Kearney, NE -- Senior middle Tara Ziegelbein and junior outside Kendall Schroer both had 10 kills to help fifth-ranked Nebraska Kearney sweep Western State Colorado (-21, -7, -16) Thursday night at the Health & Sports Center.
This was the home opener for UNK (4-1) while Western, a former RMAC (Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) rival, falls to 0-5.
Senior middle Tara Ziegelbein had 10 kills & 10 digs
The Mountaineers got out to a 10-5 lead in the first set and forced UNK head coach Rick Squiers to call a timeout. The Lopers didn't grab the lead back until a kill by junior setter Lindsey Smith (Dakota Dunes, SD) made it 13-12.
"I thought we were tight and Western State came to play," said UNK head coach Rick Squiers. "We had two films on them and they couldn't pass, they couldn't take care of the ball. So I think the way they played early caught us off guard. They dug balls, they were big at the net. They surprised us."
Both squads hit below .200 in the set and the score went back and forth until Ziegelbein (Lincoln Lutheran) recorded back-to-back kills. That opened up a 23-20 lead and then Western committed one of its 13 service errors. A kill from Yutan outside Kaitlynn Thomas made it 1-0 Lopers on the score board.
"It was good to see us battle out of that hole. I thought our defense became our spark plug tonight. We had trouble digging the ball last weekend. Tonight, we had 47 through two sets and that's being pretty stingy," said Squiers.
Kearney rolled from there as Western managed just nine kills the rest of the way. They finished with 19 and hit .029. UNK warmed up a bit, finishing with 41 kills and having a .207 hitting efficiency.
A 2016 All-American, Ziegelbein hit a match-high .643 (10-1-4) witth Schroer (Ogallala) reaching her kill total in a team-high 37 swings. Seven others recorded a kill, including Smith (four). Defensively, Papillion junior libero Ellie McDonnell had a team-best 14 digs with Omaha freshman MK Wolfe supplying 11 and Ziegelbein at a career-best 10.
"It just seemed like once we got over the hump in the first set, we could breathe a little bit. It was just easier to play but they did not make it easy on us in that first set. Supposed to win can be a burden," said Squiers.
The 'Neers got six kills, four digs and three blocks from freshman outside Kiki Johnson.
The annual New Victorian Inn & Suites/Runza Fall Classic starts tomorrow at 10 a.m. with matches also set for 12, 2, 4 and 6 p.m. UNK will play NW Oklahoma State at noon and No. 25 Rockhurst at six.