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UNK Volleyball: #8 Lopers Get Past UCO


University of Nebraska Kearney Lopers logo.

Kearney, Neb. – Redshirt junior middle Bailee Sterling had a career-high 20 kills and redshirt sophomore libero Jensen Rowse had 28 digs to help No. 8 Nebraska Kearney hand Central Oklahoma its first loss of the year (-19, 22-25, -17, -23) Saturday evening at the Health & Sports Center.

The Lopers (11-1, 2-1) are now 20-5 all-time against the Bronchos (13-1, 3-1) who are among the youngest teams in the MIAA. Their roster features five freshmen and eight sophomores.

A back-and-forth match all afternoon long, UNK out hit UCO by a .267 to .215 margin while recording eight more kills and being plus two in the serve game. The 'Chos had four more digs with each team at eight blocks apiece.

There were 18 ties and five lead changes in the match with the Lopers controlling the first set and UCO doing the same in the second. The Blue & Gold took the third thanks to a late 8-2 run and then tallied the final three points in the fourth to avoid a fifth set.

"It felt like there were runs on both sides … they had a huge one in the second. Both teams would be playing along, back-and-forth, and then get stuck in a rotation they couldn't get out of. On one occasion, they were serving us short in the right front and we couldn't get out of that rotation. But then we kind of did the same thing to them (in the third)," said Loper head coach Rick Squiers.  

Sterling (Kearney H.S.) reached her kill total in just 37 swings with only two errors (.486 pct.). She also had four digs, two blocks an ace and even passed in serve receive a few times.

"Career night for Bailee and couldn't be happier for her. Nobody works harder … comes to the gym early, leaves late. She's taken this year on as our senior leader and we finally were able to keep getting her the ball over and over again," said Squiers.  "She also scored in different ways .. hit to her right, hit to her left, hit the ball off the block on purpose, tipped a few balls. They didn't have an answer for her."

Next, Ooutsides Emersen Cyza (Alliance) and CeCe Beahm (Hastings St. Cecilia) combined for 29 kills, nine digs and four blocks with middle Fallon Stutheit (Johnson) at nine kills and two solo stuffs. Ahead 16-15 in the third, UNK's key 8-2 spurt featured an ace from redshirt sophomore DS/S Rhianna Wilhelm (Henderson), four kills by Sterling and one from Beahm. UCO led the fourth 10-7, 15-12, 19-17 and 21-10. However, the Lopers hung around and used two kills and unforced attack error to end the 2:02 match.

"We thought if we hung in there in the fourth, the Health & Sports Center would give us one run. Hang around, be there in the end and that's what happened," said Squiers.

Rowse and UCO libero Jaedynn Evans both had 28 digs; Rowse had 31 last Saturday in a five-set loss at Washburn. Next, freshman DS Lexi Stephens (Ankeny, Ia.) had 10 digs off the bench with setter Peyton Neff (North Platte) at 49 assists, 14 digs, two kills, an ace and block.

Sophomore outside Mallorie Koehn (16 kills & .438 pct.), freshman outside Sydney Huck (15 kills, 18 digs & .250 pct.) and sophomore middle Jenna Karp (11 kills, four blocks) paced the UCO attack.

"They have a go-to attacker (Koehn) and for the three rotations she's in the front row, you just hope to side-out and weather the storm," said Squiers.  

UNK hosts NAIA York University on Monday at 6 p.m.



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