Kearney, NE -- Junior middle Mackenzie Puckett had 11 kills, tying a career-high, and hit .550 to help third-ranked Nebraska-Kearney sweep Missouri Western State (-17, -14, -14) Friday night at the Health & Sports Center.
With the win, UNK (29-2, 15-2) starts a new home court winning streak while the Griffons fall to 14-16 (6-11). Last year these two teams shared the MIAA regular season title and faced each other in both the MIAA and NCAA Tournaments.
Tonight's victory, coupled with No. 17 Central Oklahoma sweeping No. 11 Washburn in Topeka, gives UNK at least a share of the 2018 MIAA regular season title. This marks the Lopers fifth outright or shared regular season title since joining the MIAA in 2012. A win over Northwest Missouri State (22-6, 14-3), currently in a three-way tie for second with UCO and WU, on Saturday would equal an outright trophy.
The Lopers hit an even .500 (14-0-28) in the second set to pull away from the Griffs. Hitting a solid .267 overall, UNK trailed only six times in the match and limited MWSU to a .008 attack percentage (29-28-119). The Griffs were blocked five times and thus committed 23 unforced errors.
Puckett (Grand Island H.S.) had one of her better offensive nights of the year, reaching her kill total in 20 swings with no errors. Puckett also had 11 kills earlier this year vs. Fort Hays State and two seasons ago vs. Emporia State.
Next, fellow middle Anna Squiers (Kearney Catholic H.S.) had nine kills, four blocks and hit .533 with sophomore right side Mary Katherine Wolfe (Omaha Marian) providing 10 digs, six kills, three assists, two blocks and one of UNK's six aces. Finally, senior Morgan Stute (Kearney Catholic) had 10 digs.
Middle hitter Ali Tauchen paced the Griffs with 10 kills and six digs.