Washburn's Quest for a National Title Starts Thursday in Lee Arena

TOPEKA, KS- The fourth-ranked Lady Blues will take on top-ranked Tampa Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in Lee Arena in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA National Volleyball Championship. Washburn will host the eight-team event Thursday through Saturday.

The Lady Blues (37-3) won the South Central Region tournament two weeks ago in Kirksville, Mo., and then were selected by the NCAA to host the three rounds of the national tournament. Tampa (31-2), the defending national champion, hosted and won the South Region tournament this year to advance.

If the Lady Blues win Thursday they will play Friday at 6:30 p.m. against the winner of the Dowling/Western Washington match in the semifinal. The championship match is Saturday at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $12 for adults and $5 for students and are good for the entire day’s matches. The ticket office will open one hour prior to each day’s matches. For those who can’t make it to Lee Arena, all the matches will be streamed online live through cstv.com for free.

About the Tampa Spartans
Tampa is 31-2 and ranked No. 1 in the nation. The Spartans moved into the top spot in the nation after winning the South Region tournament and then-No. 1 Minnesota Duluth lost in the North Central Region tournament. They have won seven straight matches dating back to November 3. Their last loss was October 30 to South Florida, but they avenged that loss in the region championship game.

The Spartans placed three players on the AVCA All-America first team, including Erin Clark, Katelen Dixon and Margeaux Sinibaldi. Clark, a senior middle blocker, leads the team with 3.99 kills a game and a .468 attack percentage. Her attack percentage is the best in the nation. Dixon, a senior outside hitter, is averaging 3.39 kills, third on the team and is second with 3.23 digs a game. Sinibaldi is a senior libero who averages 5.13 digs a game.

Head coach Chris Catanach is in his 24th season at Tampa. He is 752-145 (.838) and has 16 Sunshine State Conference titles, 22 NCAA appearances, 11 trips to the elite 8, two national runner-up finishes and the 2006 NCAA II national championship.

The Spartans won the NCAA national championship last year with a four-game conquest of North Alabama to finish the season at 35-1.

This year they advanced through the South Region tournament on their home court by defeating South Carolia-Aiken 3-0 in the first round, Lynn 3-2 in the second round and South Florida 3-0 in the region final. The Spartans had to battle back from a 2-0 deficit against South Florida for a 28-30, 30-32, 30-20, 30-25, 15-11 win.

Lady Blues in uncharted water in NCAA tournament
Washburn has been to the NCAA tournament five times now and in each of the last four years. The Lady Blues are 5-4 all-time in the tournament, advancing as far as the second round in 2005 and 2004. This year the Lady Blues have advanced further than they ever have as they have won three matches.

Seniors Mandi Cox and Erica Cowhick are playing in their fourth NCAA tournament. Senior Tessa Jones is playing in her third NCAA tournament and she became the school’s career postseason leader in kills with 86 and 5.06 per game. Cox is the leader in attack percentage with a .352 mark and Kate Hampson is now the leader with 180 assists and 13.85 per game. Cowhick, already the career postseason digs leader, added to that total and now has 125 and 6.25 per game.

Washburn and Tampa meet for first time
The Lady Blues and Spartans have never met before in their history.

Lady Blues return to Lee Arena with perfect home record
Washburn went 16-0 at home this year and won 48 games while losing just seven. The Lady Blues swept their opponents 11 times, won three four-game matches and took two matches to five games.

They have a .307 team attack percentage at Lee Arena with Stephanie Nitz leading the team with a .357 effort. Tessa Jones is scoring 4.41 kills a game while Monica Miesner has 4.13. Washburn’s opponents are hitting just .137 at Lee Arena.

Cowhick moves to 2nd in MIAA career digs, already leads WU
Senior libero Erica Cowhick has 2,398 digs in her four years at WU, now making her second all-time in the MIAA. Cowhick holds every dig record at Washburn and she recently completed her 106th double-figure dig match. Earlier in the year she became the first Lady Blue to reach 2,000 digs and just the fourth in MIAA history.

Cowhick is the school’s career leader in digs in the NCAA tournament with 125 and 6.25 five in her four years playing.

Already in the 1,000 kills club, Cox looks to leave WU as career attack percentage leader
Senior Mandi Cox started the year as the school’s career leader in attack percentage with a .324 mark. She is hitting .328 this year and now .326 overall to keep herself on pace to stay atop the chart as her career nears an end. She has a lot of wiggle room to hold the record. The next closest in the record book is Kate Thomsen, who hit .288 from 1996-97.

Cox’s finest year was her sophomore season when she set the school record with a .373 attack percentage. She will try this year for the ninth single-season attack percentage above .300 in Washburn history.

Cox joined an elite group of Lady Blues on October 6 when she reached 1,000 kills in her career to make her the 12th member of the 1,000 kill club at Washburn. Cox is currently 13th in career kills at Washburn with 1,127. With 366 total career blocks, she is ninth in school history and needs four to move into eighth, eight to move to seventh and 11 to move to sixth.

Attack percentage records on pace to be shattered
Washburn has three attackers hitting at over .300 this season and only 10 times in school history has a player ended the year hitting .300 or better. Mandi Cox leads the team with a .328 percentage, Stephanie Nitz is hitting .308 and Tessa Jones is attacking at .316. Cox’s percentage is currently good enough for the third highest total in school history.

The Lady Blues are also on pace to break the school record for attack and for total kills. This year they have a .270 team percentage while in 2004 the previous record of .258 was set. With 2,386 total kills this year, they just recently broke the old school record of 2,154 kills set in 2005.

Lady Blues set school-record winning streak this year
The Lady Blues tied their previous school record for a winning streak with 18 straight match wins. They went on the shatter that record by reaching 27 wins before it was snapped earlier at Emporia State. Their previous best was 18 straight matches during 2005.

Washburn also set school records this year by winning 29 straight games and by sweeping eight straight opponents. Both of those record streaks were snapped by Rockhurst two weeks ago.

Lady Blues record school’s sixth 30-win season
This year’s team became just the sixth team in Washburn’s history to win 30 or more matches. At 37-3 this year, they are also just the second WU team to do it since joining the MIAA in 1989. Washburn last reached 30 wins when it went 35-3 in 2005 and the school win record is 45 wins in 1985 when the Lady Blues played 63 matches.

Miesner joins 1,000 digs/1,000 kills club
Junior Monica Miesner became the 16th member of Washburn’s 1,000 career digs club earlier in the year and then she became the 13th member of the 1,000 kills club. Now with 1,197 kills and 1,354 digs, she is Washburn’s seventh member of the 1,000 kills/1,000 digs club. Miesner is currently 11th at Washburn in career kills and ninth in digs. She is 27 kills from cracking the top 10 in that category.

Miesner is second on the team this year with 3.46 kills a game and 4.37 digs.

Jones joins Washburn’s 1,000 kill club, nets 600 for the season
Senior All-American rightside hitter Tessa Jones set the school’s single-season kills record in the final of the South Central Region tournament, now with 606. Earlier in the year she became the eighth player to reach 500 kills in a season. And before that she became the 11th member of Washburn’s 1,000 kill club. Jones is second all-time in kills per game with 3.92 and second with 4.64 points.

Herron moves to the top of the list in coaching victories
WU head coach Chris Herron became Washburn’s all-time leading coach by wins when the Lady Blues defeated Panhandle State on October 5. He is currently 183-37 in his sixth year at Washburn. He moved past Linda Moley, Washburn’s coach from 1982-86 who went 167-108 in five seasons.

Herron is already Washburn’s leader in winning percentage, entering the year with an .811 mark in five full seasons. Counting his three years at Benedictine, Herron entered the year with a .778 career winning percentage, which was 10th most in NCAA Division II among active coaches.

Washburn earns 53rd straight ranking in AVCA poll
The Lady Blues will be one of four top-10 teams when they host the NCAA National Volleyball Championship as they jumped three spots to No. 4 in the AVCA national poll released last Monday. The rating matches Washburn’s rating three weeks ago, the highest in school history for the Lady Blues (37-3).

Washburn’s quarterfinal opponent, Tampa, jumped from No. 2 to No. 1 in the country after winning the South Region tournament. In other fourth round matches No. 3 Concordia-St. Paul will play 24th-ranked California (Pa.), No. 5 Grand Valley State will play No. 8 West Texas A&M, and No. 15 Western Washington will play Dowling, unranked but receiving votes. All of those matches will be played November 29 at Lee Arena.

Entering the South Central Region tournament at No. 7 in the nation, Washburn swept unranked West Georgia in the first round and then swept then-No. 8 Central Missouri in the second round. The Lady Blues then beat then-No. 4 Truman 3-1 to claim the region championship.

The Lady Blues have been ranked in the top 10 for the last 11 weeks and they have been ranked 53 straight times now dating back to week one of the 2004 season. They have been in the top 10 in 27 of those weeks.

Lady Blues are 9-2 against ranked teams
The Lady Blues are 9-2 against ranked opponents this year with five wins against top-10 teams. In Chris Herron’s sixth year the Lady Blues are 27-26 against ranked teams and 9-13 against the top-10. In NCAA tournament matches they are 2-2 overall while at home they are 14-10.

Net Notes
• This year the Lady Blues have started every match but five with a win and are 34-1 when doing so. Their one loss when opening with a win came against Nebraska-Kearney. When opening with two straight wins, Washburn is 29-0 with 24 sweeps. They went 24-3 last year when winning the first game of a match and they are 163-9 in Chris Herron’s six years as coach.
• Washburn finished second in NCAA II last year in total attendance with 9,195 total fans. The 575 fans per game was sixth most in the nation. The total figure led the MIAA and the average was the second best. This year the Lady Blues are averaging 508 fans a game.
• Erica Cowhick now has 756 digs, giving her the top three single-season dig totals in school history. The total this year is also a record for a Lady Blues senior, giving her the top single-season totals for a sophomore, junior and senior in her last three years.

Jones and Miesner named AVCA All-Americans, Jones named Washburn’s 1st first-teamer
Tessa Jones and Monica Miesner each repeated as American Volleyball Coaches Association All-Americans as the team was announced Monday. Jones, a senior rightside hitter, was named to the first team while Miesner, a junior outside hitter, earned a second team spot.

Jones became the first Washburn player to earn first team All-America in school history. Last year she was an honorable mention selection and her sophomore year she was named to the third team. She becomes the first Lady Blue to be named an All-American three times.

Miesner was a second team selection in 2005, her sophomore year. She missed most of last year with a medical redshirt.

Both players were named to the AVCA All-Central Region first team and they were also first team all-MIAA selections, announced earlier this year.

The AVCA national player of the year will be announced Wednesday night during the NCAA Volleyball National Championship pre-tournament banquet on the Washburn campus.

Jones, Miesner and Cowhick earn AVCA all-region honors, Herron named coach of the year
Tessa Jones and Monica Miesner were named to the AVCA All-South Central Region first team announced November 20, while Erica Cowhick earned honorable mention. Head coach Chris Herron was named the region’s coach of the year.

Jones, a senior rightside hitter, leads the Lady Blues with 4.39 kills a game and is hitting .316 while junior outside hitter Miesner is second on the team with 3.46 kills and 4.37 digs per game. Cowhick, a senior libero, is the school’s career leader in digs and is averaging 5.44 this year.

The AVCA’s release on Herron:
In his sixth season as the head coach of Washburn University (Topeka, Kan.), Chris Herron has built a volleyball powerhouse at the Midwest institution. Washburn began the season as the preseason No. 8 team in the CSTV/AVCA Division II Coaches Top 25 poll, but has steadily risen throughout the weeks to reach as high as No. 4, the best ranking in program history. In 2007, Herron has guided the Lady Blues to a 37-3 record, along with a 12-1 mark in the West division of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAA), marking the first time the Lady Blues have gone through the season without a loss to either Truman or Central Missouri. After ending the 2006 campaign with a 27-9 overall record and a No. 23 final national ranking, Herron has led Washburn to its first regional championship, becoming the program’s all-time winningest coach along the way. The Lady Blues earned the right to host the 2007 Division II National Championships and will face off against defending national champion Tampa on Thursday, November 29. This honor marks the first AVCA Division II South Central Region Coach of the Year award for Herron.

Hampson and Jones land on Daktronics all-region first team, Miesner named to second team
Washburn setter Kate Hampson and rightside hitter Tessa Jones were named to the Daktronics all-South Central Region first team, announced November 14, and they will move on to the All-America ballot. Outside hitter Monica Miesner was named to the second team.

Jones was named to the Daktronics all-region second team last year and was a first team pick in 2005 while Hampson’s honor is her first. Miesner was also a first team pick in 2005.

Jones already claimed the MIAA MVP award and joined Miesner on the all-MIAA first team while Hampson was an honorable mention selection.

Jones and Herron earn MIAA top honors; Lady Blues put six on all-conference team
Rightside hitter Tessa Jones was named the MIAA MVP and Chris Herron was named the MIAA coach of the year after coaching six players to all-conference honors, announced November 12. Jones joined Monica Miesner on the all-MIAA first team, two Lady Blues were named to the second team and two to the honorable mention team.

Two-time All-American Jones became the first Lady Blue named conference MVP as she earned her second first-team appointment. Miesner, an outside hitter, was also a first-teamer in 2005, as well as an All-American.

Erica Cowhick was named to the second team as a libero and Mandi Cox earned a spot as a middle hitter. The two also earned second team honors last year while Cowhick was a first team pick in 2005 and Cox was honorable mention.

Setter Kate Hampson and middle hitter Stephanie Nitz earned honorable mention for the first time in their careers.

Herron received his third honor as the league’s top coach after earning it in 2005 and 2002.

Coming up next
A win over Tampa would set up a match against the winner of the Dowling/Western Washington match Friday at 6:30 p.m. in Lee Arena. Dowling (39-7) is unranked after winning the Northeast Region tournament while Western Washington (24-4) is 15th in the nation after winning the Pacific Region tournament. Washburn has never faced either of the teams.

Did you know?
This will not be the first time a volleyball national champion has been crowned in Lee Arena. The Lady Blues hosted the 20-team NAIA national tournament in 1988. Hawaii-Hilo won the tournament, defeating Western Oregon in the final. The Lady Blues were allowed in the tournament since they were the host and they went 0-4 to wrap up a 31-36 season.

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