UCCS Ends Regular Season with Loss, Playoffs on Tap
COLORADO SPRINGS - The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs completed its regular season Saturday with a 3-0 (27-25, 25-16, 25-20) loss to the Nebraska-Kearney Lopers at the Gallogly Events Center.
Kelsey Werner had a match-high 17 kills for Nebraska-Kearney (26-4, 17-1 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference), which goes into the postseason as the host of the RMAC Tournament and the No. 1 seed. The Lopers are the prohibitive favorite to win their seventh RMAC tournament, having won 53 of the 59 sets they've played against conference opponents. UNK has swept 14 of its 18 matches against RMAC rivals.
"I thought we played really well," said UCCS coach Keith Barnett. "That's not the easiest team to play against. They're well-trained, well-funded and well-rehearsed."
UCCS honored its graduating seniors, Nicole Pederson and Kendall Utz, after the match. Both played well in their final match at home, with Pederson getting seven kills and Utz a team-best 14 digs.
The Mountain Lions (16-12, 10-8 RMAC) go into the tournament as the No. 7 seed. She said it would be beneficial for UCCS to build some momentum before having to face the powerful Lopers again.
"I'm really excited that we're seventh because we don't have to play Kearney first," said Pederson. "If we just play out 100 percent like we have been, I think we have a chance."
That chance begins with a Thursday matchup against Mesa State, the winner of the RMAC's West Division. Because of a scheduling quirk instituted this season, Mesa State is the only RMAC team that the Mountain Lions didn't play this year.
"We haven't seen them all season," said Barnett. "They've lost to some of the teams we've beaten, so hopefully that's in our favor. We're going to take a long, hard look at Mesa and see what some of their tendencies are."
Nikki Kinzer led the Mountain Lions Saturday with nine kills. She and Alex Nuttall each assisted on seven blocks as UCCS held a 110-8 advantage in that category.
Kills by Kinzer, who had six in the frame, staved off two match points in the first set before a block by Werner and Jeri Walkowiak ended it at 27-25. UCCS outhit the Lopers .222 to .152 in the set, but was unable to get the win.
Walkowiak, Werner and Ellie Pesavento combined for 11 kills on just 18 attempts as the Lopers took a 25-16 decision in the second set. A 10-3 run fueled by four Werner kills gave UNK a 13-6 lead that was maintained at five or better te rest of the way.
The Lopers opened the third set with a 6-1 lead and extended it to as many as seven (16-9). Two kills by Kinzer and one by Nuttall closed the gap to 23-20, but a block and a Werner kill sealed the deal.
"They're real good," said Barnett. "Give them a lot of credit; they made the right plays, they made a lot of good swings. They do a good job with what we do as well. They knew us; they knew what we were going to do."
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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