Washburn volleyball coach Chris Herron saw his freshman-laden squad take another step forward on Saturday, going toe-to-toe with No. 8 Central Oklahoma in a five-set thriller.
Unfortunately for the Ichabods, the strong showing didn’t result in an upset of the Bronchos, with WU dropping a 25-20, 23-25, 21-25, 25-17, 15-13 decision in Lee Arena.
Washburn had a 13-10 lead in the fifth set before UCO ended the match on a 5-0 run. With the set tied at 13, WU caught a tough break on a ball handling error and UCO then closed it out with a block from Alexis Washington and Malia Kaaiohelo.
WU (12-7, 3-4 MIAA) couldn’t contain UCO standout Taylor Bevis, who finished with 30 kills to help the Bronchos improve to 20-1 overall and 7-0 in the MIAA.
“The effort was great,” Herron said. “We just didn’t make a couple of plays at the end. The ball’s wet and comes out of (Allison Sadler’s) hands funny; that’s just part of the game. It just sucks that it happened to us.
“The big thing was we’ve got to be able to stop Bevis, and Bevis has 30 kills. We just didn’t stop Bevis, but really nobody stops Bevis. She’s a special player.”
Washburn sophomore outside hitter Erica Montgomery continued to play at a high level for the Ichabods, recording a team-high 22 kills and hitting .378 for the match.
“Montgomery is playing at another level,” Herron said. “She’s been just a gun on the outside for us. I’m excited for her.
“We outhit them badly (.261 to .214). We out-dig them (90-77). You can look at all the stats you want to, but the bottom line is the last score. We just came up short. I’m proud of them. They played hard. It’s a tough way to lose, though.”
Freshman Genna Berg and senior Taylor Selk each added 14 kills for the Ichabods. Sadler, also a freshman, had 62 assists.
Herron said his freshman class is continuing to show growth.
“We’re way better than we were at the beginning of the year, and we started five freshmen tonight,” Herron said. “They’re just getting better and better. It’s fun to watch them to be honest.
“We’re taking some lumps, but at the end of the year, I think in some of those matches we lost at the beginning of the year, we’ll come out on top because we’re getting better and better.”
Washburn will continue a six-match homestand next weekend, facing Southwest Baptist on Friday and Missouri Southern on Saturday.