Jason Oliveira, Assistant Sports Information Director
KEARNEY, Neb. — For the first time since 2007 Washburn volleyball is the among the final eight teams standing, after knocking off the winner of nine of the last 11 national titles, Concordia-St. Paul in five sets, 25-22, 23-25,15-25, 25-18, 15-11, Saturday to win the NCAA Central Region Championship.
With the landmark victory, the Ichabods improved to 32-4 while head coach Chris Herron earned career win number 503.
Washburn finished with three in double figure kills as Erica Montgomery led the way with a team-best 16, while Genna Berg and Allison Maxwell followed with 13 each. Shayla Conner steered the attack with 47 assists while digging up 13 attacks.
Makayla Maxwell was a presence at the net defensively as she tallied a game-best eight blocks including one solo. Allison Maxwell followed with seven blocks. Berg chipped in with five while adding 14 digs. Katie Heeter led Washburn in digs with 15.
Collectively, the Ichabod attack hit .203 with 57 kills while the defense held the Golden Bears (24-9) to sub-.200 hitting for just the third time all season as they converted at .189 clip with 73 kills. The Washburn defense also controlled the net out blocking CSP, 14-10.
Washburn started the match quickly using a 3-0 spurt to take a 5-2 lead with a kill from Berg while Taylor Antonowich landed one of two aces on the night. The advantage however was short lived as the Golden Bears answered back with a 5-0 run. Concordia then controlled the frame till late as a 6-1 run helped the Ichabods level the score at 18.
The Ichabods then used a 4-0 run to claim a 22-19 lead a controlled from their as kills from Gordon, Makayla Maxwell, and Berg secured the opening opening set point.
With momentum on their side, the Ichabods blitzed CSP early with a 9-1 run to begin the second. The Golden Bears pulled together however knocking WU off balance with an 11-0 sprint. Trailing 16-11, the Ichabdos rang up a 6-1 run tying the frame at 17. Washburn would tie the frame five more times including at 22-all, before CSP closed on a 3-1 run, tying the match at 1-1.
It was Concordia-St. Paul in the fourth as it used a 10-2 run early and never looked back. Trailing 15-8, WU put together a 4-1 run to pull within four with kills from Gordon and Berg while the Maxwell combined for assisted block but it was not enough to the close the gap. The Golden Bears though continued to thrive as they assumed a double-digit lead en route to taking a 2-1 match advantage.
Again falling behind early, Washburn recovered to hold leads of 5-3, 9-4 before using a 6-1 late to pull out a 21-10 advantage. CSP put together a late rally with a 6-2 run cutting the WU margin to 23-16 but a pair of timely kills from Montgomery was enough to secure the point, tying the match at 2-2.
In the decisive fifth, it was all Washburn early as it jumped out a 5-1 run with kills from Gordon and Berg. Allison Maxwell landed a heavy strike midway through giving the Ichabods an 8-4 advantage as the teams switched ends. CSP threatened with a 3-0 spurt after the turn to cut the margin to one, 8-7. Leading 11-10, Conner sparked a 3-0 run, setting up Allison Maxwell who punched the Ichabods ticket to the national tournament in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Following the match, the All-Tournament Team honors were announced with Conner, Berg, Montgomery and Allison Maxwell each garnering recognition. CSP also had four representatives, while Minnesota Duluth and Harding had two awardees each.
Washburn will return to action the week following Thanksgiving and awaits further information regarding its opponent and match time.