Loper volleyball wins both matches to open season
Junior right side Mary Katherine Wolfe had a team-high 13 kills and Madison Squiers supplied nine more and hit .692 to help 11th-ranked Nebraska-Kearney down Findlay of Ohio (22-25, -19, -19, -14) Friday night at the Health & Sports Center.
The match was part of the Loper Preseason Invite presented by Best Western and New Victorian Inn & Suites. UNK started the 2019 season this afternoon with a quick sweep of former RMAC rival Adams State (-9-15, -13).
The UF Oilers posted a 24-7 mark last year but lost some key players to graduation. A young, tall and powerful group, Findlay struggled with attack errors in losing to Augustana (-11, -20, -23) to start its weekend. But the Oilers settled down and came out on fire against the Lopers, having 16 kills and hitting .237 in the first set.
"For whatever reason we came out a little bit flat. We looked like a team that was feeling the weight of 'we're supposed to win' against a team that didn't have as much to lose. That makes a difference … having nothing to lose can be an equalizer and we didn't handle that very well early," UNK head coach Rick Squiers said.
However, UNK started to warm up in the second set while UF cooled off. The Oilers had only 33 kills over the final three sets and ended the match with 17 unforced attack errors. The Lopers had a slight edge in kills, 51-49, but hit 70 points higher and were also plus 12 in the service game.
"We talked about afterwards that we didn't bring it as sharply as we needed to in the early going. But it was a good sign to see us grind one out," Squiers said. "I thought Julianne Jackson was big tonight … when we were up and down she was steady all the way through. In serve receive, ball control, got us some big kills and blocks."
Wolfe (Omaha Marian) reached her kill total in 34 swings (.235) while also supplying 11 digs and three blocks. Jackson (Bonner Springs, Kan.) tallied 11 kills, 20 digs and three blocks. Off the bench, Grand Island senior outside Emma Benton was big late to the tune of six kills, three digs, two aces and a .417 hitting efficiency.
Finally, Squiers (Kearney Catholic) had 36 assists, four digs and reached her offensive output in just 13 swings. It's the most kills by a Loper setter since Jenna Rouzee had nine in four set loss to Truman (Mo.) State seven years ago.
"Thank goodness for seniors. Emma has done a good job of making me look good every time she comes into the game. She has a big arm, a handful of shots she can go to and can play out of system. She'll probably get a little more playing time after that performance," Squiers said.
Findlay was paced by senior middle Shelby Kin (17 digs & 13 kills), junior outside Rylie Pattison (12 kills) and junior setter Emily Annesser (36 assists, 12 digs, six kills & three blocks).
Things were easier against an ASU Grizzlies squad that is now 0-2 on the season. UNK out hit Adams by nearly 200 points, .242 to -.035, while having 28 more kills. Wolfe (12) was one of six Lopers to have between four and 12 kills. The others included redshirt freshman outside Sami Mauch (North Platte) and junior middle Anna Squiers (Kearney Catholic).
UNK faces Augustana and Oklahoma Baptist on Saturday.