KEARNEY — Erasing a 24-20 deficit in the first set launched the University of Nebraska at Kearney volleyball team to a 26-24, 25-20, 25-18 victory over previously undefeated West Texas A&M on Saturday at the UNK Health and Sports Center.
With the win, the Lopers (8-0) finished the Rosella Meier Classic undefeated. Originally scheduled to be a five-team tournament, it was shortened to a four-team affair when Minot State withdrew due to COVID-19 concerns.
While Minot is winless, West Texas A&M promised to be the toughest competition for the third-ranked Lopers.
The Buffaloes led 18-14 and put together a 3-point run to claim the 24-20 lead. But a kill by the Lopers’ Cece Beahm was followed by kills by Anna Squiers and Sami Mauch. An attack error by West Texas A&M tied the game and a double-hit by the setter gave UNK the lead.
Mauch, who finished with nine kills, finished off the victory in the set and, most likely, in the match.
“In this place, I think we still had a chance had we dropped that set,” UNK coach Rick Squiers said. “But I think it probably reduced their chances significantly because you come here as a road team and everything goes your way. You catch a few breaks and you just can’t close the deal. I’m sure that’s a psychological blow.”
West Texas A&M maintained a similar statistical performance in the second set but faced in the third with a match-low 11 kills and a .143 efficiency.
UNK’s kill total slipped in the second and third sets but efficiency jumped from .167 in the first set to .300-plus in the second two.
Bailee Sterling led UNK with 10 kills, hitting .444. Squiers had nine kills and a .444 efficiency. Mauch and Emersen Cyza also had nine kills each.
West Texas A&M’s Torrey Miller led all attackers with 12 kills, but she was the focus of UNK’s defense.
“They’re not easy to stop, but they are somewhat predictable. They’re going to go to (Miller) all night long,” coach Squiers said.
Behind Miller, Kayla Elliott had six kills. Right-side hitters Ashlyn Vinyard and Camy Jones had five kills. In 127 attacks, the Buffs had just 38 kills.
West Texas A&M’s .143 hitting efficiency has relaxed some of the fears Squiers had about this team, which lost its top defensive players from the last two years. In addition, libero Lindsay Nottlemann was not available because of an injury.
“For us to play that kind of defense was fantastic. That’s really encouraging because I thought we had a pretty good offensive team. But to see us dig balls and make things difficult on our opponent was fun to watch.”