By RICK PETERSON
Washburn University's No. 2-ranked volleyball team will close out its regular season at Lee Arena Friday and Saturday, hosting Missouri Western and No. 5 Northwest Missouri in 6 p.m. matches.
Ten Ichabod seniors will be recognized on the court after the conclusion of Saturday's match.
The Ichabods have won five matches in a row and are 24-3 (16-2 MIAA) entering the weekend.
On Friday WU will face a Missouri Western team that has lost four of its last five matches and has a record of 14-13 (6-12 MIAA). On Saturday the Ichabods will face a Bearcat team that is coming off three sweep victories last week and is now 22-4 (15-3 MIAA) on the year.
Washburn faced both Missouri Western and Northwest Missouri earlier this season, falling at Northwest Missouri in five sets on Oct. 15 and then posting a sweep at Missouri Western the following day.
The Ichabods have won five MIAA regular season titles, all under Herron, in 2002, 2005, 2010, 2011 and 2013. Washburn shared the regular season title with Central Missouri in 2010, 2011, and 2013. If the Ichabods win both matches this weekend WU and Central Missouri will be co-MIAA regular-season champions again.
As a team, Washburn leads the MIAA in nine of 12 statistical categories and is ranked in the top-three nationally in kills per set (15.17 kills/set - first in DII), assists per set (13.79 assists/set - second in DII), and hitting percentage (.304 percent - second in DII).
The Ichabods have also held their opponents to a conference-low .134 hitting percentage as well as the lowest in opponent assists (9.54 assists/set), kills (10.54 kills/set), service aces (0.80 aces/set), and blocks (1.37 blocks/set).
Allison Maxwell (.450) and Sydney Fitzgibbons (.422) are the only two hitters in the MIAA who currently hold an attacking percentage above .400.
Allison Sadler was named the MIAA Setter of the Week on Monday for the third time this season after she set up an offense that hit .386 and averaged 14.57 kills per set in a pair of road victories last week.
The Ichabods moved up one spot for the second straight week to No. 2 in the latest AVCA Coaches Poll. Washburn has been ranked in the top five in 25 of the last 26 official polls (excluding the 2021 spring season), dating back to the final rankings of 2018. The Ichabods were ranked No. 8 in this fall's preseason poll.
The MIAA continues to be well-represented in the nationall poll as Central Missouri checks in at No. 4, Northwest Missouri is No. 5, and Nebraska-Kearney is No. 12.
The second edition of the NCAA regional rankings were released on Wednesday, with Washburn moving up one place to No. 3 on the list. Eight of the top-10 teams in the final Central Region rankings will advance to the NCAA Tournament.
Washburn posted two road victories last week with a 3-1 win at Pittsburg State and a sweep at Missouri Southern.
Genna Berg leads the team with 330 kills and is second in the MIAA with 3.59 kills per set. She has recorded double-figure kills in 19 of the 27 matches played.
Allison Maxwell has 292 kills this year and is third in the nation with a .450 hitting percentage. She is also second in the conference with 1.10 blocks per set and her 3.17 kills per set ranks ninth in the league.
Faith Rottinghaus averages 6.49 digs per set (third in Division II) and has 597 total digs (eighth in Division II). She has had 20 or more digs in 17 matches.
Washburn has already clinched a place as one of the top-four seeds in the MIAA standings and will host a quarterfinal match next Tuesday. The official tournament bracket will be announced on Saturday evening.