Kearney, Neb. – Outside hitters Asha Regier and Emersen Cyza combined for 21 kills and libero Lauren Taubenheim had 19 digs to help 12th-ranked Nebraska Kearney sweep Missouri Southern State (-15, -19, -23) Friday night in a MIAA Tournament semifinal match in St. Joseph, Mo.
The third-seeded Lopers (28-4) reach the MIAA finals for the seventh time since joining the league in 2012. UNK won this event in 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2012 as well as the “non-countable” 2021 MIAA Spring Invite.
Top-seed and 18th-ranked Central Missouri (23-7) downed Missouri Western State in four sets on the other side of the bracket. The Jennies have won 11 in a row including a sweep of the Lopers last weekend in Warrensburg. The title match is set for 6 p.m. on Saturday with the winner receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Seventh-seed MSSU (16-15) upset 15th-ranked Central Oklahoma on Thursday but led UNK just in the second set tonight. The Blue & Gold out hit the Lions by 104 points, had 10 more digs, six more blocks and took advantage of six service errors.
“You get to this point and time and both teams are playing their hearts out. Missouri Southern wasn’t going to give us the match and they made it really difficult especially with some adversity down the stretch (losing one of their setters). They had to play half a rotation across the front row with a small setter,” said UNK head coach Rick Squiers on the KRVN Radio post-game show. “We took advantage of that a little bit but couldn’t get to the finish line. She then went to the back row and I thought uh-oh.”
Coming off a 17-kill effort in a sweep of Northwest Missouri, Regier (Newton, Kan.) had a team-high 11 kills while hitting .242. She had five kills in the first set and three in both the second and third with Cyza (Alliance) having 10 kills overall. She also was one of five Lopers with at least two blocks. The leaders there were sophomore middle Abby Rose (Lindsborg, Kan.) with a season-best eight and sophomore setter Peyton Neff (North Platte) at five.
“I thought we played good defense for the most part all night long. We made it hard for them to score, took away a few things, block touched a lot of balls,” said Squiers. “We also didn’t let them have a giant service run and they have a couple of really dangerous servers.”
UNK broke a 10-10 tie in the second set with a 9-5 spurt that featured two kills from both Cyza and right side Jaden Ferguson (Lincoln SW). The Lions didn’t get closer than three points the rest of the way and then never led in the third. UNK, up 24-23, finished the match thanks to a kill from freshman middle Mia Berg (Eureka, Mo.).
“Credit Peyton for getting us hittable balls especially as those rallies wore one. It’s easy when you get int one of those back-and-forth rallies to set a low ball, double a ball or a hitter just gets too tired and makes an error,” said Squiers. “We didn’t do that and it was a good thing because they are comfortable playing out of system.”
Taubenheim (Lincoln Pius) is up to 962 career digs and also had one of UNK’s three aces tonight. Next, veteran DS Jensen Rowse (Minden) was 17 for 17 in serve receive with Neff, besides her stuff total, at 30 assists, nine digs, five kills, two aces and a .500 efficiency.