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The Antelope

Lopers now tied for first place after 1-1 conference split weekend

Jensen Rowse had 40 digs in the Lopers’ weekend games. Photo provided by Ethan McCormick / Antelope Staff

UNK split its weekend slate of matches at home versus Central Missouri and Missouri Western. The Lopers suffered a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Jennies, but quickly bounced back with a three-set sweep over the Griffons. 

The Lopers were in the middle of a back-and-forth battle against the Griffons, falling behind 23-20 in the first set, but rallied with five straight points to take it 25-23. 

“We were down in a hole and I don’t want to think about how the match would have gone if they had been able to close out that first set,” said UNK volleyball coach Rick Squiers. “The fact that we were able to dig out of that hole and steal that one was huge for our psyche.”

Some teams would hang their heads after a tight loss, but the Lopers used it as motivation to get back in the winning column against Missouri Western..

“You come off a match like last night where it’s a heartbreaker (against Central Missouri), I don’t care who you are, those things bother you and stick with you a little bit,” Squiers said. “Now you have to take the floor again against a team with a lot less to lose who’s going to take a shot at you.”

After the first set win, UNK was once again in the middle of a battle. Tied at 23 in the second set, the Lopers scored the last two points to win 25-23. The final set went more in the Lopers’ favor, finishing the match 25-19. 

“It was closely contested from start to finish,” Squiers said. “There were plenty of stretches where the only way we could score was a side-out kill and I think the numbers reflect that.”

Emersen Cyza finished the match with 16 kills, Bailee Sterling had 11 and Fallon Stutheit added another 10. Peyton Neff led the team with 44 assists. 

In the loss versus Central Missouri, the Lopers weren’t able to close out the first set. After UNK took a 25-24 lead, the Jennies scored four of the next five points to win 28-26. 

The rest of the match was made of runs, with the Lopers dominating the next two sets 25-18, 25-14, but surrendering the final two sets as Central Missouri prevailed 25-22, 15-7. 

Cyza had a career night, with 23 kills.

“Emersen had a huge night and was able to score,” Squiers said. “I thought we played really hard and competed, but we just didn’t do a lot of smart things at the end of the game.”

After the weekend, the Lopers are now 23-3 on the season with only four regular season matches remaining. Their 13-3 conference record keeps them in first place in the MIAA tied with Northwest Missouri State. 

The Lopers take on the Bearcats on Saturday after a match with Fort Hays on Tuesday night. 

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KEVIN BURD, Sports Edior
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