With just 3 sophomores back from their 2009 Jayhawk West Conference Championship team, the Seward County Lady Saints Volleyball squad knew it was going to be tough to repeat this season with a number of teams looking to take their crown. However, if the first weekend of regular season play showed what is to come, the Lady Saints are going to wear the bulls eye proudly and take on any challengers that stand in their way.


Seward opened up the year , as they did last year, against the Trinidad State Trojans. The Lady Saints played well against the overmatched Trinidad squad in game one as they scored on their first change of the 2010 campaign with a blast down the line off the hand of Daiane Souza. A big front line, coupled with a smaller Trinidad team, caused problems for the Trojans and before they could stop the bleeding in game one it was 11-4 Lady Saints. Seward would keep up the pressure as they extended their lead to 16-7 with a kill from Sheina Fernandes, and then made a push at the end to win 25-11 on a connection from Shelly Malouff to Jade Greene. Game two wouldn’t go so smoothly for the gals in green as they fell behind early 9-7 before coming back to tie the game at 11 midway through. The game was still knotted at 14 when Souza stepped back to the service line and ripped off 3 straight points, including a pair of aces to put the Lady Saints up 17-14. They wouldn’t relinquish the lead and Madison Winkelman would ace the Trojans again to cap off the 25-21 win in game two. Reaching deep into his bench for game three, Head Coach Bert Luallen made sure that everyone got into the opening match of the season and with new starters in hand, the Lady Saints fell behind early again 5-4. Jade Greene would even the game up at 8 with a solo block on the right side and would swing the momentum to Seward as they would run off 15 of the next 18 points to take a 23-11 advantage and crush all hopes of a Trinidad comeback. The teams would trade points to finish the match but the Lady Saints would reach 25 with just a 13 on the scoreboard for the Trojans as they finished off the sweep to pick up their first victory of the season. Winkelman would pull up 26 digs and record 5 aces in the match against Trinidad for Seward and Malouff put up 12 assists and 10 digs to notch a double-double in her first college match. Souza would lead the team in kills with 9 on 16 chances in the opener while Fernandes had yet another solid outing, hitting .545 with 6 kills and 5 blocks leading Seward to the win.


In their second matchup of the day the Lady Saints would take on Chandler-Gilbert CC from Arizona. After getting up early in game one 7-3 thanks to a Fernandes ace and then 10-6 with a kill from Courtney Geesing, the Coyotes of CG would battle back to tie the game at 15 midway through. With the game tied at 15, the Lady Saints would go on a 3-0 run to take an 18-15 advantage and wouldn’t look back from there, going on to take a 24-19 lead before giving the ‘Yotes some hope and then slamming the door with a kill from Fernandes 25-22. In game two the teams played even through the first 14 points and were tied 7-7. The Lady Saints would then score the next 3 points to take a 10-7 lead but Chandler-Gilbert would fight back and take their first lead of the match at 12-11 and then give themselves some distance thanks to Seward errors as they led 16-12. The Lady Saints wouldn’t get much closer as CG kept their distance and finally held off Seward 25-20 as service error #6 would give the Coyotes game number two. For the second straight game, after 14 points the two teams were again deadlocked at 7 in game three. After going up 10-7, Souza would get her swing going and give the Lady Saints three straight kills to go up 13-7 and the momentum would keep rolling. After finally breaking a 9-0 Seward run, Chandler-Gilbert would get the ball back but not for long as the Lady Saints immediately got a side out and kept on the pressure until they finally put CG out of their misery in game three with a 25-10 win, capping an 18-3 run to end the game. After taking a 2-1 lead in such dominating fashion you might have got the feeling that Chandler-Gilbert was going to roll over to the nations 17th ranked squad, but to the contrary they came out scrapping in game four as they looked to hold off elimination. The Coyotes took a 8-5 lead early on and it wasn’t until 18-17 that the Lady Saints would have the lead in the game. Up 21-19 in what could be the clincher for Seward, the Lady Saints finished strong with a 4-1 run to finish off the game 25-20 and end the match at 3-1 in favor of the gals in green. Souza and Fernandes would lead the offensive attack for Seward in the match, combining for 24 kills and 8 aces in the win. Winkelman continued her strong play on the backline for the Lady Saints, by following up her 26 dig performance with one of 17 to average over 6 per game on the day. Aislyn Karney led the team with 3 blocks in the match, including 2 solo while setters Maddy Taylor and Shelly Malouff connected on 36 of 88 attempts to post a .410 combined percentage in the contest.


Saturday morning was the match that everyone had circled on their calendar since the tournament schedule came out two weeks ago as it pitted the #17 Lady Saints against the #21 Laramie County Golden Eagles. After beating Laramie twice last season at the Kick-Off Classic, Seward had some confidence in their back pocket but a hungry and bigger Golden Eagle squad had revenge on their mind and that is what they got. Led by 6’5 Maria Voitenko, Laramie got out to a hot start and opened an 8-3 lead to start the game. After a number of failed pass attempts and miscommunications in the back row for Seward, the Eagles led 16-4 after the game’s first 20 points. The teams would trade points to 22-9 but it wasn’t enough for Seward to get back into the game as they fell 25-13. Back on their heels as game two started, the Lady Saints would again find themselves in a hole that they wouldn’t be able to dig themselves out of. Laramie led 10-4 early and then opened up a 20-10 advantage before finishing Seward off 25-13 for the second straight game. A young Seward team wouldn’t give up however and took an early lead in game three and then stretched it to 12-7 halfway through the game with a kill from Souza. That lead wouldn’t hold unfortunately and a few minutes later the game was tied at 15 and the Eagles were ready to get things over with. They would scored the next 3 points of the contest and 6 of the next 9 as they went up 21-18 as Seward fought to send the match to a fourth game. The Lady Saints would get to within one as Karney found holes in the Laramie defense on back to back plays to make it 22-21, but they wouldn’t get any closer as an ace by LCCC would finish off the sweep as they took down Seward 25-22 in game three. Seward’s offense was ice cold as a group in the match as they hit just .138 as a team, with the lone bright spot coming from Fernandes who had 8 kills and just 1 error in 17 attempts. Jordan Martin played well at the setter position for Seward after coming in during the second game, recording 6 assists and 3 aces to lead the team.


In their last match of the tournament, the Lady Saints would lock horns with the Vernon College Chaps who had looked good in their first three matches of the weekend. Unfortunately for them, Seward wanted to make the trip back to the Sunflower State with a winning record and they would do just that with a few unexpected stars taking the reins. Early on the teams went back and forth, trading points as game one was tied at 5. After pulling ahead slightly, the Lady Saints would take a 3 point lead at 9-6 thanks to a nice play all the way around in which Isabela Silva pulled one off of the court to the waiting hands of Shelly Malouff who set Souza, who buried one down the line to stretch the lead. The margin would remain the same until Fernandes used her court vision to tip one to the open spot in the defense and give the gals in green the 15-11 lead. Souza would put Seward up 20-14 and then 24-18 later but Vernon wouldn’t quit easily as they scored 3 before the Lady Saints could close the door to the 25-21 game one win. The Chaps would dominate most of game number two as they were up early 6-2 and then 11-5 before holding a 16-9 advantage midway through. Seward would pull to within 5 with an ace from Fernandes and then slices into the lead even more with back to back kills from Geesing to make it 19-16. After pulling to within 1 at 23-22, the Lady Saints momentum was stopped with a timeout and Vernon would score the game’s final two points to come away with the 25-22 win and tie the match up at 1 apiece. Up 8-5 and looking good in the third game, Seward would fall apart through the middle section of the game and managed just one out of the next eight points as they fell behind 12-6. They would go on a run of their own however and would draw to within striking distance and then went ahead on block followed by two straight Vernon errors to make it 18-16 Seward. The Lady Saints would push their lead to 21-17 on another kill from Geesing and would finish the big comeback with a kill from Malouff on game point to win 25-19. For the third straight game, the Lady Saints would find themselves in a hole early as Vernon lead 11-9 after a miscommunication from Seward. A nice defensive play later on by Winkelman would transition the Lady Saints into a scoring chance that they wouldn’t miss on as they drew to within one at 17-16. A string of good plays would tie the game and give the Lady Saints the lead at 23-20 as they looked to close the match out in game four late. With game point looming, Fernandes used her smarts to find yet another hole in the Chap defense and give the Lady Saint the 25-21, game four victory and the match victory at 3-1. Fernandes would lead the team with 14 kills in the win but not to be forgotten was 12 kills apiece from Souza and Geesing who came up big when the Lady Saints needed them most in game three and four wins. Winkelman finished a stellar first weekend with 9 digs and 29 perfect serve/receive passes in the match and Taylor led the Lady Saints again with 25 assists in the victory.


The 3-1 weekend was a nice prequel for the Lady Saints as they head into Wednesday’s Jayhawk West Conference opener against 14th ranked Pratt in the Greenhouse. The Lady Saint will look for a win against the team that ended their 2009 season before hitting the road again next weekend when they travel to El Reno, Oklahoma for the Redlands Labor Day Classic. The classic schedule will pit Seward against 4-0 Paris JC, host Redlands and Hill JC, as well as rival Hutchinson in their opening match on Saturday.