December 3, 2022

Dawson County Journal

Dawson County, Nebraska

Lopers Improve To 4-0

Kearney, Neb. – The 10th-ranked Nebraska-Kearney volleyball team fought off match point in the fourth set and was hot early and late to slip past 30th-ranked Central Washington (-21, 18-25, 20-25, -24, -10) Saturday night at the Health & Sports Center.

The match was the 12th and final of the annual Rosella Meier Fall Classic, presented by New Victorian Inn & Suites and Cunningham’s. The Lopers and No. 2 Washburn both went 4-0 on the weekend with CWU and Sioux Falls sporting 2-2 marks. They each lost to UNK and WU with Midwestern State (1-3) and Minot State (0-4) the other squads in the field.

UNK got past USF in the afternoon (-14, -22, -22) with the Cougars then taking WU to four sets (-19, 16-25, -20-25, 11-25). This match and a five setter between the MSU’s pushed the Loper-Wildcat match back to a 7 p.m. start with things not wrapping until just after 10 p.m. 

Not only did the match feature plenty of action but also plenty of stoppages. There were multiple video reviews, breaks to wipe up sweat off the floor and a lengthy break in the fourth set to determine when and if a CWU player subbed in properly).

“Welcome to Challenge Review. It’s got its’ pluses and minuses … it definitely breaks up the game and keeps the game from flowing,” said UNK head coach Rick Squiers. “We came out of that (long) delay (in the fourth) with a little spurt and all of a sudden it felt like we had a chance.”

The Lopers led both the first and fifth sets 6-0 but CWU, who made the second round of the NCAA Tournament last fall, was in control much of the night. A veteran ‘Cats squad got big nights from outsides Abby Kaufman (17 kills, nine digs), Marianna Payne (15 kills, six blocks) and setter/hitter Tia Anadaya (nine kills, nine digs, eight block and 29 assists) to lead the statistical race until UNK rallied.

“We just kept playing … it seemed to me tonight that which ever side was able to string some blocks together, they were able to wrestle control of things. Blocking is such a fine line. Sometimes you’re touching balls to your own demise and now you can’t play good defense because you’re not getting touches,” said Squiers. “Other times, you’re sending every ball there way and they don’t know where to hit it. They had our number for a while but we had some blocking bunches.”

UNK was down 14-10 and 20-16 in the fourth before a block from junior middle Fallon Stutheit (Johnson) and sophomore outside Asha Regier (Newton, Kan) made it 22-21. However, CWU reached match point thanks to a service error. But the H&S Center magic began to make an appearance as the ‘Cats followed with its own service error, followed by an unlikely ace from junior outside Emersen Cyza (Alliance).

“My inclination was to take her out as we had one more substitution left. But my entire staff was against that idea, I think partly because of what happened last year (several late Cyza aces led to a Loper win). Your also didn’t want to run out of subs and have a non-outside playing the front row,” said Squiers. “I listened, was out voted and they were right.”

A block from Stuheit and freshman outside Emilee Lane (Hays, Kan.) and a Stutheit kill capped off the comeback. “Uncle Mo” continued in the fifth via an ace from redshirt freshman setter Peyton Neff (North Platte), another Stutheit/Lane block and two kills from Cyza. However, CWU didn’t go down quietly, scoring seven of the next 11 points. They got as close as 13-10 before a Lane kill and ace from freshman DS Lexi Stephens (Ankeny, Ia.) ended the tourney.

After trailing in kills, digs and blocks most of the way, UNK ended up with eight more digs, the same amount of kills (59) and six less blocks, 16-10. The teams combined for 17 aces and 10 service errors with the Lopers out hitting .211 to CWU’s .202. The ‘Cats hit .459 (19-2-37) in the third but amassed just 15 kills over the next two sets.

Cyza had a team-best 20 kills with Stutheit and sophomore right side Lauren Taubenheim (Lincoln Pius) at 10 apiece with Stutheit hitting a team-best .360. Next, junior libero Jensen Rowse (Minden) dug up 20 balls, Taubenheim added 11 more with Stuheit at a team-best six blocks. Finally, Neff and sophomore Rhianna Wilhelm (Henderson) combined for 49 assists.

“To know that we can battle and dig that deep and win one of these … I think it’s big, especially for our new starters and freshmen,” said Squiers. “You take the floor next time knowing you’re capable of a little bit more than you thought you were.”

UNK hosts NAIA Friends (Kan.) University Tuesday at 7 p.m. A junior varsity match will be held prior at 5 p.m.

Source: Regional Sports