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Point. Set. Match: UNK volleyball sweeps Runza Fall Classic, Scott named tournament MVP
Dan Lenzen
Antelope Staff
Photo by Garrett Ritonya
Grand Island junior Jeri Walkowiak slams the ball over the net against Bemijdi State. Walkowiak was named to the All-Tournament team.
Photo by Garrett Ritonya
Walkowiak lines up a laser shot against unsuspecting Bemidji State competitors on Friday. The Lopers swept the Beavers and finished their tournament 4-0.
Photo by Rachel Cochran
Sophomore defensive specialist Alex Miller of Grand Island serves up the ball in a game against Newman University. The Lopers swept the match and are now 4-0.

Over the weekend, the sixth-ranked UNK Lopers hosted their first volleyball tournament of the season. The tournament, the Best Western/Runza Fall Classic included the Lopers, Bemidji State, Newman, Rockhurst and Fort Hayes State.

The Lopers won the tournament with a 4-0 mark and did not drop a set during the entire tournament. They swept each of their four games three sets to none.

UNK opened the tournament by beating Bemidji State on Friday by 25-15, 25-18, 25-15.  Later that evening, they beat Rockhurst by 25-14, 25-19, 25-17. Saturday morning, they beat Newman by 25-18, 25-15, 25-14 and finished the tournament that evening by demolishing Fort Hayes State by 25-14, 25-15, 25-11.

UNK senior Nikki Scott from Broken Bow was named the tournament MVP and four different Lopers were named to the All-Tournament team. All-Tournament team members from UNK were Scott, senior Erica Burson and juniors Cola Svec and Jeri Walkowiak.

Lopers head coach Rick Squiers was pleased with his team's performance. He said early on they showed some rust in some basic early season stuff but got better as each match went along.
"I want to see us be able to play well longer, consistently, which we did at times. But we need to do it more consistently. The Rockhurst game really gave us confidence. We started slow Saturday, but as the match went on, Nikki Scott really stepped up for us," Squiers said.

Senior left outside hitter Erica Burson, an advertising major from Gretna, echoed some of the coach’s sentiments.

"Since it was the first game of the season, it was hard to play at a high level the entire time. It got better as the games went along, and after some rough spots, it was nice to see that we could respond and maintain a high level," Burson said.

She said the team needed to work having more productive touches at the net, helping the defense out more in the back row and getting their ball control more consistent.

The coach was very pleased with the overall fan support during the tournament. He said the fans were good for all the games. Both he and Burson agreed that more and more fans trickled into the arena as the games went along, and Coach Squiers thought the evening matches had around 1,000 or so fans in attendance.

"With morning and noon games, it's hard for a lot of people to get there for the entire match because a lot of students were in class and people were working, but the evening and weekend crowds were great," Squiers said.

The Lopers have many high hopes for the upcoming season and have been picked to win the RMAC title. So far they are off to a great start and are doing exactly what most people expected from them.

Their next game is Wednesday in Sioux Falls against No. 22 Augustana, and then they play four matches Friday and Saturday in the St. Cloud State Invitational.

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