Washburn volleyball kennels Bulldogs, advance to NCAA Semifinals

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PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Powered by a complete team effort No. 8 Washburn volleyball advanced to Friday’s NCAA National Semifinals where it will face top-seeded and 11th-ranked Tampa at the AJ Palumbo Center at 5:30 pm CT. The Ichabod (33-4) season was extended Thursday evening after they swept No. 24 Wingate, 25-21, 25-20, 25-17.

Genna Berg paced the attack with a match-best 14 kills as hit .314 with three errors on 35 swings. Erica Montgomeryalso finished with double-digit kills as she landed 11 on 29 attempts for .207 hitting. 

Allison Maxwell chipped in with seven kills and four blocks. Kelsey Gordon put away four kills as she Makayla Maxwell each finished with a match-high five blocks.

Shayla Conner orchestrated the offense with 33 assists and led the dig effort with 18 to register her 26th double-double of the season.

Conner was one of four Ichabods who posted double-figure digs as Faith Rottinghaus had 13, with Katie Heeter and Taylor Antonowich each with 10. Washburn dominated Wingate (32-2) in the digs, 60-49.

In addition to digs, Washburn overwhelmed Wingate in hitting, .239 to .113 and service aces, 6-3. The Ichabods also held slim margins in blocking, 9-8, as well as kills, 43-35.

Nip-and tuck opening set, Wingate led by as much as four early. Trailing 6-3, the Ichabods put together a 5-1 run to level the frame at six. Back-and-forth action then pushed the score to 16-13 Wingate forcing a timeout from the Washburn bench.

The decision paid off as the Ichabods blitzed the Bulldogs with a 7-0 run. During the stretch, Berg’s 26th ace of the year tied the set at 15 before Wingate error nudged Washburn out front. A Bulldog timeout did little to curb the mounting Washburn momentum as Allison Maxwell buried back-to-back spikes helping the Ichabods take a 20-16 lead in the process.

Wingate threatened with a 3-0 spurt trimming the margin to 21-19 but heavy-handed blasts from Montgomery and Makayla Maxwell established set point Berg crushed securing the opening point for the Ichabods, 25-21.

Washburn controlled early as Montgomery and Berg picked up where they left off helping the Ichabods to a 3-1 margin. The Bulldogs then accounted for the accounted for five of the next six to claim a 6-4 advantage but it was short-lived as the Ichabods retaliated with a 5-1 exchange of their own to regain control.

Leading 16-13 the Washburn advantage disappeared as pendulum swung towards Wingate as it rattled off five unanswered and moved out front 18-16. The Ichabods however kept their composure as they rallied with a 9-2 run. With Katie Heeter back to serve, Washburn ended the frame with a 7-0 run as she tallied her 20th ace of the year while a Gordon and Makayla Maxwell block was sandwiched between kills from Berg Washburn took the frame, 25-20.

Leading 2-0 to start the third, see-saw action early yielded a 5-1 run for the Bulldogs as they led 10-5. Conner then setup Allison Maxwell and Montgomery for consecutive kills before tacking on a dump kill cutting the deficit to 11-8. Down 12-8 and with Heeter to serve the Ichabods again put together an extended run as tallied seven-straight.

From there Washburn would not relinquish control. Gordon posted back-to-back points with a kill and assisted block before Taylor Antonowich doubled up on a pair of aces, giving her nine between the NCAA regional and national tournaments.

With Washburn leading 21-15 late, Wingate pulled two back, but the effort was not enough as Berg grooved a swing threw an open seam to make it 22-17. She then added another ace to the cause before back-to-back Wingate attack errors punched Washburn’s ticket into the next round.

Friday’s match with top-seeded Tampa will be the first meeting since the teams squared off in the 2007 NCAA National Quarterfinals, in which Washburn won for its first appearance in the semifinals.

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