Lady Blues walk on Moccasins in battle of ranked teams

Caitlin Conley, Washburn hitter, prepares to spike the ball after a bump from Mandi Cox

No. 8 Washburn’s 3-1 win against No. 5 Florida Southern will probably be a good enough reason for the two teams to switch places in next week’s national volleyball rankings.

Not that it matters to coach Chris Herron.

All that the Lady Blues’ coach cares about is picking up wins, which is convenient considering Washburn has been doing almost nothing but winning all season long. Wins are rewarded with high rankings, recognition and hyped up streaks. While those things can create excitement for fans, the team has been taught that winning is the only thing on which it should be focused.

“I never talk about it in practice. The bottom line is that rankings are subjective anyway, so they don’t really mean a great deal,” said Herron. “Now, we beat a very good team. They’re a top five team in the country, and they deserve that ranking, so I feel really good about how hard we played.”

FSC was the highest ranked team the Lady Blues have beaten since knocking off No. 1 Truman State on the road in 2005, and the first top 10 opponent they have beaten at home since 2004. Washburn improved to 15-1, while extending its 10-match winning streak and handing FSC its second loss of the season.

“It’s good to come out here and prove to people that we can win those big games,” said sophomore Kate Hampson, who had a team high 51 assists in the match.

The two teams were in a close battle from start to finish, as they changed leads 12 times and tied 28. The Lady Blues fell behind 3-0 in game one but went on a 5-0 run and never looked back, winning 30-26. Eight of senior Tessa Jones’ 24 kills came in the first game.

The Moccasins led for most of the second game and were up 16-11 thanks to an early 7-2 run. The Lady Blues then tied the score at 17 before FSC went on another run to take a 26-19 lead. However, the visitors would only score one more point for the rest of the game, and Washburn used several rallies to take game two by a score of 30-27. For the Lady Blues to pull off big rallies in close games, it is necessary for them to work together as a close unit.

“We’re really close friends, and on the court it helps us stick together,” said Hampson. “This is the highest ranked team we’ve beaten this year by far.”

Game three was the closest of the four, and the lead changed five times with 13 ties, before FSC finally won 30-27. The Lady Blues were unable to come away with another one of their typical three game sweeps, despite leading 26-23 near the end of the game.

The two teams traded points early on in game four, but Washburn took a 6-5 lead that it would hold for the rest of the game. The Lady Blues went on to win game four by a score of 30-25.

Junior Stephanie Nitz had half of the team’s season-high 16 blocks in the match, and senior Erica Cowhick led the team with 25 digs. The leadership of the team’s upperclassmen has been key to the Lady Blues winning almost every game they have played up to this point in the season.

“We have kids that have been in this program and know what’s expected,” said Herron. “They’re leading by example. When you have upperclassmen, and other kids want to follow them, it makes it easy for me.”