By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
The Missouri Western volleyball team had a lead in each set, but the No. 7 seed Griffons were swept by No. 2 seed and No. 12 ranked Nebraska-Kearney 3-0 on Thursday in the MIAA tournament at Civic Arena in St. Joseph.
The Griffons had eight blocks and 62 digs, but the Lopers blocked 14 shots themselves and benefitted from 19 Missouri Western errors.
"Defensively, I thought we did a fantastic job," Missouri Western coach Jessica Fey said. "Blocking wise, we did a great job. Our serve receive, we had a lot of options to swing, but their offense is a little bit stronger and more experienced than our offense, and that's where you saw a huge difference in the match."
The Lopers won the sets 25-18, 25-22 and 25-19. Missouri Western (11-18) got off to a 5-3 start in set one, but then UNK nabbed an 8-6 lead, prompting a Griffon timeout. Western never got the lead back in the first, and the Lopers (25-6) rolled to a 25-18 win in set one.
The Lopers had a blistering .400% hit rate in the first set.
After getting down 3-1 to open the second set, Missouri Western punched back and led 11-9, prompting a UNK timeout. The Griffons led 13-10 after a Hailey Crane kill, but the Lopers tied the set at 14-14.
Western, again, led 18-15, forcing the Lopers to call a second timeout. UNK scored two straight points out of that timeout, and benefited from a couple of Griffon errors, ending the second set on a 6-1 run and winning it 25-22.
"When they got (momentum), it was hard to get back," Fey said. "But, I think we did a good job of getting back and coming out in that third set."
Missouri Western showed fight early in the third, getting off to a 7-4 start and then an 11-7 lead. The Griffons led at 16-15, but UNK scored two straight to lead 17-16, leading to a Western timeout.
The Griffons would never lead in the match again. UNK ended the third set on an 8-3 run, and scored the final three points to slam the door in the third, 25-19.
Missouri Western was led by Danielle Moje, who had a team-high 12 kills in her final game as a Griffon. Sophomore Hailey Crane had nine kills, while freshman Emma Salker had eight.
"(UNK) is hard to score against, so I'm really proud of how aggressive those three were and how they played in this game."
Freshman libero and Plattsburg native Lia Graham had 14 digs. Sophomore setter Nessa Johnson had her fifth double-double of the season with 10 digs and 33 assists.
This closes the book on the first season for coach Fey - a year in which the Griffons ended the regular season on a three-game winning streak. Seven seniors have now played in their final match, but Fey looks to the future with high optimism - mostly because of how the team responded to what she asked of them in an up and down 2022 campaign.
"We might not have had a lot of wins in the win column and might not have had a winning record, but I think in the future it's all going to translate really great with what they've learned this year and have overcome."
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