UNK Volleyball: #10 Lopers Use Balance to Get by #21 Bronchos

UNK D2 50 Years

Kearney, Neb. – The 10th-ranked Nebraska Kearney volleyball team out hit 21st-ranked Central Oklahoma by 104 points and got big contributions from several players to win in four sets (-16, 20-25, -23, -20) Thursday night at the Health & Sports Center.

UNK moves to 12-1 (2-1) while UCO falls to 11-2 (2-1). The two teams will meet again October 20 in Edmond.

Returning All-Americans Jaden Ferguson (Lincoln SW) and Emersen Cyza (Alliance) had 15 kills apiece with Cyza hitting .405 and Ferguson also providing 16 digs, six blocks (four solo) and three aces. Next, young middles Mia Berg (Eureka, Mo.) and Trista Marx (Limon, Colo.) combined for 17 kills, three block assists and only one error in 34 swings.

"We talked a little bit about that coming into this match. We were going to need a contribution from everybody … we could not just go pin-to-pin, ride our outsides and Jaden (right side). It was important we got our middles going," said UNK head coach Rick Squiers. "They both played well, hit efficiently and got some quality block touches." 

The Lopers rolled in the first set as the out hit the 'Chos by a .368-.122 margin. Cyza had six kills in 12 swings in this set with seven different players recording a dig. That included six from libero Lauren Taubenheim (Lincoln Pius X).

"At the end of the set, I was thinking that's about as well as we can play. We did everything right," said Squiers. "We dug 21 balls which is something we've been really working on. We made it difficult for them, didn't error and scored at a high clip."

UCO roared back as they controlled the second set before a late Loper push. UCO hit .394 with both Addison Wimmer and Jenna Karp each providing four kills. UNK almost came back from holes of 15-8 and 19-13 but a serve just went long near the left corner. A video review confirmed the call and made it 22-20 'Chos. They then scored the next three points to knot things at one.

That momentum carried over as UCO held leads of 11-7, 15-11 and 18-17 in the third. However, the Lopers closed on an 8-5 run that featured three Cyza kills and two from Ferguson. The 'Chos were limited to just an .080 efficiency in this set as UNK dug up 18 balls, five from Ferguson, and registered 3.0 team blocks.  

"We got off to rough starts over the last three sets. But we battled our way back (each time), even in the second when we gave ourselves a chance to go get it," said Squiers. "Jaden is just an absolute volleyball player. She can do a little bit of everything; she can play defense, she can block, she can hit and I'm sure she can set a ball. She's just a do-it-all player and a winner."

UNK hit an even .300 in the fourth to erase another 15-11 deficit. An 8-3 run closing run included two more Cyza kills, one from setter Peyton Neff (North Platte), a block by Ferguson and a match-closing Cyza ace. The Lopers ended the night with seven aces and 11 service errors, its' highest total since the 2015 opener (12).

Taubenheim paced the defense with 18 digs with Neff at 47 assists, 13 digs, six kills, two aces, a block and a .400 efficiency. Next, junior DS Addyson Mock (Stilwell, Kan.) came off the bench and had five digs and two assists over the final two sets. Finally, UNK took advantage of 19 unforced UCO attack errors.

"We made a little switch with the (defensive specialists) and got Jensen (Rowse) in the other spot. I thought Jensen played one of her best matches," said Squiers.
UCO was led by Wimmer (16 kills, 13 digs), Karp (!2 kills, three blocks) and Sydney Huck (10 kills, 16 digs).

The Lopers host Pittsburg State (5-5, 1-1) on Friday night to close out the weekend.