Strong Core Returns as Lopers Look for 20th Straight NCAA Tournament Bid
KEARNEY – You know you’ve got a pretty good thing going when you’re gunning for your 20th straight NCAA Tournament appearance and are in the midst of a 55-match winning streak in home matches.
That’s exactly where Rick Squiers and his Nebraksa-Kearney volleyball program stand entering 2018 and the Lopers return a strong core heading into this season.
“We are excited about the experience level of the 2018 Lopers. With a nucleus that includes 4 seniors playing major roles, we are hopeful that we can make another MIAA championship run,” Squiers said. “The field in the MIAA and Central Region is very deep this year, but our players have embraced the challenge.”
Nebraska-Kearney fell to Missouri Western in the first round of the NCAA Division II Tournament last fall and lose two-time All-American middle Tara Ziegelbein.
“We have a good number of players who have competed in the NCAA tournament, but would very much like to advance deeper into the post season,” Squiers said. “With the loss of (Ziegelbein), we look to get a strong contribution from some upperclassmen and second-year players.”
Here is a position-by-position look at Nebraska-Kearney for 2018.
Lindsey Smith, 5’8, Sr., Dakota Dunes, S.D.
Madison Squiers, 5’8, Jr., Kearney, Neb.
Emma Murphy, 5’7, Fr., Spearfish, S.D.
Smith has been the starting setter for the Lopers since her freshman season and is a two-time All-MIAA selection and 2016 AVCA All-American. Her 3,581 career assists has her ranked sixth all-team at Nebraska-Kearney. Squiers is a transfer from Bellevue University where she was a two-time AVCA All-American and the NSAA Freshman of the Year. Murphy could see time as a defensive specialist. She had 535 assists and 255 digs as a senior in high school a year ago.
Anna Squiers, 6’0, Soph., Kearney, Neb.
Emma Benton, 5’11, Jr., Grand Island, Neb.
Julianne Jackson, 5’9, Jr., Bonner Springs, Kansas
Sami Mauch, 5’10, Fr., North Platte, Neb.
Monique Schafer, 5’9, Jr., Stuart, Neb.
Mary Katherine Wolfe, 5’11, Soph., Omaha, Neb.
Kendall Schroer, 6’0, Sr., Ogallala, Neb.
Schroer and Jackson likely beging the season as the top two outsides for the Lopers. Schroer had a team-high 383 kills a year ago while Jackson was third on the team with 220. Squiers started 29 matches a year ago and had 208 kills and 67 blocks and projects to start on the right side. Wolfe played in 37 matches a year ago but was primarily used for her serve receive and passing in the back row, although she did have 16 kills in 2017. Along with Wolfe, Benton could contend for swings on the outside behind Schroer and Jackson. Mauch suffered a knee injury this summer and is already planning on a medical redshirt for 2018. She was the #18 overall recruit in the Nebraska class of 2018. Schafer is a transfer from Northeast CC after an all-state high school career at Stuart.
Josie Cox, 6’2, Jr., North Platte, Neb.
Mackenzie Puckett, 6’0, Jr., Grand Island, Neb.
Gracie Stienike, 5’11, Fr., Gothenburg, Neb.
Hannah Scherder, 6’1, Fr., Peoria, Ill.
Madison Stearnes, 6’0, Soph., Omaha, Neb.
While Ziegelbein was a fixture as the top middle for the Lopers, Cox, Puckett and Stearns all got their shot on the court as the second middle, leaving Nebraska-Kearney with three players with experience for the two middle spots this fall. Cox had the most starts between the three with 15 and recorded 115 kills and 71 blocks. Puckett started 10 times and finished the year with 52 kills and 19 blocks while Stearns got three starts and had 44 kills and 14 blocks. Scherder led her high school team in kills (228) and blocks 30.5) last season while Stienike had 321 kills and 70 blocks last year at Gothenburg.
Lindsay Nottlemann, 5’6, Fr., Lincoln, Neb.
Morgan Stute, 5’6, Sr., Kearney, Neb.
Ellie McDonnell, 5’5, Sr., Papillion, Neb.
Nebrasak-Kearney is rock solid defensively with perhaps the best trio of back-row specialists in Division II. McDonnell had more than 600 serve receptions a year ago and led the team with 537 digs (4.47 per set). She has been the starting libero for the Lopers since early in her freshman year and is a three-time All-MIAA selection. She is just 456 digs shy of the Nebraska-Kearney career record. As a defensive specialist, Stute has been McDonnell’s partner in crime along the back row, earning two All-MIAA selections and becoming the 30thLoper with more than 1,000 career digs. Nottleman comes to the Lopers after an all-state senior season at Lincoln Pius X. Nottleman was the #52 overall recruit in the Nebraska class of 2018.