Kearney, Neb. – The Missouri Western State Griffons recorded 14 blocks and had four players have double digit kill totals to upset fifth-ranked Nebraska-Kearney in four sets (14-25, -22, -22, -18) Saturday night in St. Joseph, Mo.
On “Senior Night”, the streaking Griffons (22-9, 16-2) win an 11th straight match and thus tie the Lopers (30-3, 16-2) for the 2017 MIAA regular season title. Because UNK swept Mo West (-17, -22, -18) back in October, it’ll be the top-seed in next week’s MIAA Tournament.
Having won 15 in a row, UNK was aiming to win its third outright MIAA title (2016 and 2012). However, the Lopers hit .185, were out blocked by eight and out dug by six. Thus, Kearney shares the title like it did three years ago.
Things did get off to a good start as the Lopers hit .297 (13-2-37) to easily win the first set. The Griffs didn’t crack .100 (11-9-35) in falling behind 10-1, 15-4 and 20-10.
However, the tides turned as Mo West grabbed early leads in each of the next two sets. UNK scored three straight to tie the second set at 21 all. After a timeout, Mo West closed on a 4-1 run that featured three kills. The story was the same in pivotal third set as the Griffs finished on a 7-4 spurt after the Lopers had tied things at 18.
Trying to stay alive, UNK held leads of 12-10 and 17-15 in the fourth set but the Black & Gold ripped off nine straight to roar ahead 24-17. This match-ended run saw the Lopers hit four long and commit a reception error.
A balanced MWSU attack was led by six-foot outsides Erin Erb (14 kills and seven digs) and Shelby Taylor (13 kills and seven blocks) and freshman middle Ali Tauchen (11 kills and four blocks). Senior libero Kayla Ruff added a match-high 21 digs.
For UNK, junior outside Kendall Schroer (Ogallala) took 50 swings and managed a team-high 16 kills. Next, sophomore outside Julianne Jackson (Bonner Springs, Kan.) had 13 kills, 10 digs, two assists, one ace and one solo block. Finally, junior setter Lindsey Smith (Dakota Dunes, SD) had 40 assists, six digs, six kills, one block assist and hit a team-high .417.