Kearney, Neb. – Senior outside hitter Kendall Schroer had a career-high 24 kills to help third-ranked Nebraska-Kearney slip past Northwest Missouri State in five sets (24-26, -22, -18, 23-25, -13) Saturday night at the Health & Sports Center.
With this effort UNK (30-2, 16-2) wins the 2018 MIAA regular season title outright and will be the top seed in next week’s eight-team MIAA Tournament. The Lopers will host Missouri Western in a first round match on Tuesday night at 6 p.m. The Griffons tied Pittsburg State (18-13, 7-11) for eighth place but won a tiebreaker to be the eighth and final seed. That match can be heard on 93.1 KRVN FM and krvn.com.
By improving to 7-0 in five set matches, Kearney also could be the top ranked team in the Central Region. UNK was third heading into the week but both No. 1 Concordia-St. Paul and No. 2 Washburn dropped home matches this weekend. The third region rankings come out Wednesday afternoon.
To beat a Northwest squad (22-7, 14-4) for the second time this fall in five sets, UNK hit .333 (11-3-24) in the fifth and got double digit kill total from four different players. In a match with 42 ties and 20 lead changes, the Lopers trailed only once – at 2-1 – in the fifth and moved ahead 12-9 after Schroer’s final kill.
However, Northwest responded with an ace and kill to get within one and UNK called timeout. Kills from sophomore middle Anna Squiers (Kearney Catholic) and junior outside Julianne Jackson (Bonner Springs, Kan.) followed and were sandwiched around one from Bearcat star Maddy Bruder. The Firth native had a match-high 27 kills in 73 swings (.260).
Jackson’s kill helped the Lopers reach match point but the ‘Cats got its final kill from sophomore Hallie Sidney (19 kills) to get within one again. The 2:25 match ended thanks to another kill by Jackson
“It’s so unlikely to be in all these five sets matches and win everyone single one of them but it has a lot to do with the people on the court,” said UNK head coach Rick Squiers. “With our experience we seem to find a way especially in the Health & Sports Center.”
UNK out hit NWMSU by 33 points, .228-.195, and had three more kills, 74-71. The ‘Cats had more blocks and digs with the Lopers being plus two in the service game.
Schroer reached her kill total in 61 attempts (.295) with Jackson (14) and Squires (12) combining for 26 kills. Jackson also had 16 digs and two aces with Squiers providing a team-best four blocks. Schroer’s previous high of 21 kills came in an 2016 NCAA Tournament loss to Augustana.
“Kendall got hot and had a monster night. She’s been known to do that late in the season like this,” said Squiers. “That gives everyone confidence. For our team, hitting .250 is pretty good so to hit .400 (in the third set) is really big and it started with ball control.”
Next, sophomore right side Mary Katherine Wolfe (Omaha Marian) had 13 kills, 19 digs, two blocks and hit .316 with senior libero Ellie McDonnell (Papillion) had 29 digs and three assists. Finally, senior setter Lindsey Smith (Dakota Dunes, SD) had 65 assists and 19 digs with senior DS Morgan Stute (Kearney Catholic) at 22 digs.
Besides the heroics from Bruder and Sidney, senior Sofia Schleppenbach had 10 kills and three blocks with libero Olivia Nowakowski digging up 40 balls.