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#12 UNK Volleyball falls in heartbreaker to Concordia-St. Paul

The Lopers rally from two sets down to force a fifth, but fall to the Golden Bears
Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 10:39 PM CST
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - The 15th-ranked Concordia-St. Paul Golden Bears jumped out to an early fifth set lead to hold off 12th-ranked Nebraska-Kearney (-18, -20, 19-25, 19-25, -12) in an NCAA Tournament 2nd round match Friday night in Warrensburg, Mo.

The sixth-seeded Lopers end the year at 26-7 while the seventh-seeded Golden Bears improve to 24-8. They are now 73-8 all-time in the NCAA Tournament with nine National Titles to their credit.

“It would’ve been real easy to say it was not going to be our night and it wasn’t early on as we did not play well in a lot of phases of the game,” said Loper head coach Rick Squiers. “Credit them. They come after you from the service line and make your serve receive patterns miserable.”

Two years ago in Kearney, the Lopers pulled off a comeback for ages to down CU in five sets in the regional finals. UNK rallied from huge fourth and fifth set deficits to win in five and eventually finish as National Runners Up. That scenario was playing out again tonight as CU dominated the first two sets, only to see Kearney return the favor in the third and fourth. However, the Golden Bears never trailed in the fifth as they used three kills, an ace and block to get out to a 5-1 lead.

“Once we were able to get our offense going, the wheels came off for them too. They are human,” said Squiers. “The bottom line is we’re proud of these kids and they fought all year. No one wanted it to be over and that’s a good sign.”

UNK kept chipping away in the final set, trailing 10-7, 11-8 and 14-12. But CU had an answer every time with a kill from Northern Iowa transfer Emma Schmidt ending the 2:17 match.

“They got some breathing room (in the fifth) and some of that is the way they serve. They get you on the run, they mix in a block or two and then they finally got their offense going,” said Squiers. “They are a championship-caliber team and are playing like that right now.”

CU’s efficient and balanced offense saw four players finish between 10-15 kills. That group included Schmidt (15) and true freshman Sophia Anderson. She took a team-best 45 swings to reach 15 kills with redshirt junior middle Kennedy Brady at a team-best seven blocks. CU also served very tough and tallied seven aces with senior libero Tori Hanson at 32 digs. Overall, the Golden Bears out hit the Lopers by a .213-.154 margin.

For UNK, Alliance redshirt sophomore outside Emersen Cyza continued her All-American-level play by having a match-high 21 kills and hitting .327. Next, middle Bailee Sterling (Kearney H.S.) and outside Cecilia Beahm (Hastings H.S.) had 11 kills apiece with super senior middle Anna Squiers (Kearney Catholic H.S.) at eight kills and eight blocks. Finally, graduate setter Madison Squiers (Kearney Catholic H.S.) was at 48 assists, 15 digs, five blocks and two aces.

“Loper Volleyball was on display and I wish we would’ve won and were playing tomorrow,” said Squiers.

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