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From the RMAC to MIAA, Lopers remain dominant

The+Lopers+have+the+most+conference+titles+since+joining+the+MIAA+in+2012+with+six.+While+not+officially+counted%2C+UNK+also+won+in+the+2020-21+spring+season.+Photo+provided+by+Kylie+Schwab+%2F+Antelope+Staff
The Lopers have the most conference titles since joining the MIAA in 2012 with six. While not officially counted, UNK also won in the 2020-21 spring season. Photo provided by Kylie Schwab / Antelope Staff

burdkl@lopers.unk.edu 

Even after moving from the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference to the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association in 2012, one thing that has transcended time is the dominance of UNK volleyball under Rick Squiers. Since becoming the Lopers’ head coach in 1999, Squiers has gone 701-93.

While he has the record and accolades behind him, the MIAA has still been an extremely challenging conference for the Lopers to take on each season. 

“In the RMAC there were always some rebuilding programs,” Squiers said. “It’s just a different sort of feeling when you win a match in this league. It’s always this fist-pump feeling and that happens more often. In the RMAC, there were some of those, but probably 30% of them you were expected to win and you did what you had to do and moved on to the next weekend. That’s just not the case in the MIAA.”

In his time at UNK, the Lopers have had two National runner-up finishes, four Elite Eight appearances and 21 NCAA Tournament appearances. 

In 22 seasons under Squiers, UNK has 16 RMAC and MIAA regular season championships and 11 RMAC and MIAA tournament titles. This includes a stretch of eight-straight RMAC regular season championships from 2004-11. 

Squiers has also been at the helm of two 66-match home winning streaks for the Lopers.

Even after leaving the RMAC and playing a more consistently tough schedule in the MIAA, the UNK volleyball team has remained dominant over the last two decades. While they had the same levels of success in the RMAC, facing a more well-rounded MIAA conference has made them better prepared for postseason play.

“I can remember going into the regional tournament a few times from the RMAC and basically the consensus was that we had only played a few good teams all year and now we would have to play some other teams who’ve played really difficult schedules,” Squiers said.

With no easy match in the MIAA, the Lopers feel equipped to compete with the best teams in Division II. 

 “We play a gauntlet of a schedule and if you survive it, then you’re battle-tested,” Squiers said. “You’re not going to see anything that you haven’t already heading into the postseason. It’s the Division II Big Ten type volleyball schedule.”

UNK sits at 26-4. With the MIAA Tournament starting Thursday, the Lopers hope to make another postseason run.

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KEVIN BURD, Sports Edior
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