It was a match that both teams have had circled on their calendars since they last met on September 12th. The reigning Jayhawk West Conference Champion Hutchinson Blue Dragons and the team looking to overtake them, the Seward County Lady Saints. The first time the two met Seward pulled out an epic five set victory to take hold on the top spot in the conference, this time the Dragons were looking to pick up a win to simply stay in the conference race.
With both teams donning pink and the seats in the lower level of the Greenhouse packed with eager fans, the #9 Seward County Lady Saints and #17 Hutchinson Lady Blue Dragons were ready for battle. Opening up the night’s festivities was a woman who has been through her share of battles, and not on the volleyball court. Jo Velasquez is a two time winner against cancer and has been cancer free since 2001. She was the honorary first server for the Lady Saints on this “dig pink” night against the Dragons as both teams tried to raise awareness for breast cancer. After a warm welcome from the crowd and a mighty whack of the pink and white ball by Jo, the teams were ready to start the action.
Game one lived up to its billing early as the two teams went back and forth for the first 12 points. Tied 6-6 Seward County went on a four point run to take a 10-6 lead and wouldn’t look back from there. The Lady Saints held Hutch at arm’s length throughout the first game holding leads of 14-10 and 18-14 thanks in part to a strong set from Sheina Fernandes and later stretched the lead to 8 after a kill from Diana Castrillon made it 23-15. With the home crowd fired up, Kelen Ricardo ripped her 3rd kill of game one down the line to give Seward the 25-17 victory to take a 1-0 lead. Game two was a tight contest but Seward held a slight advantage most of the way through. Tied 4-4 Fernandes sent back her 3rd block of the night to put Seward up one and a combo block from Castrillon and LaKendra Sanders later on gave the Lady Saints a three point cushion at 11-8. After tying the game at 13, Hutch committed a costly service error to put Seward back on top 14-13 and after drawing the game even at 18 later on Maddy Taylor connected on a set with Fernandes to again give Seward a one point lead at 19-18. The teams continued to trade side-outs until another Hutch service error gave Seward game point at 24-23. After fighting off that game point to tie it at 24, the Lady Saints had a chance to force another game point with a free ball lobbed onto their side but were unable to take advantage of it as they had to scramble to get it over the net on a third hit. Hutch did capitalize on their free ball and took the 25-24 lead and after a combo block at the net on the next play, had game two sealed 26-24 to tie the match at one.
With the match knotted at one Hutch sprung out to a 7-1 lead in game three behind a strong service sequence from setter Emme Russell. Seward slowly chipped away at the lead and after a pair of Lindsey Miller kills found themselves within two at 15-13. The Lady Dragons pushed the lead back up to four and held that advantage all the way up to 22-18 but a couple of hitting errors put Seward back into the game and after another put away from Kelen Ricardo the Lady Saints trailed by just one at 22-21. Facing game point at 24-23, Seward found a way to score to tie the game at 24 but as in game two, the Lady Dragons scored the game’s final two points to win 26-24. With Hutch up 2 games to 1 in the fourth set both teams pushed for game number four. Tit for tat the teams went through the first half of game four with everything tied up at 13 at the midway point. The Lady Saints were able to take a 14-13 lead but four straight Hutchinson points would put Seward in a 17-14 hole with the match on the line. Cutting the Hutch lead to 19-17 and serving looking to cut it to just one, Seward’s Achilles Heel bit them again and a serve into the net gave the Dragons a 20-17 lead and the momentum they needed to finish off the game and the match as they took game four 25-20. As bitter of rivals as the Lady Saints and Lady Dragons are, they were able to set their differences aside after the match long enough to sign the game ball, present it to, and then take a group picture with Jo Velasquez, the real winner of a true battle in the end.
Diana Castrillon played valiantly in the Seward defeat racking up a team high 13 kills and 16 digs in the loss while Lindsey Miller narrowly missed a double-double of her own with 8 kills and 10 digs. LaKendra Sanders and Sheina Fernandes certainly did all they could at the net for Seward each recording 1 solo and 6 assisted blocks while finishing off 8 and 10 kills respectively. Taryn Westerman found a way to fill up the stat sheet as well with 6 kills, 23 assists, 9 digs, and 3 blocks in the loss while Kelen Ricardo ended the night with 9 kills and 3 blocks. For Hutchinson, Brazilians Karol Marins and Carolina Logato carried the offense with 29 combined kills while sophomore Debbie Ohl backed the defense with 10 digs and 6 blocks. Seward dominated nearly every statistical category on the night including kills, hitting percentage, aces, digs, and blocks but were plagued by untimely errors including 18 hitting errors, 11 service errors, and 6 serve/receive errors leading to Hutch points.
The loss drops Seward to 22-6 overall and 8-1 in Jayhawk West play while Hutch moves to 18-7 and 6-2 in Jayhawk play. The good news for the Lady Saints is, they still control their own destiny meaning if they can find a way to pick up road wins at Pratt and Barton County in the next two weeks and take care of business at home against Dodge City on sophomore night, they will still be crowned the Jayhawk West Champions on November 2nd. If they happen to slip up in one of those three matches they will need Hutchinson to lose one of their final four matches, with the most likely scenarios happening Saturday against Pratt or November 2nd at Barton County, to have a shot at the title.
Seward’s road doesn’t get any easier nor do they have time to sulk over a loss to Hutch as they are already on the highway to West Plains, Missouri where they will take on #7 Miami-Dade College Friday morning at 10:00 before squaring off with #8 Missouri State West-Plains at 2:00 and then #6 Iowa Western at 10:00 Saturday morning. The Lady Saints will return to Jayhawk West Conference action Wednesday night at Pratt in a match that will most likely have a large impact on who wins the conference race this season.

For a photo gallery of pictures throughout the evening Wednesday CLICK HERE and click on the picture thumbnail in the top left corner of the page and continue clicking on the pictures until you have seen them all!