- Created: Wednesday, 01 December 2021 16:39
By RICK PETERSON
No. 6-ranked Washburn University volleyball will open its 16th NCAA Tournament appearance Thursday night in Warrensburg, Mo., with the fifth-seeded Ichabods taking on No. 10-ranked and fourth-seeded Winona State in a Central Region quarterfinal match.
Washburn will take a 26-5 record into the 7:30 p.m. match while Winona State is 28-4.
No. 1 seeded and top-ranked Central Missouri will host the eight-team Central Region tournament, with the quarterfinal matches contested on Thursday followed by the semifinals on Friday and the championship match at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
"We can play with anybody in the country and that's the way we feel,'' Washburn coach Chris Herron said. "We feel that way and all these kids feel that way.''
Thursday's quarterfinal will mark the first-ever match between Washburn and Winona State.
"I think it's kind of exciting that we're playing somebody we haven't played,'' Herron said when the tournament pairings were announced. "That's really cool for us and I know our kids will be excited about not playing somebody for the third or fourth time.''
The Ichabods have been idle since dropping a 3-1 decision to No. 4 Northwest Missouri in an MIAA tournament semifinal, while Winona State is coming off a loss in the NSIC tournament championship match.
WU has played 10 matches against teams ranked in the Top 25 this season and has gone 5-5. Six of those matches were against opponents ranked in the Top 10.
Washburn has played 30 matches in the NCAA Tournament and has an overall record of 15-15.
Seven of the eight teams in this year's Central Region tournament are ranked in the Top 15 nationally.
Washburn has won the NCAA regional title twice, first in 2007 against Truman State and then in 2018 against Concordia-St. Paul.
There are 10 current Ichabod players who were on the 2018 roster. Current assistant coach Shayla Conner was also on the 2018 squad.
Washburn had a program-best eight players receive All-MIAA honors this season, including tying a program-best with five first-team selections.
Genna Berg, Faith Rottinghaus and Allison Maxwell were all named to the first team for the third time in their careers. Allison Sadler earned her second first-team honor and Kelsey Gordon was a first-time first team selection.
Sydney Fitzgibbons earned second-team All-MIAA recognition while Taylor Antonowich and Jalyn Stevenson received honorable mention.
As a team, the Ichabods lead the MIAA in eight of 12 statistical categories and is ranked in the top-three nationally in kills per set (15.12 kills/set - first in D-II), assists per set (13.70 assists/set - second in D-II), and hitting percentage (.296 percent - third in D-II).
The Ichabods also hold their opponents to a conference-low .140 hitting percentage as well as the lowest in opponent assists (9.7 assists/set), kills (10.7 kills/set), service aces (0.9 aces/set), and blocks (1.4 blocks/set).
Maxwell is the only player in the MIAA and one of six players in the nation who are currently hitting above .400 as she has a .438 attacking percentage.
Berg leads the team with 385 kills and is second in the MIAA with 3.67 kills per set while Maxwell has 329 kills and is second in the conference with 1.10 blocks per set.
Rottinghaus averages 6.55 digs per set (third in Division II) and has 688 total digs (fifth in Division II).
Sadler has recorded a team-best nine double-doubles. She is third in the league with 10.68 assists per set and is second on the team with 2.35 digs per set.
Berg is now seventh on Washburn's all-time kills list with 1,500 in her career.
Herron has posted a record of 557-112 at WU while coaching the Ichabods in all 16 of their NCAA Tournament appearances.
NSIC player of the year Megan Flom leads Winona State with 440 total kills while hitting .419. She also has a team-best 114 blocks, which includes 26 solo stops.
Bre Maloney earned a place on the NSIC first team as she averages 11.22 assists per set.
An Ichabod win on Thursday would place them in the regional semifinal match on Friday against the winner of the Central Missouri/Arkansas Tech quarterfinal.