On Tuesday night, Washburn welcomed Emporia State to town to face off in the quarterfinals of the MIAA tournament and made it clear from the outset who the superior team was.
Emporia State drew first blood but there was an emphatic response from Allison Maxwell who came through with a vicious kill to get Washburn on the board. Both teams traded the next handful of points as Emporia State held a 5-4 lead.
The Hornets then gained some momentum to create some separation at a 7-5 advantage. Brilliant serving from senior setter Shayla Conner got Washburn right back in it as they took the next four-point regaining the lead off a block from the Maxwell’s. A tactical short serve from Conner resulted in an ace and with Washburn on a 5-0 run Emporia State called timeout.
Right out of the timeout, senior middle hitter Makayla Maxwell drove home a kill to keep the momentum on Washburn’s side. Offense and defense were clicking on all cylinders as all seven points after the timeout were scored by Washburn and forced another Hornet timeout with Washburn leading 17-7.
The 12-0 run finally came to end after the timeout as Emporia State scored three straight to make the score 17-10.
A block and kill back to back from sophomore outside hitter Genna Berg was on the end of a 4-0 run to make the score 21-10. This aggressive play from Washburn on the offensive end finished off the set with a final 25-14.
A kill followed by three straight aces from Berg sent Washburn out front early in the second set as they led the Hornets 5-2. Washburn then hit another 5-0 run to stretch the lead to 10-3 forcing a Hornet timeout. Emporia State seemed to have no answer for Washburn’s excellent service game as Lexie Longbine converted with another ace to extend a 6-0 run into another Emporia State timeout with Washburn leading 16-5.
It would have taken a monumental effort for anyone to slow down the Washburn offense this evening.
“Our serve receive [was key]”, said Conner, “We were just passing lights out. Faith Rottinghaus and Katie Heeter just passed so well for us tonight. [senior OH] Taylor Antonowich’s hits were all just money, so we could run the whole offense.”
Emporia State finally found some momentum with a 5-2 run to trim the deficit to eight. Washburn would finish the set on a 7-6 run to win 25-16 and lead two sets to none heading into the break.
The longest rally of the night got Washburn rolling again as red-shirt freshman middle hitter Kelsey Gordon ended it with a block to give the Bods the early 3-1 advantage. Another quick 3-1 spurt had Washburn leading 7-2 with strong offensive play.
Emporia State fought back from the early deficit to cut the lead to 10-8 as they looked to force a fourth set. The Maxwell’s again combined to suffocate the Hornet attack at the net as Washburn stretched the lead back to four at 12-8. The next six points were traded between the two teams to leave the score at 15-12. After back to back points by the Hornets, that trimmed the lead to one for Washburn, resulting in Coach Herron calling for a timeout to slow the ESU momentum.
Emporia State managed to tie the set at 15 all but Allison Maxwell quickly regained the lead with a kill. That kill led to a 4-1 run making the score 19-16. Despite the fight from Emporia State Washburn would take the final set 25-21.
Washburn felt like they had something to prove from the first serve to the last point scored in the game.
“I think we were a little disappointed that we didn’t win conference, so we wanted to prove ourselves in this postseason and so we’re just giving it our all,” Conner said.
As for the remainder of the MIAA tournament the team is feeling extremely confident about how they are playing right now.
“I think like tonight especially helped us gain a little momentum and confidence”, explained Berg, “So hopefully after a couple more practices we’re gonna feel really good and go in strong in these next couple matches.”
Statistically, Washburn outhit Emporia State .245 to .088 and held an 8-3 advantage in the ace category which ultimately made the difference on this night.
Washburn will now head north to Kearney, Nebraska to play in the semifinals of the MIAA tournament against Central Oklahoma this Friday.