Kearney, Neb. – Senior middle Tara Ziegelbein and junior setter Lindsey Smith both had career-high kill totals to help ninth-ranked Nebraska Kearney down 10th-ranked Regis University in four sets (-16, 20-25, -23, -17) Tuesday night at the Health & Sports Center.
With the victory, UNK (16-2) bounces back from road loss on Saturday and keeps two long streaks alive. This marked the Lopers 43rd consecutive home win, dating back to August 2015, and the 31st straight victory over the Rangers (14-2), dating back to September 1999. Handing out 47 assists, digging three balls and having two blocks, Smith (Dakota Dunes, S.D.) hit a sparkling .700 as she had seven kills in 10 swings with no errors. Her previous top kill total of five was done on numerous occasions.
“Coming in, I didn’t know if we would be able to match them kill for kill so when your setter can get seven … that’s huge. It’s like having another hitter out there,” said UNK head coach Rick Squiers. “She was very efficient and gave them all kinds of trouble.”
Ziegelbein (Lincoln Lutheran) recorded a match-high 19 kills and hit .375 while also providing four digs and four blocks. She had 18 kills last season at NW Missouri State (five sets) and this year vs. Washburn (four sets). “Tara being Tara. Coming probably off her worst match of the year … good for her. She’s really been fantastic all year,” said Squiers.
Overall, UNK hit .290 while holding Regis to a .144 effort. The Lopers had eight more digs, 56-48, with the Rangers tallying two more blocks, 11-9. Kearney also committed a season-high 10 service errors.
“That first set was huge. That’s the best we’ve played offensively in a couple weeks,” said Squiers. “We had all of our options going at the same time, we didn’t make unforced hitting errors and we found all different ways to get kills.”
UNK hit .472 (18-1-36) in that first set and didn’t trail after breaking a 2-2 tie. The second set was different story as the teams went back and forth with side outs, leading to 18 ties and five lead changes. The Lopers had four service errors in this set, including one as part of RU’s closing 6-1 run.
“We were efficient (in the first set) and knew we had to be because they are a hard team to stop. You feel like you have to hit .300 (overall) to be in it,” said Squiers. “We just couldn’t keep up with them in the second set. They were a side out machine. We couldn’t block them or get them out of system.”
Kearney out hit Regis by over 200 points in the third set but the Rangers almost made a match-changing comeback. After a 6-0 Loper run made it 23-14, RU scored nine of the 10 nine points. A UNK service error started the run and an unforced attack error closed it. A timeout followed and then sophomore middle Josie Cox (North Platte) smashed home a kill to make it 2-1 on the scoreboard. UNK then controlled the third set thanks to a .387 efficiency (17-5-31).
Besides Smith and Ziegelbein, Ogallala junior outside Kendal Schroer had 13 kills and hit .346 with Kansas sophomore outside Julianne Jackson at 14 kills, nine digs, two blocks and two assists. She was also one shy of tying her career-best in kills.
Elkhorn native Kelsey Green paced the Rangers with 14 kills and seven blocks. UNK hosts NW Missouri State and Missouri Western State this weekend. Click here to listen to the podcast of the match.