No. 6 UNK volleyball sweeps 10th-ranked Bearcats

Local4 News at 10
Published: Sep. 30, 2022 at 11:22 PM CDT
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KEARNEY, Neb. (Press Release) - Outside hitter Emersen Cyza had 17 kills and sixth-ranked Nebraska Kearney fought off two set points to sweep 10th-ranked Northwest Missouri State (-19, -25, -12) Friday night at the Health & Sports Center.

The Lopers (17-1, 7-1) are in sole possession of first place in the MIAA and avenge a 2021 home loss to the Bearcats (11-4, 5-2). The two meet again later this fall in Maryville.

UNK scored 20 of the first 30 points but the ‘Cats finished the first set on a big run to not only make things interesting but gain some momentum. The Lopers out hit Northwest by 100 points and got five kills from both Cyza (Alliance) and middle Baliee Sterling (Kearney) to take the opening set by six.

“In this league you try and survive week-to-week. I’m sure they probably don’t believe they played very well and that might be true,” said UNK head coach Rick Squiers. “We came to play, the crowd was into it and we set the tone right away. Emersen is a big game player and I think we were able to get some confidence right out of the chute.”

The second set featured 19 ties and eight lead changes with the squads combining for 33 kills, 39 digs and several long rallies. A kill from sophomore outside Olivia Dir gave the ‘Cats a 24-23 lead but then Dir served one into the net. Sophomore middle Avery Kemp had one of her six kills to make it 25-24 but an unforced attack error and a Cyza kill allowed UNK to win the set and deflate the ‘Cats.

“It was really tough for them to recover from that. They probably felt like they had to have that one,” said Squiers. “We’ve been in that spot a bunch of times this year and played well in those back-and-forth one point, two point, playing against set point situations. We did a little bit of everything and then I think our crowd just wears on (the opponent).”

The Blue & Gold’s offense was sizzling in the third to the tune of a .696 efficiency (16-0-23). Five different players had at least one kill with Cyza and Sterling at four apiece and outside CeCe Beahm (Hastings St. Cecilia) providing five.

“We were a really disciplined team in the third set, understanding that’s a very good team over there and the last thing you want to do is come out sloppy and let them get something going,” said Squiers.

On the night, UNK out hit NW by a .302 to .128 margin while also having 11 more kills, nine more digs and eight fewer unforced attack errors. Cyza reached her kill total in just 31 swings (.484 pct.) with Sterling at a team-best four blocks and managing a .292 attack percentage. Finally, middle Fallon Stutheit (Johnson) and Beahm had eight kills apiece.

In the backrow, libero Jensen Rowse (Minden) dug up a match-high 23 balls with freshman DS Lexi Stephens (Ankeny, Ia.) getting to seven and setter Peyton Neff (North Platte) managing eight. She also had 40 assists, three kills and two stuffs.

“Peyton is growing up right before our eyes. She’s getting more confident every time we play,” said Squies. “She made some plays under duress for us. Got us a few kills, made some really athletic plays.”

Lincoln junior right side Jaden Ferguson (10 kills, six digs), Dir (seven kills, .250 pct.) and Wahoo junior setter Alyssa Rezac (33 assists, eight digs, two blocks) led the ‘Cats.

UNK hosts No. 8 Washburn on Tuesday night. The Ichabods (12-3, 4-3) lost in four sets at Missouri Southern State tonight.