Kearney, Neb. – The fourth-ranked Nebraska-Kearney volleyball team had 13 blocks and was plus five in the serve game to rally from a 2-0 hole to win at Northwest Missouri State (23-25, 22-25, -21, -23, -11) Saturday night in Maryville.
In an epic 2.5 hour match, the Lopers improve to 19-1 (6-1) and hand the Bearcats (14-4, 6-1) its first MIAA loss of the year. This is the second time in three years UNK has beaten Northwest in five sets in Maryville.
The Lopers are becoming used to these nail biters as they improve to 5-0 in five-set matches. This is the first time UNK has rallied from a 2-0 deficit and won since September 2006. That Kearney squad, at home, got past Northern State.
Earlier this week at 24th-ranked Regis the Lopers won in five sets despite being out hit and having fewer kills and digs than the Rangers. That odd recipe worked again as the Bearcats had more kills, 71-61, and more digs, 114-97. UNK, however, was a tad more efficient, .177-.159, as it had 14 fewer hitting errors in than the ‘Cats.
The Lopers led most of the way in the fifth set, erasing an early 4-3 deficit to grab leads of 7-5 and 11-9. But Northwest used back-to-back kills to tie things up for the 30th and final time and force UNK to call timeout.
That short break worked as sophomore right side Mary Katherine Wolfe (Omaha Marian) and junior outside Emma Benton (G.I. Central Catholic) delivered back-to-back kills. Wolfe and sophomore middle Anna Squiers (Kearney Catholic) then combined for a block of Hallie Sidney. The six-foot sophomore outside powered Northwest all night to the tune of 27 kills and 13 digs.
With junior outside Julianne Jackson (Bonner Springs, Kan.) serving, the Lopers closed out things after senior outside Maddy Bruder committed an unforced error. She was the ‘Cats second best hitter on the night, tallying 16 kills, 20 digs and four blocks.
Kearney got to the fifth set thanks to scoring the final two points, one coming via service error and the other being a Sidney unforced attack error. That helped makeup for the fact Northwest rallied from an 18-12 hole to take the first set by two points.
Benton was UNK’s star in the fifth set, providing four kills in eight swings with no errors (.500 pct.). A designated server of late, she ended the match with 11 kills and a solid .278 hitting efficiency.
Next, Jackson (13) and Wolfe (10) combined for 23 kills as well as 38 digs and 11 blocks. Jackson also had two of UNK’s three aces. While the Lopers had seven service errors, Northwest had nine and no aces.
Finally for the Lopers, Squiers had nine kills and a team-best eight blocks, Papillion senior libero Ellie McDonnell had a team-best 21 digs, Kearney senior defensive specialist Morgan Stute was at 20 digs and a rare kill and Grand Island junior middle Mackenzie Puckett hit a team-best .538 to record seven kills.
Besides Bruder and Sidney, Northwest got 35 digs from libero Olivia Nowakowski and 11 kills, seven digs and five blocks from senior right side Sofia Schleppenbach.
UNK hosts the College of Saint Mary (12-11) Tuesday night. That match has been pushed back to a 7 p.m. start.