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Lopers swat Hornets at MIAA conference opener


The No. 1 ranked UNK volleyball team got to play in front of a home crowd for a weekend series of matches. Last Saturday saw top-ranked opponents battle out on the court between the No. 3 Washburn Ichabods and the Lopers. A back and forth battle between UNK and Washburn saw the Ichabods upset UNK in four sets. 

UNK had to worry about playing the Emporia State Hornets last Friday before they could take on the Ichabods. 

The Lopers started off the first set with a 4-0 run led by Maddie Squiers’ two service aces and a kill by Sami Mauch. Despite a late 6-3 run by Emporia State, UNK would bounce back and take the first set 25-19.

Emporia State would have the early momentum in the second set before a kill by Mauch would send the Lopers on an 8-1 run. A second set-leading five kills from Mauch saw the Lopers win the second set 25-19.

UNK would go on a 10-3 run before an Emporia timeout. The Lopers won the third set 25-17 and swept the Hornets. Bailee Sterling led the Lopers with 10 kills. Maddie Squiers finished her night with a team-high 38 assists and 14 digs.

Washburn came into this contest Saturday ready to play UNK and they started off strong against the Lopers. The Ichabods 16 kills played a key role in taking the first set 25-22.

“Give them some credit, they played extremely well. They have a good team,” said UNK volleyball coach Rick Squiers. “We were not able to make them uncomfortable.”

The second set momentum was no different than the first. Washburn still took control of the second set and won 25-20.

“I’m sure they were motivated either way,” Squiers said. “I don’t feel like it helped us either.”

The Lopers were ready to play in the third set. Breanna Jones had three aces which helped UNK win set three 25-21.

“We had a server back there who was bothering them (Jones),” Squiers said. “Kinda helped us win the third set.”

UNK started the fourth set on a 4-0 run before Washburn took a timeout. The Ichabods ended up tying the set at 7-7 apiece before both teams traded points back and forth. Washburn ended up taking the momentum and set 25-16 to win the match.

“They just outworked us tonight,” Squiers said. “We come back to the gym and get back to work.”

Washburn handed the Lopers their first loss of the season while the Ichabods remain undefeated. The Lopers fell to No. 4 after the loss and Washburn moved up to No. 1. 

The three games in four days saga finally ended last Monday UNK hosted the Hastings College Broncos. It was the 61st all-time meeting between the two schools as UNK ended up sweeping Hastings College.

UNK started off the contest with a different lineup than its original six starters. The Lopers and Hastings College were battling it out back and forth throughout the first set. The Lopers offense combined for 13 kills and Lauren Taubehiem’s final kill helped UNK the first set 25-19.

“I think the lineup part was something coming into this match,” Squiers said. “We felt we really did want to look at what we had.”

The second set saw 10 lead changes and four ties. Senior Hayley Daniel, who is back from an injury, led the set with four kills as UNK went on to take the second set 25-21.

“We had to get Hayley Daniel on the floor for some action since she really hasn’t had an opportunity to play a full match,” Squiers said. “Coming off a warmup and kinda just having been cleared a week or so ago.”

The third set saw the Lopers spring in action. UNK would end the third set on an 8-0 run led by Anna Squiers four kills. The Lopers won the third set 25-13.

“It’s a nice Nebraska talent showcase for sure and all players know each other,” Squiers said. “I was not a part of the NAIA rivalry, but I am aware a lot of people still appreciate the old Kearney/Hastings matchup.”

The Lopers improve to 10-1 (1-1) and will hit the road for a pair of matches this weekend. The Lopers will take on a 5-3 (1-1) Newman Jets team on Friday and then will finish the weekend by facing off an 8-2 (1-1) Central Oklahoma Bronchos team on Saturday. 

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