It all started with a perfect honorary first serve from two time breast cancer survivor Mischel Miller and after a thrilling 5 game spectacle for the Lady Saints largest crowd of the year, things ended perfectly as well as Stacie Carver sent back a Lady Conq offering for her third block of the night to give Seward a 16-14 game five win and put the Lady Saints back into the thick of things in the Jayhawk West Conference standings. Not only was it a great night for Seward County on the court but it was also a great night for breast cancer awareness as fans showed up decked out in their pink gear and helped raise nearly $200 for breast cancer research in the process.
After losing to the Conqs for the first time in over 6 years in their first matchup nearly a month ago, the Lady Saints had something to prove in this meeting with second place Dodge City. They got things started off on the right foot by taking a quick 2-0 lead in game one and after the Conqs tied things up at 2, scored three straight points including a back to back block and kill from Courtney Geesing to go up 5-2. Dodge would get to within one at 6-5 but Carver would pick up kills on two consecutive plays to push the Lady Saints back ahead by three 8-5. Dodge would fight their way back into the contest and would tie things up at 8 and the teams would tussle back and forth and remained tied at 11 apiece. The Conqs would score the next two points to take their first lead of the match at 13-11 and would hold that two point advantage to 17-15 after the Lady Saints third service error of the game. With a struggling Lady Saints team and a confident Dodge City squad, things weren’t looking to bright for Seward but trailing by that 17-15 score, something sparked a fire for the gals in green and they would dominate the rest of the first game. A Daiane Souza kill followed by an ace from Madison Winkelman would tie the game at 17 and a combo block from Sheina Fernandes and Isabela Silva would give Seward a one point lead at 18-17. They weren’t done, after a Dodge hitting error Fernandes and Silva would hammer back to back kills to put the Lady Saints up 21-17 and they would go on to cruise to the finish line with a 25-18 game one win.
Game two was quite a different story for the home team. After the match was tied at 2 early on, the Lady Conqs would score 7 of the next 8 points to go ahead 9-3 and they would never look back. Fernandes would cut the Dodge lead to four at 13-9 and later on Carver would get the deficit to just three at 16-13 with a kill of her own. A Dodge service error backed up by a reception error and ace for Shelly Malouff would draw the home team to within one at 16-15 but a sideout and two straight errors by the Lady Saints would again push the Conq lead to four at 19-15. The Lady Conqs would keep Seward in the game with another pair of service errors late and after Fernandes’ 4th kill of the game, the Lady Saints found themselves down just two at 22-20. The teams would trade the next six points but it wasn’t enough for Seward as the Conqs put things away with a kill on game point to take game two 25-23.
After a 10 minute intermission in which the Lady Saints used to make their way around the stands to collect donations for breast cancer research from the crowd, Seward came out rejuvenated in the third game and got off to a 5-0 start thanks in large part to two more kills from Fernandes as well as a kill and a solo block from Geesing. Seward would continue to build on the good start and the lead as they took an 11-4 lead on a kill from Carver and then stretched the gap to 11 with a pair of rockets from Fernandes sandwiched around a kill from Souza to make it 16-5. The Lady Saints weren’t done adding on just yet as Fernandes and Malouff combined for a block to make it 17-5 and a Dodge City hitting error would give cap off a 7-0 run for Seward to make it 18-5. Up 20-9 following an ace from Katie Marks it looked like things were soon to be wrapped up for the Lady Saints but a furious late game rally by Dodge City, including a 5-0 run after the score was 23-16, would bring them to within striking distance at 23-20 and all of a sudden things were interesting again in the Greenhouse. Souza would stop the Dodge run with her 4th kill of the game and after the Conqs held off the Lady Saints first game point, Fernandes would slam one inside of the 10 foot line to put it away for Seward and give them the 25-21 win to take a 2-1 lead.
With their backs to the wall, the Lady Conqs nearly put on a repeat performance of the second game in game four to suck the air out of the crowd early in the game. Dodge would bolt out to an 11-3 lead this time and would hold a sizeable advantage until a pair of Fernandes kills would bring Seward to within a handful at 15-10 midway through. The spread would remain the same to 18-13 but two straight Conq attack errors and a kill from Souza would draw the Lady Saints to within a pair at 18-16 as they looked for the come from behind win to wrap things up. After a sideout and the teams trading points Dodge would lead 20-17 when the Lady Saints turned to their leader again and Fernandes delivered, smashing back to back shots to the floor for her 19th and 20th kills of the night to bring Seward to within one at 20-19. That would be as close as the Lady Saints would get as Dodge went on to score five of the last eight points in the game to come away with a 25-22 win and force a deciding 5th game between the two regional rivals.
With Seward desperately needing the win to stay in the race for a home playoff match and Dodge looking to win to keep their hopes alive in the conference title race, the two teams battled out to a 2-2, then 3-3, then 4-4, and finally a 5-5 tie before either way able to break free. Tied at 5, a Dodge ball handling error followed by an attack error would give the Lady Saints a 7-5 lead but the Conqs would again draw things even at 7 apiece and then take a lead of their own with a Seward hitting error and then back to back kills from Emma Filaga to make it 8-7 Conqs as the teams changed sides. Seward would tie things at 8 with a kill from Souza but attack errors on two straight points would give Dodge a 10-8 lead and after getting the ball back with the score 10-9, a pair of failed attacks by the Lady Saints would lead to scoring chances that the Conqs did put away a they went up 12-9 to force a Lady Saints timeout. Directly out of the break Fernandes would set a new career high with her 23rd kill of the night to cut the lead to 12-10 and a hitting error from Dodge would make it a one point game at 12-11. The teams would trade points to 13-12 before Malouff and Carver combined for a huge block on the outside to tie things at 13 and then Geesing would use the Dodge block to her advantage as she smashed one off the side of the Conq wall to put the Lady Saints up 14-13 and give them their first match point. Dodge City would score on their first ball on the next play to even things at 14 but another Geesing kill on the next point would again bring Seward to match point as they led 15-14. Standing back to serve, Malouff hit a deep driving serve to break up the flow of the Dodge offense and on their third hit the Conqs were forced to attack from off of the net and Carver would read the attack like a book and with a one handed rejection to the floor, would give the Lady Saints a 16-14 win and would set off an electric celebration on the court and in the stands for Seward as they came away with the five game win.
Fernandes would finish the night with a career high 24 kills in the win and also led the Lady Saints in the block compartment with 4 denials on the night. Souza completed the evening just one kill short of her career high in kills as she picked up 13 to go along with an equal 13 digs in the win. Geesing notched her 8th double-double on the season, finishing with 10 kills and a career high 18 digs and Winkelman would tie her career best performance in the digs department with 26. Maddy Taylor put up a season high 30 assists in the win and fellow setter Shelly Malouff was just two assists off of her career best with 20 helpers on the night. Along with the pinnacle block at the end of the night, Carver put up 7 kills and 2 other blocks to cap off a memorable match and event for the Lady Saints.
The win evens up the Lady Saints record at 16-16 on the season and moves them to 7-4 in Jayhawk West Conference play, good for a 3rd place tie with Barton who will come to the Greenhouse Monday night at 6:30. The loss for Dodge drops them to 23-9 overall on the year and 9-3 in conference play and eliminates them from contention for being the top seed at the Region VI Tournament in two weeks. Seward won’t have much time to relish the big win over Dodge as they now must set their sights to the Colby Lady Trojans who they will take on in the Community Building in Colby on Thursday night. The next week for the Lady Saints will prove to be important as they play the Trojans who are currently ˝ game behind them in the conference standings at 7-5 followed by Barton on Monday who Seward is tied with at 7-4 and then their rivals, the Hutchinson Lady Blue Dragons on Wednesday at home for Sophomore Night to wrap up the regular season schedule.