Kearney, Neb. – The 3rd-ranked Nebraska-Kearney volleyball team hit .333 and closed the fourth set on a 13-5 run to beat rival Fort Hays State (22-25, -18, -16, -21) Tuesday night at the Health & Sports Center. This was the MIAA opener for both teams and drew a crowd of 1,611 to the Buckle Court. The 95th all-time meeting between the Lopers and Tigers had special significance as they were two of the seven unbeaten teams remaining in NCAA Division II. UNK (15-0), now 86-9 all-time vs. Hays, entered the week hitting a D2-best .349 while the Tigers (12-1) ranked eighth nationally in team blocks (2.45 per set).
While the Lopers started a bit slow, the offense was there in the end, culminating with a .423 (15-4-26) effort in the final set. And UNK out blocked Hays, 9.5-8.0, on the night and was plus six in the serve game. “I had a feeling they were going to come in here just like that. They are a veteran team, they played us a little tougher each time last year and the third time was a battle,” said UNK head coach Rick Squiers. “They have really good athletes, they are big and block well and they passed well tonight.” A senior-laden Tigers squad smashed home 20 of its 58 kills to take the first set by three points. The Lopers, with one senior on the roster, hit .256 in the set as the Tigers dug up 17 balls. However, UNK never trailed over the next two sets as it hit .349 and .333, respectively.
Meanwhile, Hays cooled off considerably, hitting below .200 in each set and having 24 total kills. Omaha senior right side Annie Wolfe had a double double (15 kills and 14 digs) as well as four assists and four blocks. From the outside, Yutan junior Kaitlynn Thomas had a match-high 19 digs with Ogallala sophomore Kendall Schroer at 14 kills and three blocks. Tara Ziegelbein and fellow middle Mackenzie Puckett combined for 12 kills and nine blocks with sophomores Ellie McDonnell (19) and Lindsey Smith (11) combining for 30 digs.UNK hosts nationally-ranked Washburn Friday night.