Bods on top: Volleyball team remains undefeated

Matthew L. Self

The Washburn volleyball team had an incredible weekend as they bumped their record to 14-0 after beating both Fort Hays State University (25-12, 25-21, 25-15) and the number one ranked team in the country, University of Nebraska-Kearney (25-22, 17-25, 25-19, 25-23).

The Bods kicked the weekend off by playing against the Fort Hays Tigers on Friday night to get their eleventh sweep and thirteenth win of the season. The Bods showed up in force as they started the first set off with an excellent 6-0 run that gave them a strong, early lead. A late 5-0 run placed the score at 14-5 that was, in turn, boosted by no more than five errors from FHSU. It ended at a score of 25-12 for Washburn, an impressive start for the volleyball team.

A late start to the second set saw Washburn fall behind by two points before kills from middle hitter Allison Maxwell and opposite hitter Genna Berg pushed them to the front. The Bods continued to expand the score gap between themselves and the Tigers to a 19-10 advantage before a late push by the Tigers saw them quickly catch up with the Bods. A 4-2 spurt placed the score at 24-21 before middle hitter Kelsey Gordon ended the set with one last kill.

The third and final set began with another early lead by the Tigers with a 5-2 run that was answered by four consecutive kills that tied the stanza at 6-6. Washburn quickly built a strong lead following a 3-0 spurt that placed the score at 19-12. A final push by FHSU looked to tie up the score but the Bods rallied and a 5-0 run ended any chance for an FHSU victory. Libero Faith Rottinghaus and middle hitter Allison Maxwell had great games with 14 digs from Rottinghaus and 11 kills by Maxwell. This victory pushed Washburn’s volleyball team to a 13-0 record.

Washburn carried the momentum of its previous match against FHSU when they returned to Lee Arena to face off against the Nebraska-Kearney Lopers as they pitted their unblemished record against UNK’s own 13-0 tally of victories. The crowd watched expectantly as both teams were introduced and exchanged salutations with each other. Those attending the game knew that both teams bore undefeated records and it was safe to say that everyone knew what was at stake. Only one team would walk away with the win.

Washburn and Nebraska-Kearny remained close to each other in the first set as the Bods gained an advantage with a 10-9 lead. They were quickly upset by a 7-2 sprint by the Lopers. Middle hitter Makayla Maxwell and opposite hitter Taylor Antonowich both buried two points apiece, tying the score at 16. A late 5-1 run gave the Bods a 22-19 lead. The Lopers weren’t ready to give up just yet and scored two more points before being defeated by a final point from Washburn, ending the set in a 25-22 win for the Bods.

The Lopers came back strong in the second set with a 4-1 run that pushed them ahead of Washburn and left the Bods struggling to keep up. Washburn managed to narrow the margin to one point twice in the set but were unable to keep pace with the Lopers as they won the set 25-17.

The Bods were determined to reclaim the advantage in the third set as they built an 8-4 lead early on. An incredible 6-0 run spurred the Bods to widen the point margin with the Lopers, eventually reaching a double-digit lead with back-to-back kills from Makayla Maxwell and opposite hitter Genna Berg to place the score at 19-9. Washburn and UNK then went back-and-forth, trading points with each other, before the Bods finished the set at 25-19 and earned a 2-1 set lead in the match.

Much of the student section was on their feet during the final set, chanting and cheering the Bods on. The fourth set remained hotly contested after an early push by Washburn that ended in a tie of 8-8. Both teams had small spurts of points that kept them within a couple points of one another. The Lopers gained an advantage over the Bods as they neared the 20 point mark until a pair of Loper attack errors and points scored by the Bods gave Washburn a slight lead of 18-17. Repetitive ties at 18, 22 and 23 forced both teams to give it their all as the set neared its end.

The energy in the crowd hit its peak as both teams neared the 25-point mark, everyone was anxious to see how the match would end. A final ace by Rottinghaus completed the set and gave the overall victory to Washburn in one of its closest and most difficult games of the season. The student section and the team erupted into cheers with the final ace, marking an end to a spectacular night of volleyball.

Head Coach Chris Herron expressed his admiration for his team and their hard won victory against UNK.

“It was an intense match. The crowd was loud and the team was pumped,” Herron said. “We were well-prepared for this and our team couldn’t have performed better.”

According to freshman offensive hitter Taylor Antonowich, this was one of the most exciting games of the season. The rest of the team mirrored her sentiments as they cheered and celebrated in the hall outside of Lee Arena on Saturday night.

“Everybody stepped up and played their game,” Antonowich said. “We played with nothing to lose, it was an incredible game. Definitely the most exciting one of the season.”

The Ichabods are scheduled to travel to St. Charles, Missouri this Friday, Sept. 21 to face off against Lindenwood University. They will then head to Warrensburg, Missouri on Saturday, Spet. 22 to compete against the University of Central Missouri.