EMPORIA — Several players on both sides got their first taste of the volleyball Turnpike Tussle on Tuesday, with a combined nine freshmen taking the court as Emporia State hosted Washburn.
Judging by the five-set battle that ensued, the rivalry that has been dominated for the past seven years by Washburn will be ramped up again for the next few matchups.
With underclassmen taking the spotlight, Emporia State snapped a 15-match losing streak to Washburn that dated back to 2009, pulling out a thriller over the Ichabods, 22-25, 25-21, 25-20, 21-25 and 15-11 in White Auditorium.
“Back in the day, when we used to have these epic battles, they were a lot of fun,” Washburn coach Chris Herron said. “It was a whole lot more fun coming out on the winning side. That rivalry will obviously be sparked back up now, because we’ve been lucky enough to be out in front for a while. It’s a good win for them and we’ll get better tomorrow.”
The Hornets (9-6, 2-1 MIAA) jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the fifth set, but Washburn (10-5, 1-2) battled back to get within a point twice at 11-10 and 12-11.
However, ESU got a kill from Yuchen Du, then a service ace from Tatum Graves before clinching the match on a WU attack error.
“A lot of young kids, but they played so mature,” Emporia State coach Bing Xu said. “They settled down. Washburn played great and we knew it could be a battle, for sure. We had a lot of down times, and they just played their game and focused on their jobs. I’m so proud of them and so happy for them.”
“We just had to keep hitting away and keep being aggressive and don’t back off and don’t get scared,” ESU freshman Mikayla Simons added. “It’s OK if we make mistakes. We just come back from them.”
Freshman Karly Patton led ESU with 15 kills and junior Jaimie Hauptman and freshman Du added 12 each, while Graves had 10. Du also had 26 assists and 12 digs for a triple double.
“It’s awesome, that’s the only thing I can say,” Du said. “Everybody played together as a team. We did exactly the same of what we practice every day.”
The streak-snapper came on a night where Emporia State named the ESU locker room in honor of former Hornet volleyball player and Rossville native Arica Shepard Ahlvers, who passed away from a blood clot in her brain in February.
Ahlvers played at ESU from 2006 to 2009 and was a three-time AVCA All-American. Her twin sister, Ashley (Shepard) Spahn played at Washburn.
“We’ve haven’t won in a while (against Washburn),” Xu said. “This is the first time since (Ahlvers) played, so it was a great night.”
Freshmen Genna Berg and Allison Maxwell had 13 and 12 kills for WU, respectively. Makayla Maxwell recorded 10 kills and nine blocks.
“We blocked 18 balls. We out-hit them, we out-blocked them,” Herron said. “The bottom line is they made plays in critical situations and we didn’t.”
The rematch will be on Oct. 24 at Washburn.
“We’ll have another one at their place and it should be a battle, too,” Xu said.