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Lopers make 24th straight NCAA tournament

Loper volleyball players celebrate after defeating Washburn at home this season. Photo by Shelby Berglund / Antelope Staff

The UNK volleyball team qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the 24th season in a row under coach Rick Squiers.

“It’s an accomplishment to get there and we don’t want to lose sight of that because there’s a lot of teams that would love this opportunity,” Squiers said. “At the same time, you also want to challenge yourself to think even bigger and see if you can’t make it past the regional and that’s even more difficult.” 

In the first round of regionals, the Lopers will play Southwest Minnesota State for the first time since 2014. UNK has a 2-1 record against Southwest Minnesota State with all three matches in the NCAA Tournament.

UNK has made it to the NCAA Tournament 26 times in school history, including two runner-up finishes in 2005 and 2019 as well as six Elite Eight appearances. 

“I think just going in there with a mentality of, ‘We’re gonna gonna fight and battle every point,’ will be good for us, just going out there and giving it our all,” said redshirt senior, Emerson Cyza. “We are the underdog going into the first round so I think that takes some pressure off us. We’re just super excited and eager to be in the tournament again.”

Going into the first round of the NCAA Tournament, consistency and focus are important for the Lopers to be on their best game, Squiers said.

Squiers also said the conference tournament helps prepare the team for regionals and gives them a bit of a comfort going into the NCAA match.

“We’re looking to compete hard, play fearlessly, attack the situation and not be too worried about the results,” Squiers said. “We all know what result we want, and every team does so that’s not going away, but I want us to just play fearlessly and enjoy being there and hopefully give ourselves a chance to make a run at something.”

UNK, No. 3 seed, beat Northwest Missouri and Missouri Southern in the first two rounds of the MIAA tournament, but finished as runner ups to the No. 1 seed Central Missouri.

The Lopers will play Thursday, Nov. 30 in St. Paul, Minnesota at 12 p.m. in the first round of the NCAA Tournament-Central Region.

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Shelby Berglund
Shelby Berglund, Photography Editor
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