DULUTH, Minn. – The Ichabods gave up nine straight points to end the fourth set Thursday night in the first round of the NCAA tournament and then fell behind quickly in the fifth set in a loss to seventh-ranked Southwest Minnesota State 25-27, 25-18, 25-27, 25-15, 15-11.
The Ichabods were the No. 4 seed in the eight-team Central Region tournament while SMSU was the No. 5 seed. Washburn, ranked eighth in the nation, finished the season at 31-6 while SMSU will play top-seeded and host Minnesota Duluth Friday in a semifinal. The Ichabods finished the year with their seventh straight 30-win season and a third MIAA title in the last four years.
The Mustangs (24-7) ended the fourth set on a 12-1 run that included nine straight points to force Washburn's seventh five-set match this year. The Ichabods led 14-13 before the run. SMSU then started the fifth set with leads of 3-1 and 12-6. Washburn scored four straight to get within two points at 12-10 but the Mustangs fifth service ace of the set clinched the match.
Sarah Vicory led Washburn with a career high 16 kills. She hit .324 and also led Washburn with four blocks. Corrinne Stringer had 14 kills and Marissa Cox had 13. Abby Wittman had 44 assists and 14 digs for a double-double. Kelsey Lewis led the back row with 29 digs and Courtney Churchman had 13.
Wittman finished her career third in Washburn history with 3,849 assists and third with 63 double-doubles, the most of any Washburn setter. She finished seventh with 8.46 assists a set and second with 2,072 service attempts. She's 13th with 1,349 digs and she is only the second Washburn player to ever record 2,000 career assists and 1,000 digs.
Lewis moved into the top 10 at ninth with 1,443 career digs. Cox ended her junior year third in school career history with a .325 attack percentage, one point below her sister's (Mandi Cox, 2004-07) percentage. With 885 kills, she also moved into the top 20.
Cox, Wittman, Lewis, Churchman, Stringer and Sami McHenry all finished their careers as seniors. They have gone 126-16 (.887) in the last four years with three MIAA titles and trips to the NCAA tournament every year.