February 8, 2023

Dawson County Journal

Dawson County, Nebraska

UNK Fights Off Missouri Western

Kearney, Neb. – The sixth-ranked Nebraska Kearney volleyball team hit .286 and rallied in the first set to sweep Missouri Western Stat (-23, -23, -19) Saturday afternoon at the Health & Sports Center.

The Lopers (23-3, 13-2) bounce back from a Friday night five-set loss to Central Missouri while the Griffons fall to 8-16 (5-11).

“This was closely contested from start to finish. I think that they are playing some of their best volleyball of the season especially offensively. They’ve discovered their identity and now know who their setter (Nessa Johnson) is,” said UNK head coach Rick Squiers. “She’s playing with confidence and when they pass the ball, they are a handful. They handled our serving so there were many stretches the only way we could score was a side out kill.”

It wasn’t easy against a Mo West squad that recorded 40 kills, eight blocks and six aces. The first two sets featured 19 ties and eight lead changes with UNK down 18-14 and 23-20 in the first set. The Lopers grabbed “Uncle Mo” by the horns as it scored five straight to go up 1-0 on the scoreboard. The stretch featured two kills by Johnson middle Fallon Stutheit, one by Kansas freshman Emilee Lane and a block by these pair.

“We were in a tough spot there. In this league, when you come off a match like last night where it’s a heartbreaker, those things stick with you and bother you. They had a lot less to lose and they were going to take their best shot,” said Squiers. “I don’t want to think about what would’ve happened had they won the first set.”

The Griffs didn’t go away, however, as they hung around the entire second set, tying things up at 23 thanks to a kill from junior middle Danielle Moje. UNK had held leads of 18-15 and 20-17. Once again, the Blue & Gold was strong late, getting a Stutheit kill and a block from Kearney middle Bailee Sterling and Lincoln right side Lauren Taubenheim to make it 2-0.

UNK finished with 13 more kills than MWSU and held the Griffs to a .165 hitting efficiency. Four players had at least two blocks, led by Stutheit’s three, with Iowa freshman DS Lexi Stephens at a team-best 13 digs. She also had a .950 serve receive percentage with Minden libero Jensen Rowse (20 for 20) perfect in that area.

Offensively, Alliance outside Emersen Cyza had a match-high 16 kills and hit .286 with Sterling (11) and Stutheit (10) combining for 21 more. Off the bench, Lane had seven kills and hit .278.

“We felt like we needed a little more firepower out there so we brought Emilee in. She’s been practicing well and someone who you can’t ignore as an attacker,” said Squiers. “She’s physical especially when you slide her into the right side. Emilee is comfortable hitting a high ball on the right pin.”

Three different Griffs had nine kills including Moje with outside Hailey Crane 24 for 24 in serve receive.  UNK heads to Fort Hays State (11-13, 6-10) Tuesday night.

Source: Regional Sports