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No. 2 Ichabod volleyball rallies from 2-0 deficit to knock off No. 7 Lopers

 By RICK PETERSON

TopSports.news

Veteran Washburn University volleyball coach Chris Herron would be happy any time the Ichabods are able to show the grit to rally from a 2-0 deficit and pull out a victory.

The fact that No. 2-ranked WU was able to make that happen Saturday at Lee Arena against Nebraska-Kearney, one of the MIAA's most storied programs, made the occasion extra special.

WUvolleyballjubeWashburn celebrates a point in Saturday's thrilling come-from-behind five-set win over Nebraska-Kearney. [Photo by Kyle Manthe/Washburn Athletics]

No. 7 Nebraska-Kearney jumped out in front 2-0 with 26-24 and 25-22 wins, but the Ichabods anwered with 25-17, 25-18 and 16-14 wins to improve to 10-0 overall and 2-0 in the MIAA while handing the Lopers (10-1, 1-1) their first loss of the season.

"It's a huge win,'' Herron said. "Look, Kearney's Kearney, man. Every year they're Kearney so what are you going to say. They're awesome. (Rick Squiers) is a great coach, he's got a great program and we're fortunate to be able to play with them.''

With Saturday's win the Ichabods have now won three matches in a row against the Lopers, marking just the second time that has happened in program history and the first since 1983-85.

The Lopers jumped out to a 5-2 advantage to start the match before the Ichabods went in front 10-6 on an 8-1 run that included seven kills, four by Jalyn Stevenson.

Nebraska-Kearney slowly chipped away at Washburn's lead and tied the game at 12 and then pulled within one point on three occasions before the Ichabods created a little breathing room and got back-to-back kills to reach set point at 24-21.

The Ichabods were unable to close out the win, however, as the Lopers poste five unanswered points to take the two-point first-set win. The Ichabod offense knocked down 19 kills while the Lopers recorded 13 kills.

Nebraska-Kearney won the opening point of the second set and quickly built a 13-5 advantage, benefitting from eight Washburn errors during that stretch.

The Ichabods put together 5-0 and 5-1 runs to pull within three at 19-16.

With Washburn trailing 23-18, the Lopers committed three errors in the midst of a 4-0 Ichabod spurt to make it a one point affair, 23-22. UNK was able to get the last two points with back-to-back kills from Emersen Cyza to take a 2-0 lead.

Washburn came out firing on all cylinders in the third set and took the first five points with four kills and a UNK attacking error.

The Ichabods led 12-5 when the Lopers started to battle back again and got within two at 15-13.

KeelyFreshman Kealy Kivinemi was at her best late in Saturday's match, helping Washburn rally for a 3-2 MIAA win over Nebraska-Kearney. [Photo by Kyle Manthe/Washburn Athletics] 

Kealy Kiviniemi knocked down a kill to start a 6-0 burst for the Ichabods to put them up, 21-13. The Lopers never got closer than seven points and Sophie McMullen finished off the 25-17 set win with a monster kill.

The score stayed within two points and had seven ties to begin the fourth set until the Ichabods rattled off six straight points to go up, 14-9. Washburn stayed in control of the set and won by seven points to force the decisive fifth set.

Washburn won the first two points only for Nebraska-Kearney to put up two points of its own to level the score in the fifth.

The ensuing point was called an attacking error on Washburn and the Ichabods challenged, only to have the call be confirmed and leaving the Lopers in front, 3-2.

A kill from Kiviniemi sparked another rally, this time a 7-2 run, to put Washburn up, 9-5.

The Ichabods held a 12-8 advantage when the Lopers started to make a push again and scored four of the next five points to make it a 13-12 game.

Halle Meister landed a kill to make it match point at 14-12, but the Lopers would not go away and got a kill and a block to knot up the score at 14-all.

Kiviniemi knocked down her fourth kill of the set to give the Ichabods a one-point lead and Austin Broadie finished off the triumphant comeback with a kill after a long rally that had several impressive defensive plays made.

"I just think the big thing was confidence for us,'' said Kiviniemi, a freshman out of Bellevue, Neb. "It was all there, it was just kind of like in our head. It was like, 'OK, we've really got to kick it into gear. We really have to get things started.'

"We all believed in each other and show what we could do.''

The Ichabods led in kills (67-55) and blocks (12-10) while the Lopers landed one more service ace than the Ichabods, 7-6.

"We played as good of defense as we've played all year,'' Herron said. "Anytime you out-hit them, out-dig them and out-block them you should win, but I've got to be honest with you, the first set getting away from us was really upsetting. When you're 24 to 21 you should win.

"But on the other side, after we're down 0-2 they didn't quit. To me that told me a lot about the character of the group that I have.''

Four Ichabods finished in double-figure kills led by Stevenson's 15. She also registered her second double-double on the year as she added 16 digs.

S. McMullen also notched a double-double as she had 12 kills and 26 digs. Kiviniemi and Broadie each had 10 kills and Broadie was a part of nine blocks on the afternoon.

The setter duo of Corinna McMullen and Sydney Conner also joined the double-double club.

McMullen notched 36 assists and 12 digs while Conner recorded 16 assists and 10 digs. Sydney Pullen had a team-high 27 digs in the backcourt.

"I think this was huge just because Kearney is a really good team in our conference. This (weekend) was our first couple of conference games and it really just shows what we can bring as a team coming into this season.''

The Lopers' were led by Cyza, who had a team-high 18 kills, and Fallon Stutheit knocked down 12 kills.

The Ichabods will hit the road for a short trip to Emporia State on Tuesday (6 p.m. start).

MATCH RESULT

Washburn def. Nebraska-Kearney, 24-26, 22-25, 25-17, 25-18, 16-14.

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