Starting a stretch in which they would play eight straight teams that are or were ranked in the NJCAA top 20, the Seward County Lady Saints Volleyball team couldn’t have asked for much of a better start at their home Ozfest Invitational tournament. Seward’s first test was against Arizona Western, a team who was coming fresh off of a whooping of #10 Eastern Arizona in a match that the Gila Monsters failed to reach even the 10 point mark in the last two sets. The Lady Saints would pop the Matadors bubble early however in their trip to the Sunflower State as Seward took early 12-4, 18-6, and 20-12 leads in the first game before holding off a late run by Arizona Western to win game one 25-19 on Taryn Westerman’s second tip of the game to go down as a kill. The second set wouldn’t be nearly as easy however as Western weathered an early 5-2 Seward lead to take a 7-6 lead early in the set. Seward remained down one most of the second game and fell behind as many as 4 at 16-12 before pulling things together and tying the game up at 22 late with a kill from Sheina Fernandes. The Lady Saints were able to reach game point up 25-24 but the Mats picked up a side out to tie the game back up at 25. Seward would battle to win the game’s final two points to take game two 27-25 and take a 2-0 lead in the match. The Lady Saints wouldn’t be able to mount such a comeback in game three with the Matador’s however as Arizona Western never trailed in the game as they went on to win 25-21 to force a fourth game. Going back and forth through much of the first part of the 4th game, Seward was able to take an 11-10 lead with three straight points and never looked back from there. Westerman and Fernandes combined on a block on the outside to but Seward up 17-12 and the Lady Saints would take on another point to make it 18-12 as they looked to close the match. Arizona Western wasn’t ready to quit though as three straight points would cut the deficit in half at 18-15 in favor of the gals in green. Seward would lock it in after the mini run from the Mats and later on Diana Castrillon would notch a kill to give the Lady Saints a 21-16 lead and after a combo block from Kelen Ricardo and Fernandes to make the score 24-19, Lindsey Miller blasted her 9th kill of the match to give Seward the 25-21 game four win to seal up the 3-1 victory. Castrillon had a season high 20 kills to go along with 15 digs in the win while LaKendra Sanders and Sheina Fernandes combined for 22 kills and 8 blocks. Amanda Savage had a team high 21 digs in the victory and outside hitter Lindsey Miller wasn’t far behind with 18 of her own. Both Seward setters played well in the win with Maddy Taylor successfully connecting on 30 of 57 set attempts and Taryn Westerman on 27 of 52 combining for a .523 mark in the match.
For their second match of the day Seward would take on Midland, another team who came in as a threat having knocked off #6 Miami-Dade College earlier in the season, but that match as well wouldn’t live up to the drama as the Lady Saints took care of the Chaps rather easily in four games. Early on Taryn Westerman and Sheina Fernandes combined on a block on the right side to give Seward a 4-1 lead in game one and a little bit later on Kelen Ricardo smashed the leather to the floor to put the Lady Saints up 8-4. Midland would make their run and actually hold a 20-19 lead late but Fernandes picked up her 3rd kill of the first set to tie the game at 20 apiece to spur a 6 point run that would eventually give Seward a 25-20 game one win. The second game would be a reversal of scripts as Midland jumped out to an 8-3 lead and would hold the advantage the distance. Lindsey Miller chopped the lead to 11-9 with a kill but later opened it up to 17-11 before a block from Castrillon and Fernandes would make it 17-12. Seward would make it close late as Sanders pounded one to the floor to make it 24-22 and another point got the Lady Saints to within one at 24-23 but the Chaps were able to get a side out to pull out the game two win 25-23. After falling behind in the fourth game 4-2, Seward rallied to take a 7-5 lead thanks in part to another kill by Lindsey Miller and would hold the lead the rest of the way. After going up 14-8 behind a right side kill from Ricardo, the Lady Saints would sail to the 25-15 win and take a 2-1 lead on the Chaps. Seward would continue their dominance in game four and sparked by a flurry of aces from Miller, Castrillon, and Fernandes would take the set 25-10 and the match 3-1. In the win Castrillon and Fernandes would pace the Lady Saints offense with 15 and 12 kills respectively while Taryn Westerman turned in a solid all around performance with a team high 23 assists, and 19 digs to go along with 6 big blocks. Speaking of blocks, was Sheina Fernandes ever big in the middle for Seward in the Midland victory recording a double digit block match for the second time in her career with 10 including 3 solo tallies.
For their tournament finale, the Lady Saints ran up against a 4th ranked Western Nebraska squad who handed them one of their four losses on the season in an earlier matchup in the Pizza Hut Invitational. The hype lived up to its billing in this one as both teams strung together 3 and 4 point runs throughout the first game and found themselves deadlocked at 20 late in game one. Kelen Ricardo would break the tie with a kill to give Seward a 21-20 lead but Western Nebraska would quickly answer that with three straight points to go up 23-21. After getting it to within one at 23-22 WNCC would finish the Lady Saints off with a pair of points to end the game 25-22 and give Western a 1-0 lead. In game two Seward would play right alongside the nations #4 team as a Maddy Taylor ace and a Lindsey Miller kill would give the Lady Saints a 12-10 lead midway through. After tying the match at 13, back to back aces by All-Tournament Team setter Sabina Piegza would put Western up 2 and Seward would never be able to recover as they fell by four 25-21. Down 2-0 the air seemed to be sucked out of the Greenhouse and the Lady Saints team as when the final gun sounded in game three Seward found themselves on the wrong end of a 25-14 score as they were handed just their 5th loss of the season. In the defeat Diana Castrillon was the Lady Saints leading attacker with 9 kills while no other Seward player besides Castrillon and Sheina Fernandes would have more than three kills. Amanda Savage’s 14 digs led the team while Lindsey Miller was second with 10. Fernandes held up a strong block for the third straight match in the tournament recording four rejections against a solid hitting Cougar club.
Going 2-1 and finishing in third place in the tournament, Seward landed Diana Castrillon and Sheina Fernandes on the All-Tournament Team. They are now 22-5 overall on the year heading into a big conference match with #17 Hutchinson Wednesday night in the Greenhouse. Wednesday will be “Dig Pink” night where both teams will wear pink jerseys and attire and fans are asked to wear pink and donate money to help support breast cancer awareness and research. Make sure to head on over to the Pinkhouse Wednesday night at 6:30 and be ready to get loud to help out your Lady Saints against the rival Dragons!!

For complete results from the Landmark Real Estate Center Ozfest Invitational including game scores, All-Tournament Team and more CLICK HERE