TOPEKA, Kan.- The fourth-ranked Lady Blues overcame a 2-0 deficit against top-ranked Tampa Thursday night to defeat the Spartans 3-2 (24-30, 22-30, 30-18, 31-29, 15-8) Thursday night in front of a school-record 2,231 fans in the quarterfinal of the NCAA Volleyball National Championship in Lee Arena.
Washburn (38-3) will take on No. 15 Western Washington, 3-0 winners over Dowling in its quarterfinal, Friday at 6:30 p.m. in a semifinal for a chance to play for the national championship in front of the home crowd on Saturday.
Tessa Jones led all attackers with a career-high and school record 30 kills. She also had a career-high 25 digs while tying a school record with her 86th career double-figure kill match.
Monica Miesner had 18 kills and 21 digs for her 51st double-double of her career and Mandi Cox added 10 while leading the attackers with a .296 hitting percentage.
The Lady Blues back line was put to the test as Tampa sent across 224 attacks. Erica Cowhick had 32 digs for her fourth 30-plus dig match of the year while Molly Smith added 13.
Washburn hit just .044 in game one and then .127 in the second game. The Lady Blues turned that all around with just one error in game three for a .475 percentage.
“Obviously the match up we had in game one and two wasn’t working, so I just flip-flopped my lineup,” said WU coach Chris Herron. “We just slowed them down. It’s not that we ever stopped them, but we were beating them in transition.”
“We were playing hard, but we hadn’t played our best yet,” said Jones. “We knew we could do it. We’ve done it this year before so that was kind of the mindset for me.”
The Lady Blues were up in game three by a point at 13-12 before going on a 5-0 run to lead 18-12 and then a 5-2 run to lead 23-14. Miesner’s kill later gave Washburn a 27-18 lead and then Stephanie Nitz added a point to that with one of her eight kills. Two straight Tampa errors then gave the Lady Blues their first game win of the night.
Game four stretched both teams to the limit as it was tied eight times with three lead changes. Washburn was down early, 9-5 and then 15-9 before clawing back to tie that match at 18-18. After a 21-21 tie the Lady Blues then went on a 4-0 run and looked to put the game away before the Spartans, the defending national champions, tied the match at 28-28.
Jones then forced game point on a kill and then she did it again after the Spartans tied the match. Up 30-29, Miesner put the game away with a kill to send Washburn to its seventh five-game match this year.
The Lady Blues stormed out in game five to a 6-0 lead with Jones slamming down four of the kills. Tampa got on the board at 6-1 and tried to get back into the contest, but the Lady Blues held them off for a 15-8 win. Nitz set down the final kill of the match to give Washburn it’s second win this year when being down 2-0.
Tampa put four players in double-figure kills with Katelen Dixon leading with 18 and Danielle MacDonald adding 15. Alisha Green had 14 and Erin Clark had 13.
The Lady Blues took advantage of the school-record home crowd, gaining momentum in the third game and then a huge win in game four.
“They were with us the whole way, even when we were down,” said Jones.
“I think it helped us get the momentum and helped pick us up,” said Miesner.
Having never made it past the second round of the NCAA tournament before this year, the Lady Blues are in uncharted water.
“You can’t let that be the ultimate right now because you want to enjoy the moment right now, but you have to go onto the next moment,” said Herron.
- Tessa Jones’ 30 kills is a school single-match record. The previous record was 28 set by both Jones and Miesner earlier this year. Her 30 kills is also an MIAA season high.
- Jones hit .472 in the final three games with 19 kills and two errors in 36 attempts.
- Jones’ 30 kills gave her the 86th double-figure kill match of her career, tying the school record that Dani McHenry set from 2002-04.
- Herron improved to 2-2 against No. 1-ranked teams in his six years. He also improved to 28-26 against ranked teams in his career and 10-2 this year.
- Western Washington is 25-4 after the 3-0 win over Dowling Thursday in its first trip to the quarterfinal. WWU has now won 20 straight matches dating back to September 13. The Lady Blues have never faced the Vikings.