Nov. 18, 2010

Courtesy of Nebraska Kearney Athletics

Kearney, Neb. -
The 10th-ranked Nebraska-Kearney volleyball team used a balanced offensive attack and solid defense to beat 7th-ranked Minnesota-Duluth in four sets (-22, 13-25, -17, -18) Thursday night in an NCAA Tournament first round match in Marshall, Minn.

The fourth-seeded Lopers (30-4) will play Friday night at 7:30 p.m. against top-seed SW Minnesota State. The Mustangs rallied past RMAC-member Colorado Mines, 3-2, in the last match Thursday.

On the other side of the bracket, three-time defending national champion and second-seed Concordia St. Paul beat Minnesota State in four sets with sixth-seed Metro State doing the same to third-seed Wayne State.

To watch the UNK-UMD post match press conference, click HERE.

UNK was looking for some revenge against the Bulldogs (23-6), who swept the Lopers in the first round of last year's Central Regional.

This time around, Kearney came out quick, grabbing leads of 12-9 and 19-13. UMD fought back, using a 7-1 run to trail 21-20 after a kill by freshman outside Katie Lange (team-high 15 kills, 10 digs, four blocks).

The Lopers, however, never let the `Dawgs tie things up and a kill by freshman middle Ellie Pesavento (Omaha Marian), and a bad set by Duluth, ended the set and gave UNK a 1-0 match lead. Both Pesavento and sophomore outside Ariel Krolikowski (Grand Island) had four kills in the first set.

Duluth changed the momentum by dominating the second set. A 7-2 run, highlighted by two kills from 6-3 senior outside Katie Kuffel (14 kills, three blocks, .310 attack pct.), broke a five all tie and forced the Lopers to take a timeout.

UNK wouldn't get closer then six points the rest of the way as UMD pounded home 17 kills and the Lopers committed four unforced errors.

In the third set, the Lopers used a 7-1 run to grab a 10-6 lead and forced UMD to take a timeout. During this stretch, senior outside Kelsey Werner (Grand Island) had two kills, senior middle Jeri Walkowiak (Grand Island) had a kill and senior DS Setera Michaels (North Platte) had an ace.

UMD soon used another T.O. as four Loper kills, and a block from Pesanvento and freshman right side Katie Sokolowski (Kearney Catholic), made it 16-10. Duluth never made a serious run with Krolikowski and Werner having five a kills a piece in the set.

The fourth and final set was similar to the third as Duluth used both of its timeouts early on and after trailing by scores of 9-4 and 14-6. A kill from senior middle Alyssa Nelson (10 kills, three blocks) did cut the Loper lead to four, 21-17, but a kill by Pesavento stated a 4-1 run that ended the match.

"Duluth has firepower all over the place and, with their size, looks like a Division I team. We played great defense tonight and most of our unforced errors came in the second set. We played our kind of volleyball and players like Katlyn and Setera made it tough for them to get a kill," said head coach Rick Squiers.

In an even match statistically, UNK held a 63-53 advantage in digs with senior libero Katlyn Heiserman (Manchester, Iowa) having a match-high 24 and six others having at least four digs. UNK also recorded 6.5 team blocks, led by Pesavento, Sokolowski and Werner with three each.

Duluth did have 10.5 blocks but, last year, they had a plus 10 advantage (14-4) in the category.

Offensively, Krolikowski (13) and Werner (12) provided 25 kills from the outside with Walkowiak (13) and Pesavento (10) reaching double digit in kills in the middle. Pesavento also hit a team-high .348. Finally, Sokolowski had seven kills and hit .333 from the right side.

For Duluth, junior middle April Hansen had 10 kills and a team-high five blocks with libero Hannah Johnson having a team-best 16 digs.