After the dust has settled on a weekend in which the Greenhouse saw 16 matches in just over 24 hours, the host Seward County Lady Saints have come out of its annual Ozfest Invitational Presented by Landmark Real Estate Center, 3-1 and 2nd place finishers.

Seward opened the tournament with a Jayhawk West Conference win over Dodge City and then swept Vernon later on Friday to set up a showdown with Frank Phillips Saturday morning in the pool play finale. Seward won that match convincingly in four and advanced to the championship match where they were eventually stopped by #1 Western Nebraska in a match closer than expected by many.
Seward’s first game of the tournament was arguably their most important as they started the second half of Jayhawk West Conference play with a match against Dodge City that counted towards both conference and the Ozfest Invitational standings. After a disappointing loss to the Lady Conqs on the road earlier in the month, Seward had revenge on their mind and they came out of the gates hot on Friday afternoon. Early on Seward would get a block from Aislyn Karney and Bailey McFerren that jump started a 4-0 run to go ahead 6-2 and stretched their lead to 14-5 later after a pair of aces from Jasmine Bryant and a kill from Courtney Geesing. Dodge City tightened things back up with five straight points of their own after that and as the teams got ready to make their final push, the Lady Saints were in a fight with the score 17-14. Kills from Aubree Young and McFerren pushed the Seward advantage to 20-15 but a sideout and two straight Lady Saints hitting errors had Dodge as close as they had been all game at 20-18. The Lady Saints would then turn to their two top hitters in Geesing and McFerren to lead them down the stretch and the pair did just that, racking up three kills before the Lady Conqs were called in the net to finish off game one 25-21.
The second game was a good one early on as Dodge looked to have gotten things together after a slow start and the Lady Saints countered with more #6 and #15 to take a 10-8 lead. Dodge tied things up and then went ahead 12-10 after a pair of Lady Saints attack errors but Seward would then go on a 5-0 spurt with the help of an ace from Madison Winkelman, a block from Karney and McFerren and a kill from Bryant to retake the lead at 15-12. The Lady Conqs would creep back to within one on a pair of occasions and found themselves down just 20-19 late in the game. However, Seward would dominate from there as another Winkelman ace and another block from Karney and McFerren would spark a 5-0 run to close the game to win 25-19 and go up 2-0.
Game three was not one to remember for the Lady Saints as Dodge took control right out of the gates and held their lead for the entire game. Seward found themselves down 5-2 before getting back to within one a short time later on a kill from Geesing that had the score 7-6 in favor of the gals in Purple. Unfortunately for Seward, Geesing was the only offense that they had through the middle part of the game as she was the only Lady Saint to have a kill from the 6-4 point of the game to the 15-11 point of the game when Karney put one down. Trailing by four at that point, the Lady Saints would never get any closer, as their deficit continued to swell until fittingly a service error put an end to their misery as they fell 25-16.
Early on in game four it looked as if the Lady Conqs were ready to go five with the Lady Saints as they battled toe to toe through the first ten points tied at 5. That’s when the Lady Saints decided that they were not going to let that happen as they went on a 4-1 run to take a 9-6 lead and then continued to push to take a 13-8 advantage after kills from Young and Bryant. Dodge cut the Seward lead to three on three different occasions but each time the Lady Saints picked up a sideout and returned their lead to four and the Lady Conqs simply could never get within striking range as a furious finish saw Seward get two kills from Geesing, two aces from Marina Dias, and a block from Young and Karney on successive plays finish things off as the Lady Saints cruised to a 25-16 win to take the match.
The Lady Saints had a well-rounded attack in the win over the Lady Conqs. Geesing however was again the leader for the Seward offense as the sophomore put away 20 kills, another career high, while McFerren had 9, Karney had 8, and Young had 6. The Lady Saints hitting success was orchestrated by Dias who finished with a career high 46 assists in Seward’s shift to a 5-1 offense. The sophomore setter also paced the team in aces with 3 and tied for the team lead in digs with 11 which was also shared by Winkelman and Katie Marks. Karney and McFerren did the majority of the work on the blocking side for Seward as Karney finished with 6 combo blocks and McFerren with 1 solo and 5 combo’s for a total of 6.
In the nightcap of Seward’s Friday pair of matches, they entertained the Vernon Lady Chaparrals and to say the least, were not very good hosts. A nearly flawless game one, the Lady Saints jumped on Vernon right away behind a fury of kills from Bryant. The Seward freshman hammered home 5 kills through the first 10 points of the game and teaming up with McFerren who accounted for two blocks and two kills through the first 15, had the Lady Saints up 11-4. Geesing would get into the act with a trio of kills to put Seward up 17-7 and they would continue to roll in a laugher, winning 25-11.
Game two began how game one finished as the Lady Saints got off to a 5-0 start on a pair of aces from Dias and a block and a kill from Karney. They would continue to stymie the Chap offense with their block as Sarah Miller got into the act to help make it 10-3 before Vernon came back to make things close with a run that saw Seward’s lead shrink to 11-10. With the score 12-11, Seward would again separate themselves from Vernon with a 7-0 burst to make it 19-11 and after rotating some other players into the game, saw an impact from that group as Lakeria Eatmon got a kill to make it 24-16 Seward and then a block with McFerren to end things at 25-17.
A slow start for the Lady Saints in game three kept Vernon close. The Chaps earned just one of their first eight points but because of a number of Seward County errors, were within three at 11-8. The Lady Saints remained ahead by three through the middle part of the set before beginning to open things up later on. With the score 15-12, they would get three straight points on a kill from Bryant, another from Young, and then an ace from Christina Fisher to make it 18-12. After Vernon broke the run, the Lady Saints would get two more points on kills from McFerren to take a 20-13 advantage. The teams would play even down the stretch but it wasn’t enough for the Chaps to make a comeback and with a solo block from Miller on game point, the Lady Saints completed the sweep with a 25-18 game three win.
Seward’s block was again big in the win as the Lady Saints racked up 14 total blocks as a team and helped themselves on the offensive end, hitting .288 as a team. Geesing led the way with 12 kills and 11 digs while Bryant had 9 kills and 12 digs for the Lady Saints. McFerren finished with the identical line of their first match of the day with 9 kills and 6 blocks and Dias again impressed with 28 assists and 13 digs in the win. Winkelman led the team in digs with 23 and she also had a perfect day in the serve/receive department, passing 15 chances without an error.
The Lady Saints knew that Saturday would be their toughest tests of the tournament and that challenge started with a good Frank Phillips team right off the bat at 9:00 am. The Lady Saints were ready for the early start and the Lady Plainsmen were not. Seward jumped out to a 5-0 and then 9-2 advantage on Frank Phillips and saw their lead grow to nine after back to back blocks from Miller made it 14-5 later on. Seward’s lead would grow to ten at 21-11 on a block from Karney and McFerren and the Lady Plainsmen took care of themselves on the rest, finishing the game with 19 errors to let Seward take the opener 25-11.
It wasn’t the start of game two that propelled the Lady Saints but the middle, where they outscored Frank Phillips 13-2 after the game was tied at 4-4 early on. Seward got kills from Karney and Miller and then blocks from McFerren and Dias to go up big before the rally was finished with a pair of aces from Marks to make it 17-6. Three straight points from McFerren on two kills and a solo block made it 20-8 and after a pair of kills from Geesing took them to the end, Eatmon would get a kill on a tip to finish the game with the score 25-12.
As they did a day earlier, the Lady Saints were not nearly as sharp in game three with a 2-0 lead. They took an early 6-4 lead but three straight hitting errors gave Frank Phillips a 7-6 advantage and they would build on it to 11-7 before a 4-0 Seward run tied things up at 11 on a pair of aces from McFerren and a kill from Geesing. The game would remain close into the teens as they were tied at 14, then 16, and 17. Seward took a 19-17 lead and held the two point cushion to 22-20 but three straight Frank Phillips points gave them their first lead since early on at 23-22. A Geesing kill tied things up at 23 but a Lady Plainsmen kill made it game point for the blue and gold. Karney thwarted their first attempt with a kill to tie it at 24 and an attack error on the Lady Plainsmen gave the Lady Saints their first match point. They couldn’t convert that time, nor either of their next two chances and the teams played on with the game tied at 27. With the Lady Saints up 28-27 after a kill from McFerren, Frank Phillip’s Alyne Bianchi would get three straight kills to tie, give Frank Phillips the lead, and then give them the game in a 30-28 marathon to force a game four.
In game four it was Karney and McFerren that kept the Lady Saints afloat early on as the two combined for five kills out of the chute to give the Lady Saints a 6-5 lead. Then it was time for them to pass the baton on to Geesing who recorded four kills in seven points to stretch the Seward lead to 11-6. The hot start was too much for Frank Phillips to recover from as Seward’s blocking down the stretch and finally a Lady Plainsmen hitting error would seal the game and the match as Seward took it 25-10.
For the second straight game, the Lady Saints were a force at the tape, recording 17 blocks as a squad in the win. Karney recorded her first career double-double for Seward in the victory, hammering down 10 kills to go along with 10 blocks for the green and black. McFerren’s nightcap was equally as impressive as the freshman middle finished with 12 kills and 8 blocks for the Lady Saints. Geesing notched a career high 17 digs in the victory and also finished with 9 kills and just 1 error for Seward. Young, getting a chance to play extended time in the backrow, had a career high 12 digs while the Lady Saints lead in that category would be Winkelman with 18. Dias dialed up her third straight double-double for Seward in the win with a team high 29 assists as well as 11 digs.
The Lady Saints now had a 3-0 record on the weekend and were Pool B Champions in the Ozfest Invitational. Their prize? A date with the #1 team in the country, the Western Nebraska Lady Cougars Saturday afternoon. Seward took the court with a no-lose mindset and rightfully so as they stood opposite the defending National Champions and owners of a perfect 24-0 record with only 2 games lost this season. Seward was not intimidated early on in the opening game as they went back and forth with the Lady Cougars to see the score tied at 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, and on up to 6-6. That’s when Western Nebraska made their run to take a 10-6 lead but the Lady Saints remained close and worked it back to 12-10 after a Lady Cougar serve into the net. The Seward offense would cost them as they went forward as no Seward hitter recorded a kill from the 6-6 point to the 22-13 point in the game which was well after the game was out of hand. The Lady Saints would fall 25-14 in game one and looked to shake it off for game two.
The second game of the match was again a see-saw battle early on with neither team taking more than a one point lead through the first 18 points as the game was tied at 9. Seward would be the ones to take the first multi-point lead of the game as Karney got a kill to make it 11-9 and they would keep that lead later on with a kill from Bryant to make it 14-12. The Lady Saints would score three of the next four points to make it 17-13 and after back to back Lady Cougar attack errors, Seward found themselves in a spot that not many teams had this season, up by seven against the Cougs. After Western Nebraska scrapped back into things, another kill from Karney would put the gals in green ahead 23-16 and it looked for sure like Seward was going to be one of three teams to take a game from the Cougs. Three straight Seward errors made it 23-19 and Western Nebraska would get it to 23-20 before a kill from Bryant gave the Lady Saints four shots at game point with the score 24-20. That is when the combination of falling flat at the wrong time and having the tournament MVP on the other side of the net killed the Lady Saints. Seward was unable to secure the game with any of their four game point chances and Western Nebraska would score six points in a row to stun the Greenhouse crowd to the tune of a 26-24 win for the Cougs.
Drained from their failed effort in game two, the Lady Saints fell behind 10-1 in game three. They would get a kill from Karney to get within eight and then three Geesing shots would have then within six later on at 15-9. They would never get any closer though as errors proved costly and the potent Cougar attack was just too much as the Lady Saints would fall 25-15 to finish as tournament runners-up.
Geesing led Seward with 10 kills in the match while Karney finished with 6 and Bryant and McFerren had 4 apiece. Dias dished out 24 assists for Seward and also led the team with 9 digs.
The Lady Saints finish the tournament in 2nd place to the consensus top team in the country Western Nebraska. In the 3rd place match, #17 Missouri State-West Plains defeated Frank Phillips and in the 5th place matchup Western Texas took care of Dodge City. At the conclusion of the tournament, three Lady Saints were named to the All-Tournament team as Geesing, McFerren, and Winkelman were all rewarded for their efforts. To see more information about the tournament and to see final placings, game scores, and the full All-Tournament Team, CLICK HERE.
Seward’s overall record now sits at 17-6 on the season and their Jayhawk West Conference mark improves to 6-2 with the win over Dodge City on Friday. They will now travel to Northern Oklahoma-Enid on Monday for a non-conference matchup before returning back to the Greenhouse for a pair of conference matches on Wednesday and Saturday.