By KYLE MANTHE
The Washburn Review
After four weeks at the top of the AVCA rankings Washburn volleyball had dropped to No. 2 ahead of its match against Fort Hays State Tuesday night at Lee Arena.
With a top-five matchup against Central Missouri looming later this week the focus was still on the task at hand.
“I think we needed to get some momentum tonight and I think we did that,'' said senior setter Allison Sadler, who reached 3,000 career assists the weekend prior. "We know Thursday is going to be a really big game and so we didn’t overlook this game whatsoever, but we really wanted to get that momentum going,”
Washburn would take care of the Tigers in straight sets, 25-19, 25-14, and 25-18. The win was the Ichabods' second in a row and moved them to 19-2 overall.
Mis-communication early on caused the Ichabods to fall into an early 10-6 deficit but once the defense settled in Washburn tied the set at 15 and rode five straight points to end the set.
Sadler helped control the offense, with 15 assists in the set and a kill of her own, while senior middle hitter Allison Maxwell picked up three blocks up front.
“I think forcing the middle early helped and our passers did a really good job this game of getting me up at the net, so I had all three options most of the time,” Sadler said.
The second set was split early on with a 5-5 score but would not stay that way as the Ichabods won 13 of the next 17 points on their way to a decisive set victory. Washburn’s defense was stifling in the set, holding the Tigers to an .054 attack percentage in the set.
“I think the biggest place we improved was when we started touching more volleyballs at the net, and then that gives us the ability to transition and they couldn’t handle us in transition,” Washburn coach Chris Herron said.
Washburn played catch up early on to tie the third set at 7-7 before taking the next three points. It would never look back as the gap continued to grow until the set and match were closed. The Ichabods continued to efficiently attack the outside of Fort Hays defense as they had all night, resulting in only two attack errors in the set.
“(Genna) Berg was pretty good tonight huh, and plus (Jalyn) Stevenson after the first set was really good,” said Herron. “They bunch block so they are really tight together so its tough for them to get all the way out to the end so we worked hard on going line all week.”
It was Berg and freshman Stevenson who led the way with 10 kills each, while senior middle hitter Kelsey Gordon added nine at a .500 attack percentage. Maxwell also had nine to go along with six blocks.
Sadler finished the night with 39 assists and three kills while senior libero Faith Rottinghaus recorded 16 digs. Freshman defensive specialist Chloe Paschal was also in double digits with 10 digs.
Shawnee Heights product Claire Olson recorded one kill and four blocks in her effort for the Tigers.
Next up for Washburn is a top five duel as third-ranked Central Missouri visits Lee Arena on Thursday.
“I didn’t say it in our serve and pass but it would behoove us to get out of here early so that we can get our rest,” said Herron. “We want to be physically ready as well as mentally because it’s a huge game.”
Washburn def. Fort Hays State, 25-19, 25-14, 25-18