Kearney, Neb. – Senior outside Kaitlynn Thomas had 27 kills and the sixth-ranked Nebraska Kearney volleyball team recorded 21 blocks to sweep Midwestern State (-16, -17, -26) and hold off West Texas A & M (25-27, -17, -15, -22) Friday night in Canyon, Texas.
With the victories over the two Lone Star Conference members, UNK improves to 10-1 and pushes its win streak to seven straight.
Played back-to-back matches in “The Box“, the Lopers hit .235 against MSU (5-4) and .266 against the host Lady Buffs (6-4). Cranking up the defense, Kearney had eight blocks in the afternoon win over the Mustangs and then a season-best 13 in the evening battle with WT. In the backrow, the Blue & Gold averaged 18 digs per set on the day.
Against WT, the Lopers were ahead 19-18 in the first set and then another kill forced the Lady Buffs to call timeout. The break worked as WT finished on a 9-5 run that featured two blocks and two aces.
UNK responded very well, hitting .438 (17-3-32) and .324 (16-4-37) over the next two sets. They also held the Lady Buffs to well under a .200 hitting efficiency during this time. The fourth set saw both squads register 14 kills with a kill from senior middle Tara Ziegelbein (Lincoln Lutheran) tying things up at 19. A solo block from junior setter Lindsey Smith (Dakota Dunes, SD) followed and UNK didn’t trail again.
Kearney closed out the long day thanks to an ace from Smith and a WT unforced error. The ace by Smith was one of three she had in the match.
Thomas (Yutan) notched a match-high 17 kills in 45 swings (.267) with fellow outside Kendall Schroer (Ogallala) at 12 kills in 27 attempts (.296). In the middle, Ziegelbein provided 14 kills, a team-best seven blocks and a .294 attack percentage. Coming off the bench, Omaha freshman Madi Stearnes had six kills and no errors in 14 attempts (.429).
On the right side, sophomore Julianne Jackson (Bonner Springs, Kan.) and Anna Squiers (Kearney Catholic) combined for 16 digs, 11 kills and eight blocks while Smith finished at 54 assists, five blocks, five digs, three kills and those aces.
WT was led by Crystal Thomas (10 kills, five blocks, five digs, .429 pct.).
UNK rolled over MSU in the first two sets but had to work extremely hard for the sweep. A kill by Jackson gave the Lopers match point at 24-23 but, thankfully, a Mustang service error later tied things up at 25.
The Lopers closed on a 3-0 run a kill from Ziegelbein and back-to-back MSU unforced hitting errors. Thomas (10) was the only UNK player with a double digit kill total but six others had at least one.
Defensively, sophomore middle Josie Cox (North Platte) had three blocks in two sets and junior libero Ellie McDonnell (Papillion) had a match-high 13 digs.
The Lopers face Lubbock Christian (3-6) Saturday afternoon.