Senior Taylor Goodness and sophomore Carly Sojka combined for 42 kills to help the 5th-ranked Central Missouri Jennies rally past 11th-ranked Nebraska-Kearney (20-25, 21-25, -23, -20, -11) in an NCAA Tournament first round match Thursday afternoon in Duluth, Minn.
UCM improves to 33-1 and takes on 3rd-ranked Concordia-St. Paul Friday evening. The Golden Bears (30-3), six-time defending national champions, swept 22nd-ranked Northern State to start the Central Regional.
UNK (28-7), falling to UCM for the third time in the last month, grabbed a 2-0 match lead and had the third set tied at 14 all. However, the Jennies offense started to really warm up at that point.
In the fourth set, the efficient Jennies offense was on display as they went on a 9-0 run that included seven kills. That made the score 11-2 and, despite a late Kearney run, set the tables for a winner-take-all set.
The Lopers did grab a 4-3 lead in the fifth set after a kill by sophomore setter Erin Seele (Johnstown Colo.). But, a 7-3 UCM run followed that featured two kills by Sojka and one by Goodness.
This pair haunted Kearney over the first two matches and nothing changed today. Goodness had a match-high 22 kills and hit .367 with Sojka supplying 20 kills and 21 digs.
For the match, Central Missouri was plus 12 in kills, 70-58, and hit 50 points higher, .238 to .188. The Lopers recorded four more blocks, 11-7, and were greatly helped by 18 UCM service errors. The Jennies did have eight aces, six from setter and MIAA Player of the Year Julia Bates.
In the fifth set, after that UCM spurt, UNK got two kills by Lincoln freshman Kinslie TeKolste to make it 14-10. However, a kill by Sojka fittingly ended the match.
“This is a tough one to take. It’s a bit like the Washburn match that we let get away earlier this year,” said UNK head coach Rick Squiers. “Credit Central for battling back; there’s a reason they have only one loss.”
Seniors Ashley Leitner (Lincoln SW) and Katie Sokolowski (Kearney Catholic) became the 25th and 26th Lopers, respectively, to reach the 1,000 career kill milestone. Earlier this fall, senior middle Ellie Pesavento (Omaha Marian) joined that elite group.
From the outside, Leinter supplied a team-high 15 kills, three digs, two blocks and a .273 hitting percentage. She ends her career with 1,010 kills.
On the right side, Sokolowski had 11 kills, five digs, three blocks, three assists a team-best .320 efficiency. Among UNK’s all-time leaders in hitting percentage (.333), her final kill total is 1,007.
TeKolste (Lincoln SE) had 14 kills today with four Lopers having double digit dig total, including Seele (14) and junior libero Liz McGowan (27).
Finally, Pesavento ends her career with 1,071 kills and a .346 career attack percentage.