PRATT, Kan. – The No. 8 Seward County volleyball team escaped with a win over the Pratt Beavers in the Beaver Dome on Wednesday, winning 3-0 in three close sets (25-18, 25-20, 25-16). The Lady Saints are now just two wins away from securing a third consecutive Jayhawk West Championship.
The Lady Saints (24-5, 13-0) jumped out to an early 7-3 lead Following back-to-back aces by Esmadar Tavares, who was responsible for four of the first seven Seward points. The Beavers quickly rattled off three straight points to cut the lead to one, but Luz Sierra came away with a kill to start a 5-0 run for the Lady Saints, extending their lead to 12-8. Seward extended their lead to as many as eight points late in the set, before Nathiellen Machado ended the set with an ace to give Seward the 25-18 set one win.
The Beavers were determined to take a set over the No. 8 team in the country who has only dropped one set in conference play all season. The Lady Saints couldn't gain any breathing room over the Beavers for much of the set. With the set tied at 14, Seward managed a 3-0 run, but the Beavers responded with a 6-2 run to take a 20-19 lead and force a Seward timeout. After regathering themselves, the Lady Saints went on a 6-0 run to finish the set 25-20 and go up two sets over the Beavers.
What started out as another close set, turned in Seward's favor. With the match tied through the first six points, a combination of Giovanna Tapigliani kills and Beaver hitting errors gave Seward a commanding 13-7 lead. The Lady Saints allowed the Beavers back into the set with errors of their own, as Pratt cut the lead to two points at 14-12. From that point on it was all Seward, however, as they won 11 of the next 15 points to win the set 25-16 and complete their 10th straight sweep over a Jayhawk opponent.
Sierra (11 kills) and Tapigliani (10 kills) led the Lady Saints offensive attack, both reaching double-digit kills on the night. Sierra had yet another efficient night, connecting on 68.8 percent of her swings, while finishing with 16 total points. Laura De Pra put the Lady Saints in place with masterful passing, coming away with 39 assists.
Defensively, the Lady Saints finished with 60 digs, led by Machado (21 digs) and Schmorantz (16 digs). Sierra led the Lady Saints with four blocks, while Tapigliani came away with three.
Seward will return to the Greenhouse on Friday for a 5:30 p.m. match against the Butler Grizzlies. The match will serve as the Lady Saints Annual Dig Pink fundraiser to help raise money for breast cancer awareness. All funds raised with be donated to the Side-Out Foundation and applied toward a clinical trial specifically for patients with Stage 4 breast cancer, the most advanced form of the disease and the least funded area of research.