Washburn completes undefeated Washburn Invitational weekend

Brick Wall: Washburn’s Kelsey Gordon and Alison Maxwell blocking Northern State in their spike attempt. Between Gordon and Maxwell, they had a total of seven blocks during Saturday’s game.

Winners of four straight to begin the 2021 season, Washburn Volleyball headed into the final game of the Washburn Invitational with hopes of maintaining a perfect record. The teams matchup for the final game would be the other highest ranked team in the invitational, #15 ranked Northern State University who entered the game at 2-1 on the season. The #8 ranked Ichabods would need a strong performance to keep its perfect record and move to 5-0.

The first set of the match began with a flurry of kills from both sides but it was Washburn who was claiming most of them, coming from five different players as they jumped out to an early 8-2 lead, forcing a timeout from the Wolves. The early six point lead would be crucial for Washburn moving to the middle stages of the set as the score was at 17-10 at the next timeout from Northern State. After the break the Ichabods went on a 7-4 scoring run before senior middle hitter Allison Maxwell would finish off the set with a kill to win it 25-14. Senior outside hitter Genna Berg led the way with four kills and three digs in the set while senior setter Allison Sadler added six assists.

The Ichabods got out to an early lead again in the second set leading 4-2 with two early kills from senior middle blocker Sydney Fitzgibbons. The lead continued to grow, up to an 11-4 advantage after three straight kills by Berg. Washburn never went on one long run but rather collected two or three points at a time before allowing one. As the set drew closer to its conclusion, the Wolves won six of eight points and made it a 22-15 set before the Ichabods reeled off three straight to win the second set. Berg led the way for Washburn again this time with seven kills and senior libero Faith Rottinghaus recorded six digs for the second straight set.

“It was really hard to keep our calm and keep our focus with all of the energy, but it’s really fun having all of that emotion,” said Fitzgibbons, who finished with a career-high 11 kills in the match.

The third set began as a back-and-forth affair, with the Ichabods in front 6-5 early on but a quick eight point run from Washburn helped them take control of the all-important third set. The next run would belong to Northern State as they would immediately go on a run scoring six of seven points as part of a comeback that would make it a 16-13 set in favor of the Ichabods. Two service errors from the Wolves over a stretch of four points helped Washburn bridge to the late stage of the set. A three-point run from Northern State forced a timeout from the Ichabods as the lead was down to a single point at 20-21. The score would finally be knotted at 22, and then again at 23, and 24 points. Washburn took advantage first before the Wolves reeled off three straight points to win the set 27-25. Maxwell paced the Ichabods with four kills while Sadler collected nine more assists in the set.

The fourth set began the same as the third did through 11 points, with Washburn out in front 6-5. The Ichabods went on another run following that point, winning four of five points resulting in a timeout from Northern State. The two teams went on to trade points through the middle stages of the match as the Wolves slowly made a comeback by bringing the score to 16-13. Washburn followed it up with a mini-run of its own, making it a 21-15 set. Another round of two straight kills by Fitzgibbons brought the Ichabods within two points of a match victory. A combined block by Fitzgibbons and senior middle hitter Kelsey Gordon brought it to match point; a kill by Berg finished off the set and match with a score of 25-20. In the final set both Fitzgibbons and Berg had five kills, Sadler notched 12 assists, giving her 35 in the match, and Rottinghaus made ten digs.

“I told our kids before the game, you come to Washburn to play those kind of matches,” said Chris Herron, Washburn’s head coach. “We expect to play that way.”

Next up for Washburn is the Mountain Lion Invitational in Colorado Springs, CO, where the teams first match will be against Lubbock Christian University on Sept. 10.