KEARNEY — Junior right side hitter MK Wolfe had a team-high 13 kills and Maddie Squiers supplied nine more kills and hit .692 to help No. 11 University of Nebraska at Kearney volleyball down Findlay of Ohio (22-25, 25-19, 25-19, 25-14) on Friday night at the Health and Sports Center.
The match was part of the Loper Preseason Invitational. UNK started the season Friday afternoon with a quick sweep of former Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference rival Adams State (25-9, 25-15, 25-13).
A young, tall and powerful group, Findlay was swept by Augustana in its first match of the event. But the Oilers settled down and came out on fire against the Lopers, having 16 kills and hitting .237 in the first set.
"For whatever reason we came out a little bit flat," UNK coach Rick Squiers said. "We looked like a team that was feeling the weight of ‘we’re supposed to win’ against a team that didn’t have as much to lose. That makes a difference … having nothing to lose can be an equalizer and we didn’t handle that very well early."
However, UNK warmed up in the second set while Findlay cooled off. The Oilers had only 33 kills during the final three sets and ended the match with 17 unforced attack errors. The Lopers had a slight edge in kills, 51-49, but hit 70 points higher and also were plus-12 in the service game.
"We talked about afterwards that we didn’t bring it as sharply as we needed to in the early going. But it was a good sign to see us grind one out," Squiers said. "I thought Julianne Jackson was big tonight … when we were up and down she was steady all the way through. In serve receive, ball control, she got us some big kills and blocks."
Wolfe reached her kill total in 34 swings (.235) while also supplying 11 digs and three blocks. Jackson tallied 11 kills, 20 digs and three blocks. Off the bench, senior outside hitter Emma Benton was big late with six kills, three digs, two aces and a .417 hitting efficiency.
Maddie Squiers had 36 assists, four digs and reached her offensive output in just 13 swings. It’s the most kills by a Loper setter since Jenna Rouzee had nine in a four-set loss to Truman (Mo.) State seven years ago.
"Thank goodness for seniors," Rick Squiers said. "Emma (Benton) has done a good job of making me look good every time she comes into the game. She has a big arm, a handful of shots she can go to and can play out of system. She’ll probably get a little more playing time after that performance."
Today (Saturday), UNK faces Oklahoma Baptist at noon and Augustana at 6 p.m. at the Health and Sports Center.