Kearney, Neb. – Six different players registered a kill and second-ranked Nebraska-Kearney had 83 digs and 12 blocks to sweep ninth-ranked Central Missouri (-21, -20, -11) Saturday evening at the Health Sports Center.
A season-high crowd of 1,404 watched the Lopers (26-0, 16-0) beat the Jennies (18-7, 12-4) for a ninth straight time and sweep the series. UNK is now 14-12 all-time vs. UCM, a fellow national power.
The Lopers ended the night with a 44-34 kill advantage and held the Jennies to a .076 (23-23-145) hitting efficiency thanks to its usual stingy defense. Lincoln sophomore libero Lindsay Nottlemann (26), junior right side MK Wolfe (17), and senior outside Julianne Jackson (14) all had double digit dig totals with the 12 team blocks a new season-high effort.
“I think we have too much respect for the athletes on their side of the net to let our guard down. We had to work really had to win the first two sets and they have a lot of fire power,” UNK head coach Rick Squiers said. “We had to make a lot of defensive plays so I think our players knew full well we still had to come and be ready to go in the third.”
At the net middles Michaela Bartels (Bennington) and Anna Squiers (Kearney Catholic) combined for 11 block assists with Wolfe (five) and junior setter Madison Squiers (three) adding eight more. Jackson and Wolfe had UNK’s solo stuffs with UCM hitting -.026 (6-7-39) in the third set when they were stuffed three times.
That set featured a unique 10-minute intermission as UCM debated a substitution issue with the officials when it was down 11-8. The Loper bench crew managed to fire up the H&S Center crowd, including the fabled “Wave”, during the long break. When action resumed UNK closed on a 14-3 run that featured nine kills.
In set one UNK trailed 11-8 but used a 7-1 spurt to regain the lead and never trailed again. This stretch featured kills by Squiers, Bartels and freshman outside Kamryn Schuler (Gretna). UCM did get within 22-20 but two kills by Wolfe and unforced Jennie error made it 1-0 on the scoreboard.
Set two was equally as close but Kearney’s run came earlier this time, a 12-7 stretch that made it 15-9. The Lopers never relinquished the lead and took advantage of back-to-back unforced UCM attack errors into a 21-18 lead.
Schuler, Anna Squiers and Wolfe each finished with nine kills while Jackson tallied seven. Next, both Bartels and Madison Squiers had five apiece with Squiers also supplying 33 assists, nine digs and a team-best .455 hitting percentage.
“Last night we had some really good stretches of volleyball … maybe as high-end as we’ve played all year. But we also had stretches where we made unforced errors. Tonight not so much … other than a few service errors strung together we did not score many points for Central Missouri,” Squiers said. “That puts pressure on them to play perfect. We also blocked the heck out of it tonight.”
UCM also didn’t have anyone have a double digit kill total. Junior Hannah VanBuskirk (nine) was the leader there with senior libero Abby Skrastins at a match-high 29 digs.
UNK heads to Fort Hays State Tuesday night at Missouri Western State next Saturday.