Every sports team that goes on to have a successful season can hang their hat on one ‘signature’ win. The Seward County Lady Saints hope that at the end of the 2012 volleyball season that the win that they will look back on and mark as changing their seasons fortune was a Wednesday night win in front of a riled up home crowd over conference leading Hutchinson. Seward played a thriller against the Lady Blue Dragons Wednesday, taking down their formerly undefeated rivals in a five set marathon 3-2 to remain in the hunt for a Jayhawk West Conference Championship.

In front of a good crowd “blacked out” for the matches colored theme, the Lady Saints got off to a good start in the first set, staying error free through the first ten points to a take a 7-3 lead over the Dragons. Seward remained on top by four 11-7, when a 5-0 Hutchinson run spurred by three straight Lady Dragon blocks put the visiting team ahead for the first time in the match 12-11. It was a back and forth affair for the next 14 points as neither team could get more than a one point lead. With the score 19-18 in favor of Hutch, Seward committed a service error, reception error, and ball handling error back to back to back and Hutch went ahead 22-18. The Lady Saints cut the Hutchinson lead to 23-22 and traded points with them to 24-23 when the Lady Dragons got a big block in the middle to seal Seward’s fate in the first with a 25-23 win.
It was another quick start for the gals in green in the second as Morgan Riley started things off with a solo block, Lakeria Eatmon got a kill, Alyssa Olson aced the Dragons, and Annelise Sanchez rocketed an attack down the line to push Seward out to a 4-0 advantage. The West leading Dragons scratched back and tied the set at 5 with another block and took a 9-7 lead on Seward after back to back kills. The set was knotted at 12 when Seward scored three straight to take a 15-12 lead, but back to back hitting errors later on drew the Lady Dragons back to within one at 17-16. As Hutch was attempting to tie the set with an attack, Riley and Sanchez came up with a big block on the outside to give the Lady Saints an 18-16 lead and they used the momentum to go on a 6-1 burst to take their largest lead of the night at 23-17. On the ropes, Hutch got to within four at the end of the set after a Seward miscue, but the Lady Dragons couldn’t get the ball over the net with the score 24-20 and the Lady Saints evened things up at 1 with a 25-20 win in the second.
The third set was a good one early on as the teams jockeyed with each other for position, trying to take the lead. It was a one point lead for Seward followed by a sideout and one point lead for Hutch and visa versa through the first 20 points of the set and the two were deadlocked at 10-10. Hutchinson got the next two points to go up 12-10 but Seward stormed back against their rivals to get the next five and take the lead back 15-12. Then it was the Lady Dragons turn and four points of their own shifted the tides yet again to put them up 16-15. With the score tied at 17, Hutch scored three straight points and it seemed to be the knockout blow for the Lady Dragons in the fight between the heavyweights. Now leading 20-17, Hutchinson never let Seward close again and the Lady Saints gifted the Lady Dragons the set with the score 24-21 with a serve long to give them the 25-21 win to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
It was Hutchinson getting out to a good start in the fourth set, taking an early 9-7 and then 13-9 lead on the Lady Saints midway through. After an ace from Sanchez drew them to within three, a costly reception error put them in a four point hole and they looked like they were in trouble down 16-12. A Hutch service error, one of many on the night, gave Seward the ball back and a kill from Eatmon made it a 16-14 game in favor of the Dragons. Seward gave the point back on a service error of their own to make it 17-14, but back to back kills from Eatmon and Bailey McFerren made it a one point contest 17-16 and next was maybe the changing moment of the Lady Saints season. Down by one, hanging on for their lives against their conference rivals, the Lady Saints played a marathon point with the Lady Dragons with the teams seemingly keeping the ball off the floor by a fingernail numerous times with players nearly going into the stands and their benches keeping the point alive. Seward came out on top of that point to tie the set at 17 and scored three of the next four to take a 20-18 lead. Hutch came back to tie it at 20, but the Lady Saints effort now had the crowd on their side and Seward used the energy in the building to score three straight, capped by a solo block from Sanchez to take a 23-20 lead, each point drawing a deafening roar from the Seward faithful. The Dragons were able to block out the crowd for a moment at least as they stormed back to score three straight and were within one point of clinching the Jayhawk West Championship after a Seward reception error made it 24-23 Hutchinson. But the Lady Saints stayed cool under the pressure and Sanchez managed to find a hole in the Lady Dragon defense for a kill to tie it at 24. Hutch found their own hole on the next play to again give themselves championship point but once again, the young Lady Saints had an answer as Riley and Sanchez teamed up for a rejection to tie it at 25. A Hutch attack long on the next point made it 26-25 Seward and in front of her hometown audience, Eatmon came up big for the Lady Saints with a kill that found the back line to give Seward the 27-25 win and send the match to a deciding fifth set.
In the final set, the Greenhouse was electric and the Seward fans that stuck the match out to the end received a treat in the fifth. Riley and Eatmon kills quickly put Seward ahead 2-0 but a Lady Saints error allowed Hutch to tie it up at 4 moments later. A kill from reigning Jayhawk West Player of the Week Thayna Silva broke the tie and back to back attacks long from the Dragons made it 7-4 Seward. At the changeover the Lady Saints continued to lead by three 8-5 and that was the spread when back to back Lady Saint overpasses allowed Hutch back into it with the score 10-9. A costly Hutchinson service error pushed Seward ahead by two and an attack into the net by the Dragons put Seward within three points of victory, ahead 12-9. With their backs to the wall, Hutchinson got a kill to make it a two point game 13-11 but their third error in five points gave the Lady Saints match point at 14-11. There was no turning back after that for Seward County and with a rocking crowd of 500 plus in attendance, the Lady Saints wasted no time as Silva approached on the outside, hit a laser crosscourt through the Lady Dragon defense and the Greenhouse crowd exploded as the ball hit the floor to give the Lady Saints the 15-11 win and the 3-2 victory over the Dragons.
The Lady Saints finished the match hitting .163 as a team and hit over .110 in each set for the first time this season in a five set match. Sanchez led Seward with a career high 17 kills and 12 digs in her first career double-double, while Silva added 13 kills and 26 digs in her third straight double-double. Eatmon came up big with 9 kills and just 2 errors for the Lady Saints while Riley finished with 8 kills and 4 blocks in the victory. Playing libero for the first time in her volleyball career, sophomore Aubree Young stepped into the role perfectly, pulling up 35 digs, the most for any Seward player this season, and the most from any Lady Saint in almost two years.
Seward remains in the running for the Jayhawk West Conference Championship with the win, improving to 8-2 in league play and 14-16 overall on the season. Hutchinson’s dreams of an undefeated conference season comes to a close as they drop to 10-1 in conference action and 18-6 overall. Next up for Seward is a long bus ride to West Plains, Missouri for the Grizzly Invitational where they will take on Jefferson, Wallace State, and New Mexico Military on Friday before bracket play begins on Saturday in the Show Me State.