By RICK PETERSON
Veteran Washburn University volleyball coach Chris Herron knows that being the No. 1 ranked team in NCAA Division II doesn't mean that anybody in the MIAA or across the D-II ranks are going to cut the Ichabods any slack.
But Herron, whose team took the court Tuesday night as a No. 1 for the first time in program history, also knows that being top-ranked is a nice reward for the school and Washburn players past and present who got the Ichabods to this point.
"It's cool for the program,'' Herron said after the Ichabods made their debut as a No. 1 with a 25-18, 25-15, 25-15 home MIAA win over Emporia State. "It's cool for our kids and all these kids that have come before, the (Dani) McHenrys and the Corrinne Stringers and Alyssa Carneys and all these kids that are from Topeka, Sarah Vicory and those kind of folks.
"Those folks helped build this program, so it's cool for them, too, and I hope that all of them are sharing in that. It only took us 20 years to get it.''
Herron said the key now is for the Ichabods to continue doing the things that got them to No. 1.
"It's pretty cool, but what you have to do is just eliminate the noise, basically,'' Herron said. "You've got to manage all those expectations that now come with that.''
Washburn, which improved to 11-1 overall and 3-0 in the MIAA, was never in any danger of losing Tuesday night to an Emporia State team that fell to 2-8, 0-3, but Herron, who emptied his bench against the Hornets, said the Ichabods did lack continuity.
"What I just told my team was I tried to substitute so many kids tonight -- all 22 kids got to play -- and it's really not fair to them,'' Herron said. "It's not fair to the kids that are starting and not to the kids you put in because they can't get in a rhythm, so we were herky-jerky all night and we just didn't have a flow and that's only the coach's fault, not theirs.
"I'm always happy to win and always happy to beat Emporia, but we've played much, much better than that throughout the year.''
Senior Allison Maxwell was dominant at net throughout the match, finishing with 13 kills and five blocks, while senior Genna Berg and freshman Jalyn Stevenson both added 10 kills apiece.
Senior Allison Sadler had 26 assists on the night for Washburn, while senior Faith Rottinghaus had 15 digs.
Former Washburn Rural standout Shelby Ebert and Shawnee Heights product Megan Stretton both had seven kills for Emporia State.
Washburn def. Emporia State, 25-18, 25-15, 25-15.