KEARNEY — University of Nebraska at Kearney volleyball will play on a new surface this season.
The Lopers installed Taraflex court on Wednesday at the Health and Sports Center and have practiced on the surface twice this preseason. They join Azusa Pacific University in California as the only other Division II program to have a Taraflex court. Numerous Division I programs play on the same surface, including Nebraska and Creighton.
"It’s the most desired surface in volleyball," coach Rick Squiers said. "In addition of the look and enhancement to the facility, it’s better for you. It’s a shock-absorbing court that’s designed really for more of the things volleyball players do with the jumping, running and sliding. It’s such a better feeling surface. I think it’s a win-win deal."
Squires debated between Taraflex and Sport Court. Although Sport Court also is aesthetically pleasing and cheaper, numerous coaches who have experience with both types of surfaces recommended Taraflex to Squires.
The Taraflex court is a thin mat with a layer of vinyl over layers of foam, which offers a firm but cushioned playing surface. The court also covers all the unnecessarily lines that the hardcourt featured for basketball, making the volleyball court stand out and easy to see.
The court adheres to the wood floor but isn’t permanent and will be removed and reinstalled when the basketball season begins.
The Lopers have been nearly unbeatable at the Health and Sports Center under Squiers. In his 20 years at the helm, the Lopers own a remarkable 352-20 record at home, including two 66-match winning streaks. The Lopers also have led Division II in attendance in 19 of the last 21 seasons.
Having a high-quality and appealing court to sell to recruits also factored into the decision to purchase the playing surface, Squiers said.
"We came to the conclusion that we should put the best thing there is down there, and in addition to the great tradition we have here and fan support, sell that in recruiting," Squiers said. "I think it’s caught some people’s attention, and I think it will be unbelievable to play on."
Due to a two-day team retreat to Colorado Springs, Colo. and an exhibition match at Division I Wyoming, the Lopers have only practiced on the court on Friday and Monday.
They will host their annual Blue/White Scrimmage at 6 p.m. Wednesday, which will allow the Lopers to play on the surface for the first time in a game-like atmosphere.
"I think it will be a good court warming event," senior outside hitter and team captain Julianne Jackson said. "I think it will be good for everyone to see the court, get excited about it and for us to play on it too."
UNK second in MIAA poll
KEARNEY — The No. 11 University of Nebraska at Kearney volleyball team was picked second in the MIAA preseason coaches’ poll, the league announced Monday.
Head coaches vote on the makeup of the poll and can’t vote for their own team.
Just 25 points separated the top four teams. Defending region champion Washburn placed first in the poll after receiving seven first-place votes for 96 points. UNK finished second, receiving two first-place votes for 90 points. Central Missouri had 83 points and Northwest Missouri 71.
UNK won the conference regular-season and tournament championships last year.
The Lopers host their annual Blue/White Scrimmage at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Health and Sports Center. The regular season begins Sept. 6 with matches against former RMAC rival Adams State (Colo.) and Findlay (Ohio). Those matches are part of the Loper Preseason Invite.
MIAA Preseason Poll
1. Washburn 96 (7)
2. UNK 90 (2)
3. Central Missouri 83 (2)
4. Central Oklahoma 71
5. Northwest Missouri 67
6. Missouri Western State 54
7. Pittsburg State 40
8. Emporia State 35
9. Missouri Southern State 33
10. Fort Hays State 25
11. Newman 11