Lopers Fall to the Golden Bears in Five; Season Ends at 28-6
WAYNE, Neb.--The third-ranked Concordia-St. Paul Golden Bears rallied in the fourth set and hit .467 in the fifth to down 13th-ranked Nebraska Kearney (-19, 22-25, 17-25, -21, -10) in an NCAA Tournament first-round match Friday evening in Wayne.
CU (27-5) advances to Saturday's Central Regional quarterfinals where'll they'll take on sixth-ranked Minnesota-Duluth at 5 p.m. The Bulldogs beat MIAA-member and 15th-ranked Washburn, 3-1, in the first match of the tournament. UNK, in the NCAA's for a 23rd straight season, ends at 28-6.
The Lopers used a balanced offensive attack and 12 Golden Bear service errors to not only be up 2-1 but ahead 16-9 in the fourth. An ace from North Platte redshirt freshman setter Peyton Neff provided the seven-point cushion but CU, who has never lost in the first round of the NCAA's, had a response. They finished on a 16-5 run that featured eight kills and four aces.
One of those aces came when it was 19 all with an unforced Loper error then giving CU the lead for good. The Golden Bears had seven aces and nine service errors in last year's 3-2 NCAA second round win over UNK. Tonight, they finished with nine aces and 12 miscues.
"You're in the fourth set with a pretty significant lead and things going your way. I think its one of those things where you're really conflicted. Obviously, you're not in that spot without great effort and our players came out and competed well," said UNK head coach Rick Squiers on the KRVN Radio post-game show. "It's been a couple of weekends in a row now where we have to learn to play from that spot (a lead in the fourth set). You're really discouraged we couldn't capitalize on a golden opportunity that was in front of us. At the same time, all that went getting into that spot was unbelievable."
The Lopers dusted themselves off and held leads of 4-1 and 5-2 in the fifth. Alliance outside Emersen Cyza had one of her team-high 19 kills to give UNK a three-point lead but that advantage was short lived as CU followed with a 6-1 run. The spurt featured four kills and two blocks and the Golden Bears never trailed again.
"Concordia had it (the X factor) and dug themselves out of a hole and raised their game. And a lot of it (the comeback) was them," said Squiers. "It was a combination of things. I remember thinking, when they were down six or seven, I cannot believe they are still taking chances from the service line that they are taking. They were fully committed to it and you have to be. Even though it was hurting them early, it came back to save them late. We didn't not handle that well."
Northern Iowa transfer and sophomore outside/right side Emma Schmidt had five of her team-best 16 kills in the fifth as CU hit a solid .467 (9-2-15). They also had four team blocks with four different players having two block assists apiece.
Schmidt (.275, 14 digs) was one of five Golden Bears to have a double digit kill total. The others included junior outside/right side Katie Mattson (11 kills, .333 pct., 10 blocks) and junior outside/right side Jasmine Mulvihill (14 kills, eight digs, eight blocks). CU out hit UNK by a .281-224 margin while also having eight more kills, eight more blocks and 12 more digs but being minus for in the serve game. Finally, CU had 14 unforced attack errors to just five for the Lopers.
Cyza, reaching 1,000 digs in her collegiate career (1,002; UNK plus Wyoming), reached her offensive output in 38 attempts (.316 pct.). Fourteen of her kills came over the first three sets. Next, Kansas sophomore outside Asha Regier (14) and Lincoln sophomore right side Lauren Taubenheim (10) had two of their better offensive matches of the season. This marks Regier's third straight matches with at least 13 kills while Taubenheim had her highest kill total since September. Finally, Kearney senior middle Bailee Sterling had eight kills, six digs, four stuffs and hit .286 with Neff at 49 assists, nine digs, and two blocks.
"We played some of our best volleyball of the year in the second and third sets. We're encouraged by that for sure," said Squiers. "If they (CU) play like they did the last set and a half, I don't know who can beat them. If they play like they did for the first 2.5 sets, probably anybody left can beat them."
UNK says farewell to senior DS Elise Volk (Omaha), MB Michaela Bartels (Bennington) and OH CeCe Beahm (Hastings). Sterling, Cyza and MB Fallon Stutheit (Johnson) all may take advantage of their "COVID" year.