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Washburn Athletics | September 16, 2018

DII volleyball: Washburn stays undefeated with upset of No. 1 Nebraska-Kearney

Washburn Athletics DII volleyball

TOPEKA, Kan. — Powered behind a season-best 63 kills, the Washburn Ichabod volleyball team upended topped-ranked Nebraska-Kearney, 3-1, Saturday afternoon at Lee Arena. Four Ichabods finished with double-figure kills as Washburn maintained its untarnished record and improved to 14-0 on the year and 2-0 in MIAA action. 

The result marked the program's second win over a No. 1-ranked opponent in its NCAA history, with the last occasion coming during the quarterfinal round of the 2007 NCAA National Tournament when Washburn took down Tampa.

Erica Montgomery led all players with 18 kills. Makayla Maxwell and Allison Maxwell followed with 13 and 12 kills respectively, while Genna Berg added 10. Shayla Conner registered a career-best 52 assists, while notching her seventh match with a double-double as she tallied 13 digs. Katie Heeter had a team-best 19 digs, while Makayla Maxwell had a match-high seven blocks.

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Set 1: Leading 10-9 during the opening set, WU fell behind as the Lopers sprinted out front thanks to a 7-2 run. The Ichabods recovered, though, by rattling off four straight as Taylor Antonowich and Makayla Maxwell each buried a pair of kills, tying the set at 16. WU's Montgomery then forced the 12th and final tie of the set at 18 before landing three more strikes to lead a 5-1 run and give the Ichabods a 22-19 lead. The sides then see-sawed with scoring possessions but with UNK unable to string together consecutive points, the Ichabods took the set 25-22. 

Set 2: Trailing 1-0, the Lopers worked quickly to get out front thanks to a 4-1 run to open. From there, UNK never looked back as it strung together four straight to push the score to 10-5. The Ichabods' best chance to overtake UNK during the frame came as they twice narrowed the margin to one, but were unable to maintain the momentum before the Lopers pulled away late with an 9-2 run, pushing the score 21-13. UNK eventually leveled the match at 1-1, winning the stanza, 25-17.

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Set 3: Washburn never trailed during the third as it used a pair of 3-0 spurts to build a 8-4 lead early. After UNK cut the margin to two, the Ichabods pieced together their longest run of the afternoon as 6-0 run pushed the score to 15-7. The rally was spurred on with a pair of kills by Montgomery, while Conner and Allison Maxwell also made contributions. Washburn's margin eventually reached double-digits as back-to-back kills from Makayla Maxwell and Berg made it 19-9. Despite back-and-forth to close the frame, Washburn was able to keep UNK at arm's length to win set, 25-19, and take a 2-1 match lead.

Set 4: After UNK trailed for much of the fourth during the early going, the Lopers forced ties at 7-7 and 8-8 before a 4-2 run put them out front, 12-10. WU then battled to tie the set at 14 but was unable to push through as UNK answered with a 3-0 spurt. Control of the match eventually changed hands for the final time as a pair of Loper attack errors aided in Washburn's 4-0 run as it claimed a narrow 18-17 lead. UNK forced ties at 18, 22 and 23. A kill by Allison Maxwell set up match point, which immediately followed as Faith Rottinghaus completed the upset with ace. 

Saturday's decision for the Ichabods is also the second time during the Chris Herron-era that an unranked Washburn team defeated an opponent ranked in the AVCA Top 10, the first occurrence was on October 12, 2002 when WU beat No. 6 North Alabama.

The Ichabods will return to action on Tuesday when they host rival Emporia State in the season's first installment of the Kansas Turnpike Battle.