There is no doubt the Barton volleyball team has made big strides this season. It has been several seasons since a late September match had conference leading implications riding on the outcome.
But that was the case Saturday when the Cougars took the floor against Seward County in Jayhawk Conference action. The intensity of the match showed as it progressed.
With a spot near the top of the conference on the line, the Cougars came up short against the Saints. Seward won the match 25-20, 13-25, 25-23, 25-20.
The loss drops the Cougars into fourth place in the fourth in the Jayhawk at 5-3 in the Jayhawk and 16-5 overall. Seward keeps pace at the top at 6-1 and 14-5. The Saints are in a 3-way tie for the top spot with Colby and Hutchinson.
The key set in the match was the third set. Seward led most of the way in the opener on the way to the 25-20 win then Barton dominated the second set in winning 25-13.
That made the third set pivotal.
The set played out with Seward getting a lead and Barton coming back. The Saints led 5-2 then Barton tied it a 5-all. Seward again took a lead at 8-5 then Barton battled back to tie it at 11-all. After falling behind 16-12 Barton rallied to tie it at 17-all.
The Cougars inched ahead at 21-20. The teams were tied at 21-all, 22-all and 23-all before the Saints finally strung together a couple straight points to close out a 25-23 win – one a Barton service error the final point a lift call on the Cougars.
Things got heated in the fourth set as Barton tried to push the match to a fifth and deciding set.
Barton took an early lead and played from in front in the early stages. Barton led 8-5 when Seward scored three straight, ending with a taunting of the Barton student section by a Seward Martiza Mesa. That drew a warning from the officials and was the first sign of a wild set.
A short time later Seward’s Amanda Pereira was given a red card after a conference with the chair official. After a long delay the intensity picked up at the Barton Gym. Seward scored two straight to tie it at 12-all when another red card came out from the chair official during a Saints’ player, giving Barton a 13-12 lead.
The Saints took over from there. Seward scored four straight to take a 17-14 lead before a Barton timeout stopped the run. But only momentarily. Barton was able to get the lead to one on a couple of occasions but a 4-0 run by Seward gave the Saints a 24-19 lead on the way to the set and match win.
Monique Oliveira led Barton with 16 kills with Olivia Naccarato adding 10. Lydia Konrade finished with a team-high 14 digs while Carolina Goncalves led the Cougars with 34 assists.
The Cougars will close out September with a home match against Garden City Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m.