Kearney, Neb. – Senior middle blocker Tara Ziegelbein had another big effort and junior outside hitter Kendall Schroer added 14 kills to help fifth-ranked Nebraska Kearney hold off rival Fort Hays State in four sets (-19, 23-25, -15, -18) Tuesday night in Kansas. The Lopers (14-1, 3-0) push its win streak to 11 in a row while a young Tiger squad drops to 8-9 (0-3). This also marks UNK’s 24th straight win over Hays, dating back to September 16, 2003.
Hitting .230 on the night with eight blocks, UNK had 15 kills and hit .300 to control the first set. The second set featured 13 ties and seven lead changes with the Lopers grabbing a 22-21 lead thanks to an unforced Hays attack error. However, UNK followed with a service error, one of six in the match, to knot things up again. Hays scored three of the next four points with Raymond senior Callie Christensen recording two of her four blocks during this stretch.
After intermission, Kearney roared out to an 8-1 lead in the third set and then was ahead 6-0 in the fourth. The Tigers, led by interim head coach Brandi Fairbank, didn’t go away, moving ahead 15-14 on a Loper service miscue. UNK closed the match on an 11-3 run that featured seven kills.
“We did way too many things to allow a spirited, fired up, playing hard Fort Hays State team to be in the match. That started in the second set where we kicked it around for a while and they got a little more fired up,” said UNK head coach Rick Squiers. “Give them some credit … they made some hustle plays and, at times, looked like they were playing harder.”
The MIAA Hitter of the Week, Ziegelbein (Lincoln Lutheran) remained on fire as she had team-highs in kills (17) and blocks (four). Hitting a match-high .469, Ziegelbein has had a double digit kill total in five straight matches and now leads UNK in kills (3.28 per set) on the season.
Next, Schroer (Ogallala) came off the bench and reached her kill total in a match-high 41 swings. Playing on the left and right sides, Kansas sophomore Julianne Jackson had 18 digs, nine kills and four assists with South Dakota junior setter Lindsey Smith providing four kills in nine attempts. She also had 52 assists, seven digs and two block assists. In the backrow, juniors Ellie McDonnell (24) and Morgan Stute (21) combined for 45 of UNK’s 92 digs.
“It’s hard to be us in situations like this and I don’t know how to make that go away unless you go on a five-match losing streak. We are proud that we seem to claw and fight our way out of matches like this,” said Squiers. “Some people are tight and scared and worried about losing a set. It’s a 20 pound weight on their shoulders. It kind of goes with the territory of being a team that is expected to do well.” Hays saw Logan Wallick (11) and Kylie Klibbe (10) have double digit kill totals with four others having at least 10 digs.
The Lopers are at Pittsburg State (Friday) and No. 9 Central Oklahoma (Saturday) this weekend. Click here to listen to the podcast of the game.