors, including No. 17 West Texas A&M.

Friday’s first match was a 30-10, 30-11, 30-23 win against Oklahoma Panhandle State. Washburn committed only one error in the first two games and had a school high .500 team attack percentage. The match was Herron’s 168th win at Washburn, a new Washburn record. Herron’s feelings about becoming the winningest coach in Washburn volleyball history are the same as his thoughts about rankings and win streaks: They are secondary to what happens on the court.

“It doesn’t mean a thing to me,” said Herron. “I wouldn’t even know about it if [the media] didn’t tell me.”

Later that day, the Lady Blues tied a school record by winning their 18th straight match 30-19, 30-22, 30-20 against Abilene Christian. In Saturday’s first match, the team conquered its second religion in two days, beating Dallas Baptist 30-11, 30-15, 30-17. The victory was the 19th in a row for the Lady Blues, a new school record that was extended in the following match.

In many sports, the most talented teams have lengthy win streaks cut short because of distractions and eventual lack of focus. The Lady Blues have followed the words of Herron and pay little attention to their increasingly impressive 20 game win streak.

“We don’t look ahead to who we’re playing,” said senior Mandi Cox. “We just keep focused on who we play now.”

Saturday afternoon Washburn faced WTAMU, its only ranked challenger in the Fall Classic, and the match again ended in a 3-0 sweep.

Cox and Monica Miesner became the 12th and 13th members of Washburn’s 1,000 kill club in the day’s matches. Miesner had already surpassed the 1,000 dig mark in her Lady Blue career and became just the seventh Washburn player to ever have both 1,000 kills and digs. WTAMU was the only team to score more than 25 against the Lady Blues in the Fall Classic but lost 30-28, 30-14, 30-25.

Cox was joined by sophomore Kate Hampson and senior Tessa Jones on the Fall Classic all-tournament team.

The Lady Blues will be back in action against Central Missouri 7 p.m. Wednesday in Lee Arena for one of their toughest matches of the year. CMSU will be the sixth ranked team Washburn has played in less than a month.

“It just keeps going,” said Herron. “Now Central’s coming in and they’re No. 7 in the country.”

Washburn related

Junior Monica Miesner and Sophmore Kate Hampson earn Player of the Week honors. Miesner earned Hitter of the Week through Sept. 30. While Hampson earned Specialist of the Week through Sept. 30.