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Volleyball team makes the grade
Matthew Iberg
Antelope Staff

AA volleyball regular season, the Lopers are 20-1 on the season and 11-0 in RMAC play.

A win over Mesa State on Oct. 16 next weekend would secure that the RMAC Championship Tournament would be hosted at the Health and Sports Center for the sixth time this decade and the fifth time in six years.

After 21 games, it is time to rate the performance of the team as a whole and determine some offensive, defensive and overall team MVP awards.
It’s hard to complain with the record that the Lopers have. UNK has had three wins over top 25 teams, including University of Nebraska-Omaha (currently ranked No. 15), Metro State (currently ranked No. 18) and Augustana (ranked No. 25 at the time).

The offense has been at times spectacular, but on average, great.

With Nikki Scott, a senior middle hitter from Broken Bow and Cola Svec, a junior setter from Elkhorn, both in the top five in their respective offensive categories, there’s no reason the Lopers should be having any troubles on offense.

Scott is third in the nation, holding a .430 hitting percentage, while Svec is fifth, averaging 11.7 assists per set.

The Lopers, as a team, are sixth in the nation in hitting percentage, averaging .297, as well as averaging 14.85 kills per set, good enough for second in the nation.

When the ball isn’t in Svec’s hands, there are capable hands to set the ball.  UNK is second in the nation in assists per set, averaging 13.87.

On the defensive side, the Lopers are just as good.

Manchester, Iowa, native, and junior defensive specialist Katlyn Heiserman leads the team averaging four digs per set. Although Heiserman isn’t one of the national leaders in digs, the Loper’s defensive digging duties are split between two defensive specialists and a solid passing team. As a team, the Lopers are ranked seventh in the nation in digs, averaging 17.85 digs per set.

The Lopers have held teams to an average hitting percentage of .106, tops in the RMAC.

The good news stops there.

Blocking has been inconsistent; however, not awful. Ranking 85th in the nation in blocking, coming in at just under two blocks per set, blocking is not the Lopers’ strong point. This comes because of a variety of reasons though, with the front row players changing nearly every play, it’s hard to get a routine front row going. Not to mention, the offenses that the team has played have been average at best, thus rendering blocking not appropriate at times.

Another semi-troubling statistic is the Lopers rank 200th out of 255 in service aces, averaging just 1.27 per set; however, this is misleading. According to the NCAA, a service ace is rewarded to a team when a “served ball falls untouched, or cannot be kept in play by the receiving team or the receiver is called for an illegal attempt to play the ball, or if the receiving team is called out of rotation by the official.”

What statistics don’t track is when served balls are able to put teams “out of system.” When a team runs “out of system” it’s hard for their setter to get to the ball and offers that setter few options of where to place the ball. The Lopers are good at getting teams to play “out of system” allowing them to effectively run their chosen defensive scheme.

Head coach Rick Squiers is one of the most successful and arguably one of the best in Division II volleyball. Since 2006, Squiers’ teams are 113-18 overall, 62-6 in conference play and 67-3 at home.

Obviously he’s doing something right.

Overall, the Lopers have a well-balanced offense, a great defense, have a deep bench and are able to compete with any team in the nation.

We’ll see if all the hard work and dedication pays off as they try to win both the RMAC regular season crown and the RMAC tournament championship. After that, back to the NCAA tournament where the Lopers look to achieve their ultimate goal—a national title.

IBERG'S PICKS

Offensive MVP:   Nikki Scott, Sr. MH from Broken Bow
Defensive MVP: Katlyn Heiserman, Jr. DS from Manchester, Iowa; Kelli Wemhoff, Sr. L/DS from Humphrey
Team MVP:    Cola Svec, Jr. Setter from Elkhorn

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