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Volleyball gets set for NCAA Central Regional championship


The Lopers begin postseason play in the Central Regional of the 2021 NCAA Division II Women’s Volleyball Championship. The first match features sixth-seed UNK facing off against third-seed Northwest Missouri State on Dec. 2. 

This is the grudge match thriller after splitting the two matchups this season.

In their first match on Oct. 1, Northwest Missouri defeated UNK 3-1. The Lopers had complete control in the first set, winning 25-16, but then the Bearcats flipped a switch and won the next three sets. 

The Lopers evened the season series on Oct. 30, when they swept the Bearcats in convincing fashion. 

UNK is led by outside hitter Emersen Cyza and middle blocker Anna Squiers. Cyza has tallied 353 kills, while Squiers follows with 278. Squiers is listed as questionable for the upcoming matches with an abdomen injury. Still, Cyza has been a challenge for the Bearcats, hammering down 15 kills in both matches. 

Northwest Missouri is led by powerful outside hitter Payton Kirchhoefer, who has 445 kills on the season. She surpassed double-digit kills in both matches against the Lopers. 

Outside of UNK, the Bearcats have played two other teams within the region. They fell to Central Missouri three times, but defeated Washburn in all three of their matches, a team that has given the Lopers fits. 

Other matchups in the first round of the Central region include first seed Central Missouri versus eighth seed Arkansas Tech, fourth seed Winona State versus fifth seed Washburn and second seed St. Cloud State versus seventh seed Concordia-Saint Paul. 

Central Missouri is 28-3 and has two serious attackers in Audrey Fisher with 360 kills and Hannah Engelken with 305. The Jennies and Lopers each took one win out of their two matchups in the regular season, but Central Missouri got a second victory against the Lopers when they knocked them out of the MIAA Tournament with a 3-2 victory. 

The tournament will begin play at noon on Thursday when the Lopers take on Northwest Missouri State in Warrensburg, Missouri. That match will be followed by St. Cloud State versus Concordia-Saint Paul at 2:30 p.m., Central Missouri versus Arkansas Tech at 5 p.m. and Winona State versus Washburn at 7:30 p.m. The second and third rounds of the tournament will be played on Dec. 3 and Dec. 4. 

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KEVIN BURD, Sports Edior
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