Kearney, Neb. – The ninth-ranked Nebraska Kearney volleyball team used 11 blocks and a late 9-1 run to get past Northwest Missouri State in four sets (-18, -21, 25-27, -20) Friday night at the Health & Sports Center.
Last fall in Maryville, UNK (17-2, 5-2) rallied from a 2-1 deficit to edge the Bearcats (9-9, 3-3) in five. Tonight, the Lopers won the first two sets by close margins and were just a few points from a sweep.
However, Northwest erased an 18-13 deficit and then fought off two match points to take the third set. The closing 6-2 run featured three kills, a block, service ace and unforced Loper error.
Hitting below .200 for the sixth time this fall (.176), UNK went on a 9-1 run midway through the fourth set to get out of a 12-10 hole. This match-clinching spurt included five unforced NW attack errors, two kills, a block and ace.
The ‘Cats, finishing with a .120 hitting efficiency, did get within 23-20 but another unforced error and a kill by freshman right side Anna Squiers (Kearney Catholic) sealed the deal for the Lopers.
“We had to win long, ugly rallies. We had to be mentally strong in serve receive because they were coming after us. We weren’t always totally in system but on those tough serves we got Lindsey (Smith) at least a couple of options,” said UNK head coach Rick Squiers. “Tara (Ziegelbein) was Tara tonight and that was huge and I thought Anna had her best match offensively.”
As usual, Ziegelbein (Lincoln Lutheran) turned in a big stat line. She recorded her second career double double (18 kills and 10 blocks), had a team-high seven blocks and hit .324. Squiers also had a match to remember, tallying a season-best nine kills and hitting .364.
“That one was a grinder. I didn’t know if we were going to get over the top of the hill or not. It just seemed like it was getting harder the longer we played,” said Squiers. “I was hoping we had enough gas left in the tank. When you’re up 2-0, the complexion changes a bit … you’re triying not to losing a match instead of trying to win one.”
From the outside, Ogallala junior Kendall Schroer had 15 kills in a team-high 53 swings with five Lopers, besides Ziegelbein, having a double digit dig total. That large group included Omaha freshman Mary Katherine Wolfe (13) and South Dakota junior Lindsey Smith (12). Smith also provided five kills, five blocks, 51 assists and a team-high .455 hitting efficiency.
“They got a lot of block touches at the net and it was hard to get a kill. Every year it gets harder to get a kill. Everyone is bigger, everybody plays better defense and rallies are longer,” said Squiers. “We struggled defending their right side attack but we did get a little bit better at the end when we had to make a play.”
Northwest was led by Norris graduate Maddy Bruder who tallied 15 digs, 13 kills and a block. Kearney hosts Missouri Western State Saturday at 7 p.m. Click here to listen to podcast.