Kearney, Neb. – Senior outside Julianne Jackson and freshman middle Michaela Bartels both had season-high kill totals to help No. 2 Nebraska-Kearney down No. 14 Northwest Missouri State in four sets (-16, -14, 21-25, -15) Friday night at the Health & Sports Center.
The Lopers (25-0, 15-0) sweep the season from the Bearcats (17-6, 10-5) to lead the all-time series by a 21-2 margin.
UNK came out on fire, smashing home 21 kills and hitting .391 in the first set. A 10-2 spurt, making the score 22-12, featured nine kills including three by Jackson (Bonner Springs, Kan.) and two from junior right side MK Wolfe (Omaha Marian). Things remained the same in the second set as the Lopers efficiency went up to .414 as they recorded 16 more kills. Never trailing in this set, UNK saw Bartels (Bennington) have seven kills in eight swings with junior middle Anna Squiers (Kearney Catholic) having four in six attempts.
“We were fantastic on offense early and our defense was good all night. I don’t remember the last time we had 21 kills in a 25-point set. We had everything going,” UNK head coach Rick Squiers said. “The last two sets was a combination of great offense and then terrible offense. We lost our identity and started to make unforced errors.”
Kearney was up 15-11 in the third but Northwest didn’t go quietly into the night, having 32 of its 81 digs in this set. They got five kills from junior outside Hallie Sidney and held UNK to a .074 percentage (12-8-54) to close on a 14-6 run.
“One of the thigs we’ve been really good at this year is being patient. We don’t score points for our opponent. (In the third set) we got a little frustrated because they started to play defense and then got out of character a little bit,” Squiers said. “Fortunately we got off to a good start in the fourth.”
UNK quickly regained the momentum by scoring seven of the first 10 points in the fourth set. Northwest never got closer the rest of the way as it hit .000 (8-8-44) with the Lopers having 3.0 team blocks and tallying 14 more kills.
“Huge win and one step closer to where we want to be. It won’t be any easier tomorrow,” Squiers said.
Jackson tied her career-high of 18 kills by taking 51 swings (.275 pct.) with Bartels having one of her best efforts of the fall, recording 16 kills, four blocks and hitting .429. Jackson had 18 kills earlier this year vs. Northwest with Bartels previous high in kills (15) coming against a 3-2 win over Oklahoma Baptist.
Next, junior setter Maddie Squiers (Kearney Catholic) had 54 assists, eight digs, four kills, two solo blocks and hit .444 with Anna at 12 kills, six digs and a .333 hitting percentage. Finally sophomore libero Lindsay Notttleman (Lincoln Pius X) had a team-best 21 digs with Jackson at 17.
Northwest got 30 digs from libero Hannah Koechl and 12 kills from Sidney. Overall UNK out hit the ‘Cats by 128 points to have 21 more kills.
UNK hosts No. 9 Central Missouri tomorrow at five.