Washburn stunned in fifth set loss to MSSU on senior night

On Oct. 27, the Washburn Ichabods took on the Missouri Southern Lions in the Ichabods’ last home game of the season. The night started with a presentation of all four Washburn seniors, including Kassidy Pfeiffer, Sophie McMullen, Sydney Pullen and Halle Maister. The Ichabods fell to the Lions earlier in the season, and their second match-up wasn’t much better.

Missouri Southern sent the serve over to start the opening rally, which ended in an attack error from sophomore Jalyn Stevenson to give the point to the Lions. After another point for MSSU, the Ichabods went on a hot streak with back-to-back aces from Stevenson, redeeming herself for her previous mistake. Washburn continued to put the pressure on with a kill from Sophie McMullen and another service ace from Stevenson.

The Lions would catch a break when Stevenson served the ball into the net, but they missed their opportunity by giving the ball right back to the Ichabods. Washburn didn’t let up, as they scored point after point with a combination of kills and attacking errors. MSSU couldn’t handle the pressure and they had to call a timeout with the score 12-5 in Washburn’s favor. The Lions came out of the timeout playing much better than before, trading point for point with Washburn and not letting the Ichabods blow them out. Missouri Southern kept up, but not for long. After a big block from freshman Kealy Kiviniemi, the Ichabods would jump out to a 20-11 lead. MSSU tried to mount a comeback but fell way short.

With a monster kill from Sophie McMullen, the Ichabods would begin to make their way to the end of the set. Sophomore Chloe Pascal sent the serve over and the Lions spiked it out of the back of the play area, giving the Ichabods the first set win 25-14. Out of the Ichabods’ 25 points, 17 came from well-placed kills – a statistic that represents the confidence that Washburn played with in the first set.

The second set started with a serve from Corinna McMullen and a hard spike from Missouri Southern, giving them the first point of the second set. Kiviniemi came up with a big block to regain the serve, but MSSU answered with a block of their own the next point. Washburn continued to struggle in the second half and let the Lions go on a four-point run, causing head coach Chris Herron to call a timeout.

The Lions came out of the second set leading 5-1 and managed to score an ace before the Ichabods could score another point. The Lions continued to play well, and Washburn struggled to keep up. MSSU extended their lead to 10-6 before Washburn could steal another point, but the Lions didn’t let up. They continued to lay it on, only letting Washburn score a point or two before regaining the serve. Once again, the Ichabods began to reel it back in and even gained the lead with another kill from Kiviniemi, making the score 13-12. The Ichabods were not going to let MSSU steal a set from them, but the Lions were just as determined to win the second. Both teams were scoring point for point, both trying to climb to the top before the other. The score was knotted at 17 when Missouri Southern challenged a point that would have given them the lead.

After a lengthy review, the final call was a point for Washburn and a kill for freshman Austin Broadie, making the score 18-17. Both teams continued to battle it out, going point for point. With the score tied at 21, MSSU made an impressive dig and save to keep the ball alive, but freshman Iyannah Jackson buried the ball into the court, giving Washburn the 22-21 lead. Neither team was willing to let the other hold the lead for too long, but the Lions managed to jump ahead and score the final point of the set off of a kill from Missouri Southern’s senior Irina Alekseeva, ending the second set 25-22.

Washburn struggled in the beginning of the third set, letting the Lions score two easy points to start. The Ichabods managed to string a three-point run together including two consecutive blocks from Kiviniemi. The Lions didn’t let that phase them, however, and they went on a five-point run to make the score 7-4. Washburn began to catch back up, but the Lions stopped them dead in their tracks with a kill and block from Missouri Southern’s sophomore Amelia Neels.

MSSU jumped out to a 12-7 lead before the Ichabods were forced to call a timeout. After the timeout, Broadie came out with some fire and pounded the ball into the court for a point. Unfortunately, the Ichabods didn’t have the ball for long as Sophie McMullen hit the net on her serve. The Lions were only able to score one more point before Washburn would take the serve back at 14-9.

After a long, well-played rally, Stevenson would take the point after a well-placed spike. Washburn then started to heat up after a service ace from senior libero Pullen. The Ichabods would eventually take the lead and score one more point before MSSU called a timeout at 18-16. Washburn continued to play well with freshman Ella Waters sending a spike into the court right out of the timeout. The Lions didn’t let that stop them as they took the lead 21-20 off of a kill from Neels.

An MSSU attacking error tied the game at 23, and a kill from Neels gave the Lions the one point lead and possibility to take the third set. Washburn wasn’t going down that easy, as Stevenson and Broadie would get two kills and give them the 25-24 lead. Pullen had the winning point in her hands, but she served it out of bounds and tied it back at 25. The pressure was then on MSSU’s freshman Hannah Allick; however, she hit her serve short and gave the Ichabods another chance.

Washburn couldn’t capitalize on the Lions’ mistake and it cost them. Missouri Southern scored two kills in a row to give them the 27-26 lead. Kiviniemi tried to balance it back up with a hard spike, but MSSU’s junior Fernanda Canedo and senior Kierson Maydew blocked the attempt, giving the Lions the third set win 28-26.

The fourth set started with a small three-point run for MSSU, with two of the three points coming from an error on Washburn’s end. Washburn would only get one point before the Lions would score another three, prompting Herron to call a timeout with the Ichabods down 6-1.

Meister got one kill in before the Lions could score another three points to give them a 9-2 lead. After another point from the Lions, Washburn decided that this wasn’t their game to lose, and they started to make their comeback with a five-point run, bringing the score to 10-8.

The Ichabods began to play much better and the Lions began to fall apart. Stevenson scored two aces in a row to start another big run for Washburn. The Ichabods scored five points in a row to give them the 15-13 lead, forcing MSSU to call a timeout. Washburn continued to extend their lead, with two phenomenal running slide attacks from Broadie and Meitser as well as a service ace from Pullen.

Broadie would get one more kill in before the Lions would score a kill of their own. MSSU was in shambles as they put their serve into the net and failed to return the very next serve, giving the Ichabods a 21-15 lead. Washburn continued to dominate the fourth set, and they managed to close it out with a perfectly placed kill from Sophie McMullen to give them the win 25-15. Washburn scored their final 10 points of the set while holding the Lions to just one point in the same amount of time.

With two sets each for the Lions and the Ichabods, it all came down to the fifth set. Both teams traded kills for the first five points, but the Lions broke the cycle and earned the 4-3 lead. Washburn didn’t hang their heads and got right back to it with a kill from Meister and another point off of a Missouri Southern attacking error.

The Lions didn’t let that affect them, and they scored four straight points, making the score 8-5 and switching sides. MSSU scored two more points, including a perfect second-touch tip from Missouri Southern’s senior Sophie Mader before Herron had to call a timeout. The Ichabods only scored one point before the Lions tacked another three points to the scoreboard.

An attacking error gave Washburn the point and the ball, but it wasn’t enough. Canedo scored two kills in a row to give them the 15-7 win in the final set of the game.

Stevenson thinks there are some things that the team as whole can improve on.

“We need to be cleaner on servicing. We also need to put more balls down because right now we are being aggressive, but we aren’t getting enough balls and enough kills,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson also hopes that her senior night has a different outcome than previous years.

“I’m thinking that my senior night better end in a win because my freshman and sophomore years both ended in losses on senior night, so I’m thinking we need to turn that around next year and get a win,” Stevenson said.

Herron was disappointed in how his team performed in their last home match of the season.

“We weren’t competitive. In critical situations, we were non-competitive,” Herron said. ”We sat around and waited for them to make mistakes instead of creating our own game. It’s as simple as that.”

Herron was more upset with how his team responded to adversity than the loss.

“It’s a characteristic of our program. It’s a mindset and we don’t have that characteristic right now,” Herron said.

The Washburn Ichabods lost their final home game of the season and now move on to play the University of Central Missouri Nov. 4. Washburn beat the Jennies earlier in the season, so the Ichabods have a chance to get one more win before the final match of the regular season.

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Edited by Glorianna Noland, Justin Shepard