Loper home streak halted by Washburn
It was a great homecoming for Washburn setter Shayla Conner, as 11th-ranked Washburn downed No. 2 Nebraska-Kearney in four sets (23-25, -26, -16, -22) Saturday night at the Health & Sports Center.
The Ichabods (25-1, 13-1) beat the Lopers (26-2, 12-2) for a second time this year and move into sole possession of first place in the MIAA. Washburn also ends UNK's 66-match home court winning streak; the Lopers hadn't lost at home since falling in the 2014 home finale to Central Missouri in five sets.
"We weren't thinking about that (the streak). We were playing for this year and this match. I'm disappointed for our players that we came up short tonight," said Loper head coach Rick Squiers. "Washburn played outstanding and created all kinds of trouble for us. That's a good team and it's going to take a lot to beat them."
Junior outside Erica Montgomery had 16 kills and sophomore middle Allison Maxwell had 15.
In a match with 27 ties and 16 lead changes, UNK grabbed first set by two points thanks to five kills from sophomore middle Anna Squiers (Kearney Catholic) and a closing 2-0 run. The final points were an unforced WU attack error and kill by senior outside Kendall Schroer (Ogallala).
The Lopers then had leads of 7-3, 11-7 and 21-17 in the second set but the 'Bods didn't go away. UNK served for the set twice but WU closed on an 11-5 run to take the set and swing the momentum in the match.
"We're playing against a team that has a little more firepower and we're just having to win on grit and defense. When you get your chance and you can't get over the hump it hurts," said Squiers. "Not that they weren't capable of coming back if we were up 2-0 but you like your chances in that situation. I thought it really kind of deflated us. I think partially because we knew how hard it had been to get those opportunities and we let it get away."
Maxwell had four of her kills in the third set as the 'Bods broke an eight all tie with a 10-4 run. UNK didn’t threaten in the set after that. In the fourth, WU jumped out to leads of 10-7 and 13-9 before the Lopers made a last ditch effort to get back into things.
A 7-3 run gave Kearney a one-point lead and featured back-to-back kills from junior outside Julianne Jackson (Bonner Springs, Kan.). However, the momentum went right back to Washburn as they closed the night on a 10-6 run.
"I can't fault the effort of our team at all. They played their guts out tonight. But it just wasn't enough the way Washburn was playing," said Squiers.
Washburn out hit UNK by nearly 100 points, .170-.083, and had eight more blocks and seven more kills. The Lopers couldn't take advantage of 10 service errors and had one more dig, 113-112, than the 'Bods.
Maxwell hit a team-high .316 and added six blocks with Montgomery having 52 attack attempts and three digs. Next, sophomore outside Genna Berg managed 14 digs and 10 kills, sophomore libero Faith Rottinghaus had 38 digs and Conner was at 47 assists, 13 digs, five blocks and five kills.
For UNK, Schroer had 15 kills in a team-high 66 swings with Jackson and Squiers finishing with nine apiece. Defensively, Squiers and senior setter Lindsey Smith (Dakota Dunes, SD) both had three blocks with senior libero Ellie McDonnell (Papillion) at 38 digs. The 38 digs are two shy of the school mark set by Kelli Wemhoff in a 2006 home win over Northern State. Finally, Jackson (25) and sophomore right side Mary Katherine Wolfe (23) combined for 48 more digs.
UNK heads to nationally-ranked Central Oklahoma and Pittsburg State next weekend.