KEARNEY, Neb. – Nebraska-Kearney used a quick start to beat Southwest Minnesota State (-21, -18, 26-28, -14) in a national tournament second-round match on Friday in St. Paul, Minn.
The third-seeded Lopers (35-2) will play the winner of Concordia-St. Paul and Minnesota-Duluth for the right to go to the Round of eight.
UNK never trailed in the first two sets, with a 5-3 run to end the first set and a 10-3 spurt to start the second.
However, SMSU bounced back and controlled much of the third set. Ahead 16-11, the Mustangs served one into the net and then senior setter Jena Rouzee recorded one of the Lopers seven aces.
This was the start of a 10-6 Kearney run that ended when junior middle Ellie Pesavento scored one of her 13 kills.
Southwest freshman McKell Anderson stepped up with a kill to give her team a 23-21 lead. But, UNK countered with three consecutive kills to reach match point.
The ‘Stangs fought off three match points with three kills from three different players. Southwest got a dig and kill from libero Rachel Westby to tie the set at 26.
Southwest then took the set with two more kills.
Early in the fourth set, UNK grabbed a 6-4 lead when Anderson had back to back unforced hitting errors and freshman reserve setter Erin Seele served up an ace. The Lopers didn’t trail again, moving ahead 18-10 at one point.
Overall, Southwest recorded one more kill than the Lopers, but UNK hit nearly 100 points better (.282 to .173), as the Mustangs had 17 more errors. SMSU also won the dig battle 84 to 79 with UNK being plus three in the serve game.
Individually, a balanced Loper attack featured 13 kills by both Pesavento and senior outside Ariel Krolikowski, 12 kills from junior middle Katie Sokolowski and 10 kills by junior outside Ashley Leitner.
All of Krolikowski’s 13 kills came in the three final sets with Pesavento hitting a match-high .500, having just one error in 24 swings.
Defensively, sophomore libero Liz McGowan and Rouzee had 18 digs a piece with Krolikowski and Sokolowski both having four blocks. Krolikowski also had 10 digs to record another double-double.
Rouzee had 43 assists, five kills and a .294 hitting efficiency. She was one of five Lopers to have at least one service ace in the win.
Besides Anderson, Southwest got 15 digs and 12 kills from Brooke Burmeister.