Up against one of the most stacked Ozfest Invitational fields in recent memory, the Seward County Lady Saints volleyball team finished 4th this weekend after putting together just one win in four chances. Seward dropped their first match of the tournament to Midland on Friday before coming back to even their record at 1-1 with a win against Lamar later that night. Saturday was not kind to the Lady Saints as they fell to #5 Western Nebraska in the morning session and then to Redlands later on to conclude the tournament.
Seward opened up their tournament schedule with Midland on Friday and it wasn’t the start they were looking for as the Chaps took the Lady Saints down in three games 25-18, 25-13, and 25-18. In game one the Lady Saints played even with the 22-5 club from Texas early but after the game was tied at 8, it was all Midland from there. Three straight reception errors pushed the Chaparrals to their first decisive lead of the game and moments later their blocking kicked into effect and put them up 19-11. They would keep the distance until the finish of the game as game one went to the visitors 25-18. Game two would be one to forget for the gals in green as Seward fell behind early and would never get close as Midland took that game 25-13. Down 2-0 was not an unfamiliar spot for the Lady Saints to be in and visions of yet another comeback were in line as they took a 10-9 lead midway through. However, Midland would quickly dash those hopes for Seward fans as the Chaps would score 7 of the next 9 points before going on to open up the lead and take home the three game sweep 25-18 with the game three win. Daiane Souza led the Lady Saints with 10 kills in the defeat while Sheina Fernandes picked up 9 kills in 22 chances. The problems for Seward in their match against Midland didn’t necessarily come on the offensive end however as the Lady Saints had just 1 total block as a team and no player with more than 5 digs while committing 9 reception and 4 service errors in the process.
In their second match of the day the Lady Saints squared off with an upstart Lamar team who like Seward, had dropped their first match of the tournament in three earlier in the day. Lamar jumped ahead 7-4 early and would never look back as they built on their lead throughout the first game as Seward’s deficit reached 10 at 20-10 before finally ending at 11 when things were all said and done at 25-14. In game two it looked like the Lady Saints were going to flip the script on the Lopes as they broke an early 8-8 tie with a pair of kills from Fernandes to put them up 10-8 and then built on that momentum to go up 13-9 and then 16-9. The Lady Saints would seemingly have things wrapped up as they served for the game up 24-16, but would fall apart and let the Lopes back into things after 7 straight points made it 24-23 in favor of Seward. With the game on the line, the Lady Saints again turned to their leader and Fernandes didn’t disappoint, finding a hole in the Lamar defense off of a set from Maddy Taylor to put the game away 25-23 and even things up at 1 game apiece. After 22 points in game three, the teams would find themselves deadlocked at 11 as both looked to pull ahead to take the ever so important 3rd game in the 5 game match. It was Lamar who went ahead 17-13 to take control but the Lady Saints would linger and down 21-19 after a kill from Jade Greene, would even things up at 21 with a block and a kill from Fernandes. Things were still tied at 23 and then 24 but a pair of attack errors by the Lopes late would seal their fate and give the Lady Saints the 26-24 win to go up 2-1. With momentum on their side, the Lady Saints looked to close things out in game four against the Lopes but a lack of communication would postpone those hopes. Up 10-8, two straight Lamar serves would find a hole in the middle of the Seward defensive alignment to tie things at 10, but the Lady Saints would overcome the errors to take an 18-15 lead a short time later and looked to have control of the match. The Lopes would slowly but surely slice away at the lead and at 21-21, things would be all square. Lamar would go on to take a 23-21 advantage and then with the game on the line at 24-22 in favor of LCC, Seward would again be left looking at each other as the fourth uncontested ace of the game would finish things off and force a 5th and deciding game as Lamar came out ahead 25-22. In a place they were familiar being in, in a 5th game, the Lady Saints would turn to their big block to take an early 5-1 lead after rejections from Isabella Silva, Aislyn Karney, and Courtney Geesing to take hold of the game. As they had earlier in the match though, the Lopes wouldn’t go away and found themselves down just one at 8-7 as the teams changed sides. The firepower of the Lady Saints offense would take over from there as Souza and Fernandes led a barrage of kills to put Seward up 12-7 and then 14-10 as they looked to finish the match. Lamar would rally for two straight points and make it 14-12 but a serve into the net would finish their day and give the Lady Saints their third 5 game win in 2 weeks with a 15-12 win to even them up at 1-1 on the day. Fernandes would lead the team again with 15 kills while Geesing picked up 11 to go along with 11 digs and Souza would finish with 9. Taylor led the club with 23 assists while Shelly Malouff chipped in 13 in the win. Katie Marks had a team high 3 aces in the victory while Madison Winkelman paced the green and black with 18 digs in the contest. After having just 1 block as a team in their first match of the day against Midland, the Lady Saints had somewhat of a block party in this match against Lamar, racking up 13 blocks in this one including 6 from Karney and 6 from Silva in the win.
Things wouldn’t get any easier for Seward on Saturday as their first test of the day would come against the 5th ranked team in the land, the Western Nebraska Cougars. The Lady Saints were ready for the challenge early as they played neck and neck with the perennial Region IX champions and were within two at the midway point after a well timed tip from Taylor to make it 15-13 Western Nebraska. Facing the same deficit, Silva and Karney combined for a block to cut the Cougar lead to 1 and then a short time later a Western Nebraska service error would draw the teams even at 19 apiece. The teams would trade 2 for 2 and would stay tied at 21 but Western would score the game’s final 4 points to take the air out of the Greenhouse in a 25-21 win in game one. The Cougars would continue their roll right into game two in one that would be forgettable for the Lady Saints. Western Nebraska would go up 7-1 to start off the game and the lead would grow from there. Seward was still within relative striking distance down 14-7 but the Cougars would go on to score 11 of the game’s final 14 points to take the second game 25-10. Just when it looked like Seward was going to roll over and play dead for the Cats, they came out in game three much like they did to start the match in game one. They would take a lead at 5-4 in that third game and would keep the slim advantage midway through the game as Fernandes picked up a solo block to put the gals in green up 11-10. The tides would turn right about then and the Lady Saints found themselves stuck in the mud as the Cougars would storm past them to take a lead of their own at 16-12 and would push the lead to 7 later on at 20-13. Seward would never recover in the match as they went on to lose 25-15 as the Cougars completed the sweep. The numbers were not pretty for the Lady Saints against the Cougars as they had no players with over 5 kills and a team hitting percentage of just .081. The dim light on the stat sheet for Seward was in the blocking compartment where Fernandes finished with 3 solo blocks and Karney was able to chip in a pair. Geesing would finish with 7 digs in the match and Winkelman 6 while Jordan Martin led the team with 8 assists.
In their final match of the tournament the Lady Saints looked to exact revenge on the Redlands Cougars who had knocked them off earlier in the year at the Redlands Labor Day Classic. Seward struggled right off the bat and committed 9 hitting errors and hit just .027 as a team in the first game as they fell behind early and would never recover in route to a 25-17 loss. In game two the Lady Saints would reverse their fortunes, picking up 14 kills and just 6 errors while putting up a strong defense at the net with 3 blocks to come away with a close 25-23 win. Poor passing coupled with relentless Cougar defense would give Redlands a 25-16 win in game three and the ladies from El Reno would close things out with a 25-21 win in game four to send the Lady Saints to a 4th place finish in the tournament. Souza would lead the team with a career high 14 kills while Fernandes and Geesing would be the only other two on the team to get over 5 as they both ended the night with 9 kills but combined for an uncharacteristic 15 errors in the loss. Taylor led the team with 17 assists and Geesing and Winkelman were atop the dig leaders with 11 each.
The 1-3 weekend brings the Lady Saints to an even .500 on the season at 13-13 and just 4-11 in their last 15 matches. Next up for Seward is Garden City on the road Wednesday, before packing their suitcases for a trip to the Sunshine State this weekend where they will take on the likes of #1 Miami-Dade, #14 Florida State-Jacksonville, and more.