All the pieces came together this season for the Washington volleyball team, which set a school record for wins.



With contributions made from players throughout their roster, the Lady Panthers enjoyed their best season since 2003.



“It was evident early on that they had a strong bond,” said WCHS head coach Chuck Heinz of the squad. “It was so easy for them to work together and trust each other.”


All the pieces came together this season for the Washington volleyball team, which set a school record for wins.

With contributions made from players throughout their roster, the Lady Panthers enjoyed their best season since 2003.

“It was evident early on that they had a strong bond,” said WCHS head coach Chuck Heinz of the squad. “It was so easy for them to work together and trust each other.”

Washington finished 31-5, which included a 14-4 mark in regular-season tournaments.

The Lady Panthers also went 14-0 in the Mid-Illini Conference to win their first championship in seven years and post their first undefeated M-I campaign since ’00.

Washington’s Class 3A Morton Regional crown was its first in four seasons.

Heinz noted that 10 of the 13 roster players will have their name added to the volleyball record book in the match, season or career categories.

“We won 31 games pretty much as a team,” he said. “What an outstanding team effort in those wins.”

With team chemistry so strong, beginning in the summer, Heinz did not have to spend much time on bonding exercises, instead delving right into Xs and Os.

The star-studded Jacksonville Invitational Sept. 11 was the source of a season highlight for Heinz.

With senior three-year varsity player Lexie Barra injured in the second of five matches on the day — against rival Metamora — the Lady Panthers still managed to win four times.

And in its lone loss against Jacksonville in the semifinals, Washington had match point before the Crimsons rallied.

“I came out of that tournament probably the most pleased with how many girls were involved  with the team going 4-1,” Heinz said.

The Mid-Illini title was a main goal from the start, and the Lady Panthers clinched that feat outright with a 25-22, 25-18 victory Oct. 19 vs. Metamora. It was the team’s third win against the Redbirds in ’10.

Although Metamora clipped Washington in the Class 3A LaSalle-Peru Sectional semifinals, that single result can not mar a season that featured winning streaks of 15 and 12 matches.

Barra led the Lady Panthers with an astounding 87 blocks and 52 aces. She also ranked third with 162 kills.

Barra is headed for Illinois Central College to play volleyball. Other teammates are pursuing playing at the next level.

Her 721 career service points established a new record, breaking the 702 of Washington volleyball legend Eileen Hillary.

Barra also finished just eight behind Hillary in career aces with 113. She was only 16 behind Beth Hern with 221 career blocks.

Senior Haley Houser had a team-high 213 kills to edge junior Emily Heuermann, who racked up 191. Twice, Houser provided 14 slams in a match.

Senior Abby Clanin added 117 kills. She was the No. 3 blocker with 47.

Sophomore Lindsey Watson was second with 59 blocks and added 72 kills.

Kortney Buckerfield, a senior, supplied 36 blocks. Heuermann and Houser both chipped in more than 20.  

Senior Sarah Misselhorn nipped classmate Taylor Kuykendall for the team assists lead, 294-293.

Five Lady Panthers — Clanin, Houser, Misselhorn, Kuykendall and Heuermann — had at least 25 aces. Clanin was second behind Barra with 35.

Heuermann had eight aces in one match. Misselhorn recorded a team-best 300 service points.

Senior Brittany Spurgeon amassed 260 digs. Kiley Ruder (223) and Mary Gabbert (163), both seniors, also had more than 150 for Washington.

Juniors Natalie Hamilton and Cori Venegonia participated in at least 10 varsity matches as well.

Future teams will have high marks for which to shoot.  

“The standard has been set,” said Heinz. “I hope the young girls were taking notice.”