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Kearney, Neb. – The seventh-ranked Nebraska-Kearney volleyball team hit .365 and served up seven aces to sweep Emporia State (-13, -16, -10) in an MIAA Tournament first round match Tuesday night at the Health & Sports Center. The top-seeded Lopers (31-3) will play Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the second semifinal match. The opponent is to be determined; the other semifinal match begins at 5 p.m. Pushing its home court win streak to 53 in a row, UNK also improves to 10-2 (9-0 at home) all-time in the MIAA Tournament. The Lopers hit .469 (16-1-32) in set one and then .424 (17-3-33) in set to three to make quick work of a young Hornets (15-17) squad. This is the second straight year Emporia has had its season end in the H & S Center. “Our serving and passing was the difference. Other than a slow start in the first set, we were able to get in system and run our offense. We then kept them from doing that by just bothering them from the service line,” said Loper head coach Rick Squiers.
UNK trailed 4-1 right out of the dates but it was all Lopers after that. The Blue & Gold, thanks to its offense, finished the first set on a 24-9 run and then closed the second set on a 13-0 spurt. Sophomore outside Julianne Jackson (Bonner Springs, Kan.) was at the service line for all those points which included five kills from junior outside Kendall Schroer (Ogallala). “We’re not going to walk out here very often and out-athlete somebody. We have good athletes but we have to be good in the serve and pass area and were definitely on the strong side of that tonight,” said Squiers. For good measure, UNK ended the match on an 11-1 run with sophomore Emma Benton (G.I. Central Catholic) and freshman Mary Katherine Wolfe (Omaha Marian) doing the damage from the service line. On the night, Jackson had three aces, Benton recording two and Wolfe and junior Morgan Stute (Kearney Catholic) at one apiece. “Unfortunately, a characteristic for them this year has been not holding leads and giving up big runs. What we talked about is that when you catch them in one of those rotations, be disciplined enough to make them earn their way out of it. And we were,” said Squiers. Schroer (12) and Lincoln senior middle Tara Ziegelbein (11) had double digit kill totals while freshman right side Anna Squiers (Kearney Catholic) had nine and hit a match-high .562. Overall, five Lopers hit at least .300. Defensively, junior libero Ellie McDonnell (Papillion-LaVista) had 13 digs with Ziegelbein blocking three balls. Omaha native Jamie Hauptman had six kills and a block for Emporia.