Lopers Advance in Five Sets

Lopers Advance in Five Sets
UNK wins in Four Sets over Northwest Missouri-Photo Courtesy UNK Sports
December 2nd, 2021 | Peter Yazvac
UNK Coach Rick Squiers on Post Game

Kearney, Neb. –The 12th-ranked Nebraska-Kearney volleyball team recorded a season-high 18 blocks and got a career-high 26 kills from outside Emersen Cyza to rally past 4th-ranked Northwest Missouri State in five sets (21-25, 25-27, -21, -9, -11) Friday afternoon in an NCAA Tournament first round match in Warrensburg, Mo.

The Lopers (26-6), seeded sixth in the Central Region, advance to the second round where they’ll face 15th-ranked Concordia-St. Paul (23-8) at 5 p.m. The seventh-seeded Golden Bears, nine-time national champions, downed NSIC rival St. Cloud State in four sets in today’s second match. UNK beat CU in an epic regional final in 2019

To take the rubber match from the third-seeded Bearcats (26-6), UNK used two solo blocks, 30 block assists, two near school-record performances and bounced back from a tough second set loss. The Lopers were up 20-13 but the ‘Cats closed on a 14-5 run to go up 2-0 in the match. 

Loper VB
Anna Squiers had 13 blocks, two shy off the UNK record

“We couldn’t be more proud of our girls. We kind of let one get away there in the second … our players did a great job of hanging tough and that’s the kind of group they are,” said UNK head coach Rick Squiers on the KRVN Radio post-game show. “It looked like we were down and out back in early October and here we are still playing and happy to be doing so.”

Northwest used one of its seven service aces to go up 10-9 in the third but the Lopers went on an 8-4 run to grab the lead for good. Two Cyza kills and four unforced Northwest attack errors were part of this stretch with UNK out hitting the ‘Cats by a .224-.167 margin in the set.   

The Loper momentum continued in a big way in the fourth as the Blue & Gold held leads of 8-1, 11-4 and 19-4. UNK had four team blocks in this set, holding Northwest to a -.030 efficiency (7-8-33), while hitting a blistering .600 (15-0-25). Cyza had eight of those 15 kills with fellow outside Cecilia Beahm (Hastings H.S.) adding four more.

“We knew Northwest was coming off a 2-0 lead in the conference finals that they let get away from them. So we thought maybe if we go get the third and get some momentum …. we got some ridiculous momentum in the fourth. Both teams got to a point where we’re ready for the fifth,” said Squiers. 

UNK trailed only once in the fifth, at 3-2, as they again held Northwest in check (7-6-27; .035). A kill from senior middle Anna Squiers (Kearney Catholic) made it 7-4 and then a Beahm kill made it 13-9 after a timeout. Fittingly, a block from Cyza and middle Bailee Sterling (Kearney H.S.) ended the 2:19 match. Overall, the ‘Cats had 36 attack errors with half caused by a big Loper block.

“I thought we played tremendous defense. We battled through a couple of rough patches and get a chance to player another day,” said Squiers.

Squiers, coming off the DL, had a career-high 13 blocks (all assists) with right side Lauren Taubenheim (Lincoln Pius X) at seven and setter Madison Squiers (Kearney Catholic) at six. Next, Beahm had both of UNK’s solo blocks with Cyza and Sterling combing for five more stuffs. Squiers total is just two shy of the Loper standard, set by Jessica Walter in a 1994 match against Minnesota State.

All of those blocks helped Kearney limit MIAA Freshman of the Year Payton Kirchhoefer to eight kills and a .167 efficiency. Overall, only one ‘Cat main attacker reached the .200 mark. 

“We got off to a good start in the fifth and then made some plays at the end. Credit our team … everyone played well and better as the match went on. Lindsay digging up a whole bunch of balls, we block touched a lot of balls. We’ll enjoy the heck out of this one for a short period of time,” said Squiers. 

Offensively, Cyza reached her kill total in 56 swings (.393). Middle Jeri Walkowiak holds the UNK record for kills in a match (31), set in a 2020 win at Regis. This marks the fourth time this fall she has reached the 20-kill mark. Next, Beahm warmed up and had half of her 14 kills over the final two sets with Sterling and Squiers combining for 15 more. Sterling also hit .467 with UNK finishing up at .281 and the ‘Cats well behind at .127

“When Emersen catches fire like that … I think it’s hard for the defense to read. She smokes it so you don’t want to dig it and then you play off your heels. We’re very fortunate to have her on our roster,” said Squiers.  

Finally for UNK, senior libero Lindsay Nottlemann (Lincoln Pius X) had a match-high 32 digs with Madison Squiers and senior DS Breanna Jones (Littleton, Colo.) at 12 apiece.

Northwest was paced by Rachel Surdevant (15 kills, three bocks & .256 pct.).

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