TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) — The country’s No. 1 ranked volleyball team for Division II is none other than the Washburn Ichabods in Topeka.

Two of the team’s core players hail from the south-central Kansas area. Outside hitter Taylor Antonowich and setter Alaina Dunlavy. These two athletes have been competing together for nearly two decades. A chemistry which helped propel the Ichabods to No. 1 in the polls.

“We’ve known each other since we were like five,” explained Dunlavy. “So, it’s a great opportunity to build our relationship and become best friends and get to play with each other.”

Antonowich says them still playing together is surreal.

“We were originally committed to different colleges, and then, she committed to Washburn eventually, and we’ve been friends ever since. we knew we would be good friends because we were just growing up together and playing together.”

After COVID-19 ruined the chance for these seniors to compete in games a year ago, they returned with sharpened tools to attack this season.

“Not having competition last year, we were really able to develop skills we’ve been lacking in the past,” Antonowich added.

But now, as the No. 1 ranked team in the country, these longtime friends and competitors are setting their sights on a national championship.

“We are not really focusing on pressure at all,” said Antonowich. “I think like one of our goals yesterday was implementing fun in every single day. and when you have fun, like all of the pressure just goes away.”

“If we accomplish those goals each day, we’ll get to the end goal of what we really want which is to win. So just focusing on the little things is important to our team,” Dunlavy added.