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Loper volleyball gives Central Oklahoma first loss of season

Rhianna Wilhelm became a consistent starter for the Lopers this weekend. Photo provided by Kylie Schwab / Antelope Staff

Unbeaten no more.

Central Oklahoma came into its matchup at No. 8 UNK on Saturday 13-0. With the crowd inside the Health and Sports Center roaring, Bailee Sterling finished off the match, tarnishing the Bronchos perfect record with a kill to give the Lopers a 3-1 win. 

Sterling led the team with a career-high 20 kills and was named the MIAA Volleyball Offensive Athlete of the Week.

“I couldn’t be happier for her,” said UNK coach Rick Squiers. “Nobody works harder than Bailee Sterling. She comes to the gym early and leaves late. She’s taken this year on as kind of a senior leader and we finally were really able to just keep getting her the ball over and over again.”

UNK played from behind for most of the match-sealing fourth set. The Lopers were up 3-2 early, but their next lead didn’t come until they went up 24-23. 

Emersen Cyza was right behind Sterling with 18 kills and outside hitter CeCe Beahm added 11 as well.

“CeCe was able to get a little bit of momentum and make a few plays,” Squiers said. “She’s hard to read too, so she can score out there.”

While the highlight matchup of the weekend was against the undefeated Bronchos, UNK also had to fight off a competitive Newman team on Friday. 

The Lopers easily won the first set 25-13, but the Jets responded with a 25-20 second set victory.

The third and fourth sets went in UNK’s favor, securing the 3-1 win, 25-18 and 25-15. The Lopers are now 10-0 all-time versus Newman.

Cyza once again had 18 kills, while Sterling finished with 15. 

Jensen Rowse tallied 24 digs, Rhianna Wilhelm had 20 and Lauren Taubenheim added another 18.

“We were talking as a staff a little bit about defense, and I made the comment that I don’t remember anybody on our team having 20 digs yet this year,” Squiers said. “I looked down tonight and saw somebody with 24 and 20. That tells you how hard we had to play to win rallies.”

With X MIAA teams ranked in the week 4 AVCA Division II Coaches Poll, the conference is showing its dominance on the court. The Lopers are prepared for more tough matches ahead and aren’t taking any opponents for granted. 

“I just can’t believe how good the league is,” Squiers said. “The bottom half is good enough to go win in a handful of conferences. There’s not a bad team in the league. Every weekend is going to be like this and I think that’s what we just have to kind of settle into.”

Following its 3-0 win over York University on Monday, UNK will be on the road this Friday and Saturday at Missouri Western and Central Missouri. The team will be back at home Sept. 27 versus Fort Hays State.

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KEVIN BURD, Sports Edior
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