Washburn VB: Lindenwood Match Fri. And Top-5 Battle With UNK Sat. Will Decide MIAA Championship

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

3rd Straight MIAA Title On The Line
Lindenwood match Friday and top-5 battle with UNK Saturday will decide MIAA championship and postseason seeding
The third-ranked Lady Blues will have a chance to clinch their third-straight MIAA title with a pair of wins this weekend in Lee Arena. They'll start Friday at 7 p.m. against Lindenwood and then end the regular season Saturday at 6 p.m. against No. 4 Nebraska-Kearney. That match will be Senior Day as Jessica Fey, Jessica Kopp an Hillary Hughes will all play their final regular season match in Lee Arena.

The three seniors, as well as the rest of the squad, have been guaranteed at least one more home game as Washburn will host a first round MIAA tournament match Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The seeding for the tournament will be decided after Saturday's matches. Washburn (29-1, 14-1 MIAA) is tied with UNK (28-2, 14-1) and Central Missouri (23-4, 15-1) with one loss each in the MIAA standings. The Lopers host Central Missouri Friday before heading to Washburn Saturday and UCM has to play Saturday at Fort Hays State. If two or three of those teams remain tied in losses after Saturday, they will share the regular season title and tie breakers will be used to determine the seeds for the conference tournament.

Washburn started the week with a 3-1 non-conference win Tuesday at William Jewell while Lindenwood (15-15, 5-11) swept Missouri Southern on Tuesday and will wrap up its season Saturday at Emporia State. The Lions are not yet eligible for postseason play. UNK was off Tuesday and has won 10 straight.

Senior Day
Group of three looks to go out on top for third straight year
• This year's three seniors, Jessica Fey, Jessica Kopp and Hillary Hughes will be looking to clinch an MIAA title at home on Senior Day for the first time since 2002. The three most recent conference titles were won on the road.
• They will also be looking to keep Washburn's school record winning streak in tact. The streak reached 50 and the three seniors haven't lost at Lee Arena since 2009, their freshman year.
• Overall, the seniors are 126-12 (.913) in their four years. They're 52-1 (.981) in Lee Arena

Washburn 5th In Region
Lady Blues drop to fifth in loaded NCAA Central Region
The Lady Blues dropped from fourth to fifth in this week's NCAA Central Region ranking released Wednesday. 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.

Nearing Tournament Time
With Tuesday home match locked up, Washburn looking to clinch home court for semis and final
The Lady Blues will need to hold on the first place in the MIAA and win any necessary tie-breakers to keep playing at home. The top four teams in the MIAA host the bottom four on Tuesday in the first round and the semifinals and final will take place at the home site of the highest remaining seed.

This is the first MIAA postseason tournament since 2007 and Washburn is 5-5 under Chris Herron in tournament matches.

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 1,153 kills and she also has 331 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 .396 this year and is currently averaging a .331 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 1,118 kills, putting her 15th in school history and she's 16th with 1,153 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 415-85 (.830) overall and 340-56 (.859) 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 this week's AVCA Division II Coaches Top 25 poll 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.

The ranking sets up a No. 3 verse No. 4 matchup as Nebraska-Kearney will make its first trip to Lee Arena as a member of the MIAA on Saturday at 6 p.m. The busy week, Washburn's final of the regular season, will begin Tuesday at William Jewell and continue Friday at home against Lindenwood.

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
Lady Blues pushed it to 50 with win over FHSU
• The Lady Blues have a school record as they have won their last 50 matches in Lee Arena with perfect home records in each of the last three years, counting their 11-0 record this year.
• Their last loss in front of the home crowd was against Central Missouri on September 25, 2009. They went all of 2010 and 2011 without a loss.
• Chris Herron is 142-13 (.916) coaching in Lee Arena.
• Washburn has won 65 of its last 66 home matches and 81 of its last 83.

About Coach Chris Herron
Head coach Chris Herron building solid program in 11th season
• Head Coach Chris Herron is 340-56 (.859) in his 11th season at Washburn and 415-85 (.830) in 14 years overall as a head coach.
• He's won more games (340) in the last 11 years than any other program that has been in the MIAA during that time. Truman is second with 327.
• 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 takes on a pair of MIAA newcomers
Two teams will make their first appearance in Lee Arena as members of the MIAA. For the Lindenwood match, it will be the first meeting between the two schools as the Lions are making the jump to NCAA II.

Washburn fell 3-1 at Nebraska-Kearney this year in their first meeting as MIAA opponents. Overall, UNK leads the series 24-6 and has won 11 straight in the series. However, the meeting this year and one in 2007 were the only two since Chris Herron took over in 2002.

Net Notes
Final points...
• Marissa Cox hit just .223 her freshman season but she started the week hitting .338 this year, good enough for fifth best in the league.
• Jessica Kopp has reached double figures in kills in 15 of her last 21 matches. She's hit over .400 eight different times during that stretch.
• 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 fifth in Washburn history with her 33rd career double-double. She's tied for sixth with 53 career double-figure kill matches and tied for seventh with 54 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 2,306. She needs 107 to move to sixth and 168 to crack the top five.
• Fey entered the week second in the MIAA and 12th in the nation hitting .392 this year. She's fifth in the league averaging 3.33 kills a set. Marissa Cox is fifth in the league hitting .338 and Jessica Kopp is 10th with 2.91 kills a set.

Coming Up Next...
Postseason starts with MIAA tournament match in Lee
The Lady Blues will stay at home to host the first round of the MIAA tournament Tuesday at 7 p.m. They will be one of the top three seeds in the conference. The top four get home matches Tuesday against the fifth through eighth-placed teams. The semifinals on Friday and final on Saturday will take place at the site of the top remaining seed after the first round.

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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