The Seward County Lady Saints knew that they were going to have their hands full when they signed up for the 2009 Pizza Hut Invitational in Sterling, Colorado. On the slate for them was the #4, #5, and #12 ranked teams in the country in less than a 24 hour span. While they played well in spurts, they weren’t able to sustain anything long enough to pull off an upset win and they finished the tournament licking their wounds with a 1-3 record.
Seward faced national powerhouse and 4th ranked Western Nebraska in their opener and after falling behind by as much as 5 points early, came back to tie the first game at 15 with a pair of aces from Sheina Fernandes. It was all green and white from there as Seward took 19-17 and 22-19 leads before eventually salting the first game away 25-20. The two teams played even through the first part of game number two and were tied at 9 early on. Western Nebraska took a 17-13 lead midway through but Seward bounced back to take a 20-19 lead of their own late in the match. Up 23-22 looking to take a 2-0 lead on the Cougars, the Lady Saints stumbled to let WNCC win 4 of the game’s final 5 points to win game two 26-24. Game three started much as game two ended with WNCC in control as they took 11-7 and 13-9 leads early. Seward battled back to 13-11 but Western Nebraska pushed the pace to a 22-15 lead and eventually took game three 25-17. With their backs against the wall in game four Seward battled through the first half of the set as the game was tied at 14 halfway home. WNCC had a 1 point lead at 18-17 and would score the matches final 7 points to get the 25-17 fourth set win and the 3-1 match win. In the loss Diana Castrillon had a team high 9 kills and 20 digs while Fernandes and Kelen Ricardo had 7 kills apiece. Lindsey Miller had 6 kills and 15 digs and Amanda Savage recorded another double digit dig match with 12.
In their second match of the day the Lady Saints would square off with #12 Northeastern JC on their home floor in Sterling. A back and forth battle in game one saw Seward take a 19-17 lead after a kill and block from Lindsey Miller on back to back plays. NJC tied the game at 21 but Sheina Fernandes picked up a kill to put the Lady Saints back up 22-21. The Plainswomen rattled off 3 straight points to take a 24-22 lead before Taryn Westerman aced them to tie the game back up at 24. Unfortunately the game wouldn’t end as scripted as Seward committed back to back hitting errors to end the game as NJC came away with the 26-24 win. Although the Lady Saints controlled much of the second game against the home team, NJC picked up a few key blocks late to take 17-16, and 24-22 leads before eventually getting a block to win game two in another nail biter 25-23. Down 2-0 the Lady Saints didn’t give up however and after being tied at 10 early on, took a 17-13 lead and then 21-17 advantage via another Miller kill down the line. On game point, the Brazilian blockade of Kelen Ricardo and Fernandes came up big with a combo block to give Seward the 25-19 win. In game four LaKendra Sanders started off the block party early and gave the Lady Saints a 6-2 lead with a solo block of her own. Diana Castrillon pushed the lead to 10-4 with a kill and then Stacie Carver combined with Fernandes for a block to give the Lady Saints a 14-8 lead. Seward stretched the lead all the way to 20-13 but NJC battled back late as the lead was cut to 23-19 and then to 24-22 before the Lady Saints finished it off 25-22 and forced a 5th and deciding game. The momentum from back to back set wins wouldn’t carry over to game five unfortunately as Seward fell behind 7-3 before they could figure out what was going on. As they regrouped they battled back to 8-6 but the Plainswomen scored the next two points to go back up by 4 at 10-6. The teams would play even through the rest of the set but that would favor NJC as they held on to win the set and the match 15-10. Fernandes had a monster game at the net for Seward chalking up 13 kills and 12 blocks, 6 of which were solo. She was topped in the kills category only by teammate LaKendra Sanders who notched 15 kills in 31 attempts. Lindsey Miller posted a double-double with 12 kills and 15 digs while Diana Castrillon just missed a double-double of her own with 9 kills and 15 digs. Maddy Taylor connected on 26 of 55 set attempts and Amanda Savage had a team high 19 digs. Miller, Castrillon, and Savage combined to receive 76 serves in the match without committing an error.
Seward wouldn’t have much time to dwell on the tough loss to NJC as they would have to turn around and play a 5th ranked Iowa Western club first thing Saturday morning. The Lady Saints looked good early on against the Rievers and took an early 4-1 lead on the back of a solo block from Sheina Fernandes. IWCC cut the lead to 7-6 but Seward opened it back up on consecutive kills from Taryn Westerman and Lindsey Miller to go up 5 at 12-7. They continued to hold a decisive advantage through the middle part of the game leading 17-13 and 19-14 but hit a wall towards the end of the set as Iowa Western got to within one with four straight points at 19-18. The Lady Saints found a second wind and climbed back in front 22-19 before the Rievers tied it up at 22 but Seward eventually retook the lead at 24-22 as they looked to close out the first game with two chances at game point. They couldn’t do it however as Iowa Western score the game’s final 4 points to capture the 26-24 win. Seward would play even with the #5 team in the country through the first part of the second game but a solid run by the Rievers buried the Lady Saints at 17-12 as they would never recover and went on to drop the set 25-17. Iowa Western came out strong in game three and had 13 points on the board to Seward’s one in the blink of an eye. The Lady Saints would never get closer than 20-12 and dropped the set 25-15. In the loss Seward had 5 players with 5 or more kills led by Castrillon, Ricardo, and Fernandes with 6 apiece. Taryn Westerman and Maddy Taylor had 11 assists each while Lindsey Miller and Castrillon combined for 30 digs on the match.
Not to discount the Lady Indians of McCook but Seward knew that their last match of the weekend would undoubtedly be their least challenging. They jumped all over McCook early and saw a 7-3 lead on the scoreboard after a block from Stacie Carver and LaKendra Sanders in game one. The lead stretched to 11-4 and then 16-7 on a pair of aces from libero Amanda Savage as Seward would roll to the game one win 25-14. Game two was almost the same script as Seward kept their feet on the throats of the Lady Indians blowing them out 25-12. Seward emptied the bench in game three as every Lady Saint on the roster got into the game and recorded a tick on the stat sheet as they took game three 25-19 to complete the sweep. LaKendra Sanders had a monster match with 11 kills on 17 attempts to go along with a team high 5 blocks. Adriann D’Amico notched a season high 10 digs while libero Amanda Savage also reached double digits with 13.
After all was said and done the Lady Saints came out of the fire 14-4 on the season with all four losses coming to teams ranked inside the nation’s top 12. They will now travel to Colby Tuesday night to take on the Lady Trojans before coming back home for a triangular Saturday when they will take on fellow Jayhawk West leader Barton County in yet another pivotal conference match at 2:00 before hitting the floor again at 6:00 to take on Clarendon. You will be able to follow tonight’s match against Colby on the Lady Saints twitter section at www.scccsaints.com and possibly live scoring if wireless internet is available in the Colby Community Building at LIVE SCORING