February 1, 2023

Dawson County Journal

Dawson County, Nebraska

UNK Sweeps Tigers

Kearney, Neb. – Outside Emersen Cyza and middle Fallon Stutheit combined for 27 kills to help sixth-ranked Nebraska Kearney sweep Fort Hays State (-14, -15, -13) Tuesday night at the Health & Sports Center. The Lopers (16-1, 6-1) improve to 96-9 all-time against the rival Tigers (6-9, 1-6).

An improving Hays squad that has battled some injuries has been a tough out this fall, dropping two MIAA matches in five sets and taking a set from both No. 8 Washburn and No. 18 Central Missouri. However, UNK out hit FHSU .330 -.076 tonight and dug up 16 more balls.  

“They have played everybody tough this year. What stood out to me coming into this match was that nobody (in the MIAA) had swept them yet,” said UNK head coach Rick Squiers. “Their high level is high, they are physical and they block well.”

UNK led 9-8 in the opening set before going on a 15-3 blitz that forced the Tigers to burn both timeouts. This spurt feature strong serving from middle Bailee Sterling (Kearney), right side Lauren Taubenheim (Lincoln Pius) and setter Peyton Neff (North Platte) as well as 10 Loper kills.

It was déjà vu for Hays in set two as an 8-7 deficit suddenly turned into a 18-12 hole. Freshman DS Lexi Stephens (Ankeny, Ia.) was back at the service line for a long run with Cyza and Stutheit combing for nine of UNK’s 15 kills in this set.

“The first two sets went beyond expectations. They were back-and-forth early and then we made a little surge. We were disciplined enough to take full advantage,” said Squiers. “We got a little complacent in the third but we still found a way to finish anyway.”

The Tigers didn’t go quietly into the night as they erased 1 4-9 hole in the third set to knot things up at 19, 20, and 22. However, UNK closed things out with two unforced Tiger errors and a Sterling kill.

Cyza had a match-high 16 kills and hit .367 with Stutheit (Johnson) at 11 kills and a .579 efficiency. She came into the week ranked sixth in Division II in this category (.440). Next, Sterling had six kills, two blocks, two digs and an ace with Taubenheim and libero Jensen Rowse (Minden) at 11 digs apiece.

“The thing I thought we started doing really well was cover our hitters. They could’ve had five or six more blocks but instead we made several scramble, cover digs that don’t show up on the stat sheet,” said Squiers. “Those buy you another swing, keep the rally alive and frustrates blockers.”

Hays was led by freshman outside Gracie Rains (11 kills) and Riley Tinder (seven kills, seven digs and two blocks). UNK hosts No. 10 Northwest Missouri Friday (11-3, 5-1) and Washburn (12-2, 4-2) next Tuesday.

Source: Regional Sports