In a heated and emotional road test Saturday afternoon in the Kirkman Center in Great Bend, the Seward County Lady Saints stood tall, coming away with a four set victory over the Barton Cougars to move into a first place tie atop the Jayhawk West Conference standings.
Things started off just about as well as they could have for the Lady Saints who jumped out to an early 4-0 and then 7-1 lead on the Cougars behind a strong stand at the service line for Amanda Pereira to begin the match. But the Lady Saints lead didn’t last long as the Cougars roared back, cutting the Seward cushion to just two at 10-8. Seward recovered quickly, going on another big run, this time a an 8-3 jaunt highlighted by back to back solo blocks from Belissa Guidotti to put the Lady Saints back comfortably ahead 18-11. Barton made one last push, cutting the Seward lead to four on a pair of occasions late, but in the end, the fast start made the difference as Kaysie Paxton went offspeed on the Lady Saints first set point chance for a kill to give Seward a 25-20 victory to take a 1-0 lead in the match.
Seward couldn’t carry their momentum over into the second as this time Barton jumped out to a 4-0 lead and quickly stretched it to a controlling 14-4 as the Lady Saints struggled to handle the Cougar serve. The Barton lead got all the way to 22-9 before the Lady Saints showed some life to finish the set, but it was far too little too late as the Cougars cruised to a 25-13 win to even the match at one.
The Lady Saints began the third with a serve into the net, but this time quickly recovered to score five of the next six points to take a 5-2 lead against the Cougars. Barton got the next three to even the score at five, but a kill on a tip from Briana Domino to put the Lady Saints back ahead by one. Things started getting heated between the two in the middle of the third when the Cougars took exception to a Seward celebration after a block which eventually resulted in four cards pulled on the Lady Saints throughout the remainder of the match. However, the action fired the Lady Saints up who got four kills in five plays from Maritza Mesa and another from Mariana Nascimento to push Seward in front of Barton 17-13. A sideout for Barton stopped the Lady Saints momentum and then it was the Cougars turn for a run, this time a 5-0 burst to put the home side on top by a point. Barton remained on top by one, 22-21 late in the set when the Lady Saints decided to kick things into another gear. Mesa banged home her sixth kill of the set to tie the score and Jazlyn Smith dropped in an ace to give the Lady Saints a lead that they never gave up again. Seward went on to take the set 25-23, in turn grabbing a big 2-1 advantage in the match.
Tension continued to be tight as the fourth began as the Lady Saints and Cougars traded points to 9-9 after 18 points. Seward was whistled for their second red card during a celebration of a point, in turn putting Barton in front by one 10-9 after the play. A kill on a slide by Nascimento evened the score back up at 14 and a solo block from Kaysie Paxton and another kill from Nascimento pushed Seward County in front by a pair 16-14. Still up by two later on, the Lady Saints were called for their fifth ball handling error of the match to see their lead cut in half to 20-19, but once again, Seward was just setting up to throw things into high gear. Mesa rose up high for her 18th kill of the afternoon to push the lead back to two and a kill followed by a back to back block and kill sequence from Nascimento put Seward in control, up 24-19. A service error shot down Seward’s first set point chance, but the Cougars gave it right back on a service blunder of their own to hand the Lady Saints the fourth 25-20 to finish off a 3-1 victory.
Seward hit .268 in the match, getting a monster performance by Mesa under the bright lights. The sophomore right side banged home 18 kills against the Cougars, hitting .421 while also pulling up seven digs in the win. Nascimento backed up a record breaking performance in the Lady Saints last out, with nine kills and a .350 hitting percentage while Paxton pitched in eight kills on 27 swings. Pereira dished out 27 assists and doubled her previous career high with six aces for the Lady Saints while Kimberly Diaz led the Seward backline with 14 digs and Guidotti again paced the Lady Saints defense at the net with five blocks.
The victory pushes Seward into a three way tie for first place in the Jayhawk West standings with Colby and Hutchinson at 6-1, while the Lady Saints improve to 14-5 overall on the year. Barton drops two games back of the pace at 5-3 in league play while seeing their overall mark on the year take a step back to 16-5.
The win for the Lady Saints sets up an even bigger battle in Jayhawk West Conference play on Monday in the Greenhouse as Seward will host the Hutchinson Blue Dragons in a matchup for first place at 6:30 pm. Pizza Hut will sponsor Monday night’s contest and invites fans to join the Lady Saints on Pack the House Night in the Greenhouse. Pizza Hut will pass out coupons for free pizzas, buffets, wings, and more to every Seward student in attendance by game time and will also be passing out free pizzas throughout the stands before the match.
SEWARD COUNTY/BARTON BOX SCORE<http://www.sewardsaints.com/sports/wvball/2016-17/boxscores/20160924_8nj2.xml>