By Jackson Taylor
The University of Nebraska at Omaha volleyball team’s season came to a close on Sunday afternoon as they fell in the Summit League Championship game to No. 1 seeded Denver. After sweeping Oral Roberts in the first round and earning a come-from-behind victory over IUPUI in the semifinals, Omaha’s hot streak came to a close in a hard fought 3-2 (28-26, 25-23, 20-25, 18-25, 10-15) loss to the Pioneers. The Mavericks finished their incredible season at 19-13 (12-4 Summit League).
Omaha and Denver came into the tournament as two evenly matched teams. In the regular season, Denver had swept Omaha at home, but the Mavericks got their revenge against the Pioneers with a sweep of their own in late October.
Omaha jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the first set on a Mackenzie Horkey kill followed by a pair of Denver errors. The Mavericks would further extend their lead to 7-2 and forced an early DU timeout. Later in the set, Omaha went on a 5-0 run to put them up 19-13. Denver then went on a rally, cutting through the Omaha lead and tying the set at 22 apiece. The Pioneers would go on to take their first lead of the set and extended it to at 24-22 but Omaha rallied back with a run to take the first set, 28-26.
In the second set, Denver put the pressure on Omaha and forced Head Coach Rose Shires to call an early timeout as the Pioneers led 5-1 early. The Mavericks were able to come back with and tie the score at 16 off a 6-0 run and then took their first lead of the set at 18-17 on a kill from Horkey. Omaha never looked back and maintained their lead to win the second set, 25-23.
The third set featured an early series of lead changes with neither team able to pull away. Denver was able to go on a 6-0 run to push out to a 15-11 lead midway through the set. Omaha was able to keep the game within striking distance but Denver kept focus to the end to win set three, 25-20.
With Omaha leading in sets 2-1, Omaha got out to a 5-1 lead, and a 7-2 run saw them out front 13-9 midway through the fourth set. DU responded with a 5-1 rally of their own to tie it at 14 and forcing an Omaha timeout. Once again Denver pulled away late in the game, winning the fourth set 25-18 and forcing a decisive game five.
In the fifth and final set, Omaha jumped out to a hot start, scoring the first 5 points of the match. Denver stormed back to tie the game at 8 after an 8-3 run. The Pioneers wouldn’t trail again and went on to win set five 15-10 and the match 3-2.
Mackenzie Horkey led Omaha with 18 kills and 19 digs. Sophomore Sydney O’Shaughnessy recorded her team-leading 24th double-double, and contributed 55 assists. Michaela Schimmer had 16 kills and a hitting percentage of .282 on the day.
Denver will now compete in the NCAA Division I Volleyball tournament after their second straight Summit League Title. A selection show will take place on Nov. 29 and the first and second rounds will occur on Dec. 4-6. The Championship will be held at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb. with semifinals taking place on Dec. 17 and the championship on Dec. 19.