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UNK claims MIAA tournament for fourth straight year

UNK volleyball team posing after receiving the 2019 MIAA volleyball tournament trophy


UNK volleyball kept its winning ways going in the MIAA tournament in Kansas City, Missouri. The Lopers won its fourth straight tournament championship by winning three games in three days.

“We have a balanced and disciplined team with good chemistry and leadership,” said UNK volleyball coach Rick Squiers. “From the starters down through our amazing bench spirit, we are truly a team.”

UNK matched up against eight seeded Missouri Southern State (13-18) on Nov. 21. This was second time in less than a week that the Lopers played the Lions.

Similar to the two prior matchups in the regular season, UNK took care of MSTU in straight sets: 25-11, 25-14, and 25-15.

It was the youth for the Lopers that propelled them to the victory against the Lions. Freshman Michaela Bartels (Bennington, Ne) had 15 kills and three blocks and freshman Kamryn Schuler (Gretna, NE) had ten kills and two blocks.

The competition levels increased significantly, when UNK played No. 20 Northwest Missouri (21-9) on Nov. 22.

Set one between the Lopers and Bearcats was a back and forth battle. Sidney Hallie’s kill for NWMS had them on the doorstep of winning at 24-23.

UNK was not fazed and flipped the score with a kill by Julianne Jackson (Bonner Springs, Kansas) and an attack error by the Bearcats.

Maddie Squiers (Kearney) sealed the comeback with a kill from the setter position. It was one of her nine kills on the night.

After a tough loss in set one, NWMS fell flat in set two. UNK took advantage of a dismal hitting percentage by the Bearcats in a 25-10 set win.

NWMS responded in set three, winning 25-23. 

Self-inflicted wounds by the Lopers aided the Bearcats win. Three of the final four points by NWMS were off attack errors.

UNK would not have a repeat performance of the prior set and closed out the match with 25-21 win in set four.

Jackson led the way with a tournament high for the Lopers in kills with 19. Behind her was Anna Squiers (Kearney) with 11 kills and five blocks.

With the win against the Bearcats, the Lopers were primed for a matchup against No. 10 Central Missouri.

Riding off the high of their upset of No. 5 Washburn (27-3) in the quarterfinals, the Jennies came out and beat UNK in set one 25-19. Hannah Engelken had five kills to lead Central Missouri in the set.

The Lopers were in danger of going down two sets trailing 23-20 in the second. UNK stood strong and got kills by Bartels, Schuler, and Anna Squiers to tie the set up.

Flustered by the Lopers three straight points, the Jennies never recovered. A ball handling error and an attacking error sealed Central Missouri’s fate in a 25-23 set loss.

“Coming back from 23-20 in the second set was really the turning point,” Squiers said. “We were able to get a big side out and a couple of stops to steal the set.  From that point on, we felt good about our chances.”

UNK fed off the momentum they gained from two, as they led most of the way in a 25-21 set three win and a 25-15 set four victory.

Jackson and Schuler both had over ten kills in the match, with 17 kills and 13 kills respectively.

Next up for the 33-0 Lopers is the NCAA Central Regional. They play the GAC champion Oklahoma Baptist (28-5) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec.5 at the Health and Sports Center.

It is a rematch of arguably UNK’s toughest match of the season. In the Loper Preseason Invite, the Bison took set one and two before the Lopers stormed back to take set three and four. UNK narrowly won set five by a score of 15-13.

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