Lady Blues Begin Quest For First MIAA Postseason Title With FHSU Match Tuesday In Lee Arena

By: WU, posted by Kinch O'Kelley
By: WU, posted by Kinch O'Kelley

The Lady Blues came just a few points short of their third straight MIAA regular season title but they can still claim a conference trophy as they begin the quest for their first MIAA postseason tournament championship. The 2012 MIAA Volleyball Championship will start Tuesday at 7 p.m. as second-seeded Washburn hosts No. 7 Fort Hays State in Lee Arena. If the Lady Blues win, they'll play a semifinal Friday against the No. 3 Central Missouri/No. 6 Northwest Missouri winner. No. 1 Nebraska-Kearney will host No. 8 Central Oklahoma and would host the weekend rounds with a win. If the Lopers lose and Washburn wins, the Lady Blues will host the final two rounds. No. 4 Truman plays No. 5 Emporia State in the other first round match. All those matches are played at the home of the top seeds.

Ticket prices are $5 each round for anyone ages seven and up. All students must purchase a ticket and there will be no pass lists.

The Lady Blues (30-2) entered last week in a three-way tie for first in the MIAA with UNK and Central Missouri. Washburn beat Lindenwood and UNK beat UCM on Friday, setting up a match for the title on Saturday between Washburn and the Lopers. The Lady Blues won the first two sets and had chances at match point late but fell 3-2 to give the Lopers (30-2) the regular season title in their first year in the league.

Washburn finished tied with UCM for second in the league but won the tie-breaker with a win in the only meeting between the two this year.

The Lady Blues first round opponent, Fort Hays State, finished the regular season with a three-match losing streak that started with a sweep at Washburn on October 30. The Tigers enter the tournament with a 23-13 record and finished in a three-way tie for seventh in the MIAA at 7-10.

Washburn's MIAA Tournament History
Conference resumes postseason event after four years without it
• Washburn is 5-5 all-time in the MIAA tournament and 5-2 in home matches.
• Washburn has never faced Fort Hays State in the conference tournament.
•The Lady Blues are 4-1 in first round matches with their only loss coming on the road in their first trip in 2003.
• The Lady Blues lost their last match in the tournament, 3-2 against Pittsburg State in a 2007 semifinal during the last tournament the MIAA hosted.

Washburn 5th In Region
Lady Blues drop to fifth in loaded NCAA Central Region
The Lady Blues dropped from fourth to fifth in last week's NCAA Central Region ranking. The top eight teams in Washburn's region are all in the top 13 of the AVCA national poll.

The top team in the region at the end of the regular season will host the eight-team regional tournament from November 29 to December 1 with the winner advancing to the NCAA national tournament.

Washburn, ranked third in the country, is right behind Minnesota Duluth in the region poll. Five-time defending national champion Concordia-St. Paul is first in the region, followed by Central Missouri and Southwest Minnesota State, ranked No. 1 in the country. CSP is second and Central Missouri is sixth. Truman is sixth in the region, followed by Wayne State and Nebraska-Kearney.

Fey Joins Elite Club
Fey becomes ninth Lady Blue with 1,000 kills and 300 blocks
Senior middle hitter Jessica Fey is 13th in Washburn history with 1,176 kills and she also has 336 blocks, making her the ninth player in Washburn history to have over 1,000 kills and 300 blocks.

Fey became the 17th Lady Blue to reach 1,000 kills as she had 12 against Harding on October 6. She then got her 300th block October 13 at Central Missouri. Mollie Lacy was the last to get 1,000 kills and 300 blocks, reaching that milestone last year.

Fey entered the season fourth in career hitting percentage with a .306 attack. She's hitting .376 this year and is currently averaging a .326 attack through her four years, good enough for second in school history. Her senior year attack percentage would be good enough for second in Washburn single-season history.

Hughes Also Joins Elite Club
Hillary Hughes becomes eighth member of 1,000 kills/1,000 digs club
Hillary Hughes cemented herself in Washburn volleyball history when she got her 1,000th kill October 5 against Southeastern Oklahoma State, making her the eighth Lady Blue to get 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs in a career. She got her 1,000th dig September 29 at Nebraska-Kearney.

Hughes now has 1,148 kills, putting her 14th in school history and she's 15th with 1,185 digs. The last player to get 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs was Monica Miesner while playing from 2004-08.

400th Career Win
Head coach Chris Herron earns his 400th career win
Washburn's 3-0 win September 28 at Fort Hays State gave head coach Chris Herron his 400th career win in his 14th season as a head coach. He's now 416-86 (.829) overall and 341-57 (.857) in 11 seasons at Washburn.

Herron entered the year fourth in NCAA history with an .821 winning percentage among DII coaches with at least 10 years experience.

119 Straight In The Polls
50th straight time in the national top 10 leaves Lady Blues at No. 3
The top nine teams in the nation remained the same as Washburn stayed put at No. 3 in last week's AVCA Division II Coaches Top 25 pol. A new poll will be released Monday. This is the Lady Blues' fourth straight week in the No. 3 spot and they remained the highest ranked team in the MIAA.

This is the fifth time this year and ninth in school history the Lady Blues have been ranked third. They've been ranked second four different times.

Nebraska-Kearney remained fourth in the nation. Southwest Minnesota State remained first and Concordia-St. Paul remained second. UCM stayed sixth and Truman moved from 15th to 13th.

The Lady Blues earned their 119th straight ranking and their 50th straight in the top 10. They have been in every weekly poll since week one of the 2004 season and they have been in the top 10 going back to week one of 2009.

School Record Winning Streak Comes To End
Lady Blues pushed it to 51 before 3-2 loss to UNK
• The Lady Blues had a school record 51-match home winning streak come to an end as they fell 3-2 to Nebraska-Kearney on Saturday.
Washburn lost once in 2009 at home then went all of 2010 and 2011 without a loss. The Lady Blues won their first 12 home matches in 2012.
• Their previous loss in front of the home crowd before the UNK defeat was against Central Missouri on September 25, 2009.
• Chris Herron is 143-14 (.911) coaching in Lee Arena.
• Washburn has won 66 of its last 68 home matches and 82 of its last 85.

About Coach Chris Herron
Head coach Chris Herron building solid program in 11th season
• Head Coach Chris Herron is 341-57 (.857) in his 11th season at Washburn and 416-86 (.829) in 14 years overall as a head coach.
• Herron's next match of the Fort Hays State game will be his 400th on the Washburn bench. He reached his 500th career game coached during the William Jewell match on November 6.
• He's won more games (341) in the last 11 years than any other program that has been in the MIAA during that time. Truman is second with 329.
• He's turned Washburn volleyball completely around. The program went 169-265 (.389) in its first 12 years as an MIAA school from 1990-2001 and had never been to the NCAA tournament.
• Herron has earned Washburn its first 11 NCAA tournament appearances and four conference titles.
• In his first 11 years he's had at least one All-American each year but his first. He has seen his players earn 15 All-America awards include three first-teamers.
• Herron won a conference title in 2002, his first year with the Lady Blues and they hosted the NCAA region tournament in their first trip to the event.
• He was named MIAA coach of the year in 2002, 2005, 2007 and 2011 and AVCA region coach of the year in 2007.
• His 2007 squad advanced out of the NCAA region tournament for the first time in school history and hosted the NCAA national tournament. Washburn made it to the semifinal and finished ranked third in the nation.
• The 1980 College of the Ozarks graduate went 75-29 in three years at Benedictine before coming to Washburn.

This Week's Opponents
Washburn faces FHSU after two close matches with Tigers
The Lady Blues swept the Tigers this year in the regular season but both matches presented Washburn with challenges. The first match, on September 28 in Hays, Chris Herron earned his 400th career victory in a 3-0 sweep. The Tigers nearly pushed the match to a fourth set as they got to set point at 24-17. Washburn then scored eight straight points to tie it and later won 28-26. The Tigers did win a set in the match in Topeka on October 30 but Washburn won 3-1.

Washburn is 34-44 against FHSU but Herron is 15-2 all-time against the Tigers and 8-0 in Lee Arena. The Tigers haven't beat Washburn since 2004.

Net Notes
Final points...
• Marissa Cox hit just .223 her freshman season but she's currently fifth in the MIAA with a .333 hitting percentage.
• Jessica Kopp has reached double figures in kills in 15 of her last 23 matches. She's hit over .400 eight different times during that stretch. She's 11th in the MIAA with 2.79 kills a set.
• Jessica Fey was named the Sports Imports/AVCA Division II national player of the week October 16 after averaging 5.00 points per set and hitting .494 in three Washburn wins the previous week. She was also named the MIAA hitter of the week. She had the second most points (33.5) and third most kills (29) in school history in the Lady Blues 3-2 win at No. 7 Central Missouri on October 13. Fey is Washburn's fourth national player of the year and the first since Monica Miesner in 2008.
• Jessica Fey was named the Lady Blues Classic (Oct. 5-6) MVP after she hit .520 during the four matches. She hit .786 against Southeastern Oklahoma with 11 kills and no errors in 14 attempts and she hit .632 against Southwestern Oklahoma. She reached double figures in kills in three of the contests.
• Hillary Hughes moved to a tie for fourth in Washburn history with her 35th career double-double. She's sixth with 55 career double-figure kill matches and sixth with 56 double-figure dig matches.
• Hughes and Fey became the eighth and ninth players Chris Herron has coached to 1,000 kills. Washburn also put two players in the 1,000 kills club last year.
• Abby Wittman became the eighth Lady Blue to get 2,000 assists in a career and she's now seventh in Washburn history with 2,359. She needs 54 to move to sixth and 115 to crack the top five.
• Fey is second in the MIAA hitting .376 this year and she was 12th in the nation in last week's NCAA stat report. She's fourth in the league averaging 3.36 kills a set.

Coming Up Next...
Remaining MIAA tournament rounds played at UNK if Lopers win Tuesday
The MIAA semifinals on Friday and the final on Saturday will take place at Nebraska-Kearney if the Lopers win their first round match against Central Oklahoma. If they lose and Washburn wins, the Lady Blues will host the remaining matches.

The NCAA will then announce the 64-team field for the postseason tournament Sunday at 9 p.m. and Washburn will hope to be one of the eight teams in the Central Region that get invited to the tournament.

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