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Kearney, Neb. – The 26th-ranked Missouri Western State Griffons used a balanced attack to beat sixth-ranked Nebraska-Kearney in four sets (-21, 21-25, -17, -22) in an NCAA Tournament match Thursday afternoon in Marshall, Minn. The sixth-seeded Griffons (25-1) win an NCAA match for the first time in program history and advance to the Central Regional semifinals Friday at 5 p.m. They’ll face two-time defending national champion Concordia-St. Paul (29-3), who swept seventh-seed Central Oklahoma in Thursday’s first match.
UNK, seeded third in the Central Region, finishes the year at 33-4. With today’s setback, the Lopers have lost in the first round five straight years. Kearney’s last NCAA win came in the second round of the 2012 regional. Comments from both head coaches will be available by going to the tourney website.
This was the fourth meeting between the Griffons and Lopers and the third since November 11th. To even the season series at two, Mo West out hit UNK by 35 points, had four more blocks, nine more kills, 16 more digs and one more ace.
A beyond balanced attack saw five players reach double digits in kills in Stephanie Doak (14), Shelby Taylor (13), Ali Tauchen (11), Rachel Losch (10) and Mikayla Sellers-Wiebe (10). Tauchen, the MIAA Freshman of the Year, hit a team-high .364 and added six blocks, Losch hit .333 and had six blocks as well with Sellers-Wiebe (10) one of four Griffs with a double digit dig total. There were 24 ties and 11 lead changes in the match. UNK led the first set 7-3 but Mo West had things tied up at 13 and then closed on a 12-8 run to take a 1-0 lead. After the Lopers controlled set two, the Griffs broke a 10 all tie in the third set with a 10-5 run. That spurt featured four straight kills.
UNK hit a solid .282 (15-4-39) in the fourth set, it’s best effort of the day, but Mo West broke a 15 all tie with a 3-0 run. That forced a timeout and the Griffs never trailed again. The key 3-0 spurt featured a Tauchen kill and a combination block by Doak and Losch.
Freshman right side Anna Squiers (Kearney Catholic) led the Kearney by having 12 kills, two blocks and hitting a team-best .323. From the outside, junior Kendall Schroer (Ogallala) had a team-high 14 kills and hit .256 with sophomore Julianne Jackson (Bonner Springs, Kan.) coming on late to tally 11 kills and nine digs.
In her final collegiate match, senior middle Tara Ziegelbein (Lincoln Lutheran) had nine kills and a team-high seven blocks. Fellow senior Kaitlynn Thomas (Yutan) came off the bench and managed 11 attack attempts over the first two sets. Finally, junior setter Lindsey Smith (Dakota Dunes, SD) had 45 assists, four digs, four kills, two blocks and hit .333. UNK will begin spring ball in March 2018