It was just one of those matches you don’t like the feel for as soon as you got to the gym. A young Seward County team, possibly a little overconfident after a 3-0 start in conference play and a proud Barton squad that could not afford to drop their third straight conference match after early season losses to Dodge City and Hutchinson. The Cougars would jump out to a big early lead in game one against the Lady Saints and would also take a big lead in game four to close out Seward and drop them to 9-3 overall on the year and 3-1 in conference play.
A rowdy crowd was on hand to watch as the 18th ranked Lady Saints took the floor against their Barton Lady Cougars in Great Bend Wednesday and the Cougs were set to impress from the opening whistle. A flurry of potent attacks flew Seward’s way early as Barton was in desperate measures looking to stay away from an 0-3 start in Jayhawk West action. Early on the momentum was completely with the Cougars as they got out to an 10-2 lead before the Lady Saints could catch their breath. Once Seward dug in, they battled themselves back into the game by scoring 6 straight points to cut the lead to 11-8 and then after a quick side out when their streak was stopped, they scored 4 more in a row capped by a kill from Courtney Geesing and an ace from Maddy Taylor to knot things at 12. Seward would keep the pressure on Barton and would finish off their second 6 point run of the game to go ahead 14-12 but the Cougars would take advantage of sloppy Seward passing to retake the lead 18-16 moments later. The battle continued as Aislyn Karney tied the game at 18 with a well placed shot to the back line but Barton would get the next 3 points and go up 21-18 late. The teams would play even through the next 8 points but it wasn’t enough for the Lady Saints as they fell 25-22 to an ecstatic Barton club in game one.
The Lady Saints started game two much better as a handful of big blocks had them leading 6-4 in the early going. However, four straight errors for Seward would push the advantage back to the Barton sideline at 8-6 and the Lady Saints would never see the lead in the game again. After battling closer midway through the game, another set of balls out of bounds would push the Cougar lead to 17-13. The spread stayed the same at 20-16 as the two traded points but Barton would score 5 of the next 6 points to put away game two 25-17.
Things were looking like there was going to be a sweep in the Cougar Den as game three started and the Lady Saints quickly found themselves behind 4-1, but with their leading server Madison Winkelman on the backline, the Lady Saints picked up 2 straight aces to cut the lead to 4-3 and after a point from Barton, would score 4 straight to take a 7-5 lead. They would push their lead to the largest they had had on the night to that point at 13-9 with a kill from Stacie Carver but Barton would slice it in half as the teams played through the middle of the game and Seward led 16-14. The Lady Saints fought hard to push the lead back to 4 at 22-18 and took some of the wind out of the Barton sails by closing out game three 25-20 to make it 2-1 in favor of the Cougars.
Unfortunately for the Lady Saints they couldn’t take their game three momentum into game four as it looked eerily reminiscent of game one as they fell behind 8-2 right off the bat. They would get back within striking distance down 4 at 10-6 but a service error long would make it 11-6 in favor of the Cougars. Seward would score 3 of the next 4 points in the match including one on a big solo block from Geesing to cut the lead to 12-9 but Barton would score the next three after that to stretch their advantage out to 15-9. The Lady Saints couldn’t stop the bleeding as their error totals mounted and they found themselves down 19-11 and then 23-14 with the match on the line. With their backs to the wall and with the fight looking like it had been taken out of them, Seward mounted a furious rally to get close. Two straight blocks started the action and cut it to 23-16. The Lady Saints then picked up a couple of aces and a pair of hammered attacks to make it 23-20. The Lady Saints weren’t done, they took advantage of a Barton club on their heels and passing poor to pick up 2 more points and cut the deficit to 1 at 23-22 after 8 straight points. The teams would trade points to 24-23 and in front of a noisy home crowd, the Cougars would finish off the upset as they knocked the Lady Saints off 25-23.
Sheina Fernandes had a team high 14 kills in the match while Daiane Souza returned from injury and finished with an even dozen. Geesing also returned to the Seward lineup after missing both matches last week to record her 5th double-double of the season with 10 kills and 14 digs. Taylor had a team high 21 assists and also picked up 9 digs while Winkelman had her 3rd straight 20+dig match with 23 while also leading the club in aces with 4. Karney continued to be a force at the net for Seward, recording 7 solo blocks and 3 assisted blocks to pick up her first double digit performance in that category in her brief Seward career. Carver topped her career high in kills for the second straight match with 9 and Katie Marks also set a career high with 9 digs.
The loss drops the Lady Saints to 9-3 overall on the season and 3-1 in Jayhawk West Conference play. The only good news for Seward on the night was that Hutchinson lost in straight sets to Pratt at home and therefore the Lady Saints still remain on top of the conference standings, although with a little more company, tied with their next conference opponent Dodge City as well as the Lady Beavers of Pratt. Seward will now get a much needed rest from competition as they have the next week off before returning to the court Thursday in Torrington, Wyoming against Dodge City at 1:00. The match with Dodge is a Jayhawk West Conference match and then the two will complete their play in the Wyo-Braska Tournament in Torrington and Scottsbluff Thursday and Friday.