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Despite championship blunder against Metro State, Lopers grateful for home tournament, support
Matthew Iberg
Antelope Staff
Photo by Garrett Ritonya
Senior middle hitter Nikki Scott of Broken Bow goes up for a kill Saturday night against Metro State. Scott was recently named the RMAC Player of the Year before the tournament.
Photo by Garrett Ritonya
Three anxious fans watch the volleyball action from their Loper costumes Saturday night. Louie would be proud that his family showed up to support the volleyball team.

After sweeping Western New Mexico and Colorado School of Mines on consecutive nights, the Lopers were looking to sweep their way through the RMAC Volleyball Conference Tournament.

Up two games to none over Metro State, the third-ranked Lopers (33-2, 19-0) were just one set away from winning the RMAC Tournament Title. The 1,586 fans on hand at the Health and Sports Center could taste a sweet victory.

The Lopers had beat Metro State twice in regular season and this match looked like it would follow suit.

Then the 23rd ranked Metro State Roadrunners roared back to life.

Metro State, the No. 3 seed in the tournament, defeated UNK, the top-seeded team, 13-25, 22-25, 25-23, 25-19, 15-9. The Roadrunners had done what no other team had done in more than two months against the Lopers: win.

“[The loss] was every bit a win by Metro, as it was a loss by us,” UNK Head Coach Rick Squiers said.

It was a tough loss for the Lopers to experience so late in the season. With the loss, Metro State snapped the Lopers’ 27-match winning streak, 20-match home winning streak and the ultimate goal of achieving the RMAC Tournament title.

Throughout the night, the Roadrunners were able to string together multiple points by effectively using their outside hitters down the line and over and off our smaller blockers. In addition, Metro was effective in tearing apart the Lopers’ ball control, forcing UNK to stray away from their powerful middles.

In an effort to plug up the line, Squiers called on freshman setter Jenna Rouzee of Grand Island in games four and five.

“I was not expecting to come in,” Rouzee said. “I knew that I had to play like I can and do what I know.”

Just three rallies after she came in, Rouzee had made her impact. She, and senior Nikki Scott, combined for a block, taking away the line shot that had hurt the Lopers for most of the night.

“Coach told me that I was going in to put up a block,” Rouzee said. “Getting that block felt great.”

A small victory in a bitter defeat.

“I was encouraged by Jenna Rouzee’s performance,” Squiers said. “She came in, in a tight spot.”

“It was a tough loss, no doubt about that. But it’s not the time of year to get discouraged.”

Squiers is right.

UNK placed three players on the RMAC All-Tournament Team: senior Erica Burson of Gretna, junior Kelsey Werner of Grand Island and junior Cola Svec of Elkhorn.

The ultimate goal of achieving a birth into the Elite Eight is still intact, while the Lopers look to avenge last year’s five-set loss to eventual national champion, Concordia-St. Paul.

The Lopers will return to action Thursday night in St. Paul, Minn. as the No. 3 seed in the NCAA Central Regional versus the region’s sixth seed, and No. 17 nationally, Minnesota-Duluth (22-8). Other teams in UNK’s regional are No. 1 Concordia-St. Paul, No. 13 Southwest Minnesota State, No. 15 Wayne State, No. 23 Metro State, Minnesota State-Mankato and Colorado Mines.


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