Kearney, Neb. – Sophomores Mary Katherine “MK” Wolfe and Anna Squiers combined for 50 kills to help eighth-ranked Nebraska-Kearney get past Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.) in five sets and sweep Indiana of Pennsylvania Friday in San Marcos, Calif.
This is UNK’s first regular season event of the 2018 regular season. The matches are part of the “Cougar Classic” which began Thursday and runs through Saturday night. The Lopers (2-0) will face Cal State Dominguez Hills (0-1) and host Cal State San Marcos (2-1) tomorrow. Check the tourney website for start times and media links.
It was a battle against the PLNU Sea Lions (0-3). The Lopers got off to a fast start, taking the first two sets, but needed an 8-5 run midway through the fifth to record the win (-18, -11, 20-25, 22-25, -12).
In the final set, a kill by Wolfe (Omaha Marian) broke a seven all tie and then the Sea Lions had back-to-back unforced attack errors. After a PLNU timeout, Wolfe recorded her 16th and final kill to make it 11-7. Junior outside Emma Benton (G.I. Central Catholic) and Squiers (Kearney Catholic) then combined for four more kills to keep the Sea Lions on the beach.
UNK had 29 kills to just three attack errors over the first two sets (.393 pct.) but PLNU stepped up its defense, finishing the match with 12 team blocks (one solo and 22 assists). That led to led to 15 attack errors in the third and fourth sets. However, the Lopers hit a solid .360 (12-3-25) in the fifth.
Moving from the back row to the right side this fall, Wolfe tallied her 16 kills in only 31 attempts (team-best .484 pct.). Squires, now in the middle, had 16 kills as well while hitting .384. Benton was hot early and ended with a team-high 17 kills in 58 attempts. Finally on offense, senior setter Lindsey Smith (Dakota Dunes, S.D.) managed six kills in 14 swings (.286 pct.).
The Sea Lions were paced by true freshman outside Rachel Schlect who managed a match-high 21 kills, 11 digs and two blocks. PLNU hit just .134 overall as UNK tallied 94 digs (18.8 per set avg.) and 9.0 team blocks.
Defensively, senior libero Ellie McDonnell (Papillion-LaVista) had a match-high 27 digs with Wolfe at 19 and Smith and senior Morgan Stute (Kearney Catholic) combining for 27 more. At the net, Squires and Wolfe both blocked four balls. Against IUP (-21, -17, -12), the Lopers broke a 21-all tie in the first set thanks to a Benton kill. Three more followed, two by Squiers and one by Smith.
A squad that reached the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament (Atlantic Region), the Crimson Hawks (0-2) briefly hung around in the second set. However, UNK used a 13-5 run to open up a seven point cushion, 16-9. The key spurt featured three aces and five kills.
Hitting .278 in the match, UNK was led on offense by Wolfe and Squiers who each recorded nine kills. Wolfe managed her total in only 11 attempts (.727 pct.) with Squiers having a team-best three blocks. IUP hit just .143 (32-20-84) and was aced 12 times. The tough serves came from Smith (four), Wolfe (three) and McDonnell (three). Benton and Squires added two more aces. Finally, Kansas junior outside Julianne Jackson came off the bench to have five kills and hit .333.