Kearney, Neb. – Fifth-ranked Nebraska Kearney used 17 combined team blocks to sweep Northwestern Oklahoma State (-9, -17, -23) and Texas A & M-Kingsville (-15, -17, -18) Saturday in the Health & Sports Center. These matches were part of the annual New Victorian Inn & Suites/Runza Fall Classic. UNK (8-1) won the event with a 4-0 record; TAMUK (6-4) and 25th-ranked Rockurst both went 3-1.
In the evening title against the hard hitting Javelinas, UNK recorded a season-high 11.0 blocks and also dug up 64 balls. That defensive effort held Kingsville to a .023 hitting efficiency (30-27-130). They were below zero until the third set. “I think we made some progress this weekend in blocking. We struggled to block anything in Hawaii and even Thursday against Western,” said UNK head coach Rick Squiers. “I also thought our passing was pretty good all weekend considering teams were coming after us.”
A 2016 NCAA Tournament squad, TAMUK trailed the first two sets from start to finish. In the third, a Javelina serve error followed by an ace from junior setter Lindsey Smith (Dakota Dunes, S.D.) made it 8-6 and UNK never looked back. The final Loper block of the night, a combined effort by sophomore outside Julianne Jackson (Bonner Springs, Kan.) and sophomore middle Josie Cox (North Platte), made it 22-17. The duo both had four stuffs in the match.
Five different Lopers registered at least one block with Lincoln senior middle Tara Ziegelbein at a team-high seven. In the backrow, junior libero Ellie McDonnell (Papillion) dug up a team-high 14 balls.
Offensively, UNK hit just .163 (38-18-123) with Yutan senior outside Kaitlynn Thomas (10) the only player to have a double digit kill total. However, six others were between two and nine. Finally, Smith had 33 assists, nine digs, three blocks, two kills and UNK’s lone ace. Against the Rangers (5-4), UNK allowed just 26 points over the first two sets but had to battle to win the third. The set featured seven ties and two lead changes with a NWOSU service error and kill by freshman right side Anna Squiers (Kearney Catholic) being the final points of the match.
Thomas (11) and Ziegelbein (10) had double digit kill totals with McDonnell (17), Kearney sophomore Morgan Stute (13) and Omaha freshman MK Wolfe (13) combining for 43 digs.
“I think for the weekend, I liked that our upperclassmen didn’t let us have too many lows. When we got down they picked us back up. They played like upperclassmen,” said Squiers. “Tara was dominant when we needed her to be, Lindsey was outstanding all weekend and Ellie was making plays in the backrow.” UNK heads to Texas next weekend for three matches. Click here to listen to podcast.