By Nate Tenopir, Sports Editor
The UNO volleyball team played its final competitive home match of the season Tuesday night, losing in straight sets to South Dakota. Before the match, the Mavs honored the personal and athletic achievements of their three seniors- Brittany Hanssen, Emily Myers and Angie Reicks.
That’s where the good feelings ended.
UNO committed seven service errors in the first set, blew an 11-3 lead in the second set and failed to be competitive in the third. The final count was 23-25, 20-25 and 14-25.
“I don’t feel we performed very well,” said head coach Rose Shires. “I know this is a good team (South Dakota) and they do good things, but I don’t feel we played our best tonight.”
Though the Mavs were close to the Coyotes on the stat sheet, the play on the court was anything but. UNO had 30 assists to South Dakota’s 33, and 51 digs to the Coyotes’ 55.
South Dakota hit .198 for the match, not an overwhelming number by any means. But compared to UNO’s .067, the number looks much larger.
In typical Maverick fashion, UNO came out and lost the first set. Besides a first-set victory last week against UMKC, the Mavs have lost the first set in every match this season.
UNO got in a 1-7 hole due to sloppy play at the start of the match, but fought back to within 18-19 after an ace from Hanssen. The teams traded points until a kill by South Dakota’s Kim Bulaga and an attack error by UNO’s Abby Sorenson made it 20-23, Coyotes.
The Mavs then rattled off three straight on a kill by middle blocker Lizzy Mach and the serving of Reicks. Reicks gave the ball back with a service error and a kill by Bulaga gave the Coyotes the set two points later.
The Mavs had simply dug too deep of a hole to get out of in the first set. Along with the seven service errors, UNO also had eight attack errors counted against them.
The way the team fought back mid-set and started set two, it appeared the Mavs had gotten the sloppy play out of their system.
Kills by Hanssen, Sorensen and an ace by outside hitter Natalie Ebke forced an early South Dakota timeout at 4-0. It did little to help settle the Coyotes as UNO would jump out to an 11-3 lead.
From there South Dakota edged back into the set. Four straight points from two kills and two UNO errors made it 15-12.
The Coyotes gave the ball back on an error of their own but then put in five straight points to tie the set at 17. The teams would get to 19-19 before the Mavs allowed the set to slip away.
South Dakota got four straight points off of three Maverick errors and one service ace. The Coyotes run ended with a service error but scored the next two points to finish the set 25-20.
As the UNO lead began to slip away in the second set, it appeared that the Mavs were starting to tighten around the pressure. Those fears were realized in the third when five Maverick errors and two South Dakota aces contributed to a 17-5 Coyote lead.
When UNO wasn’t hitting the ball into the net or wide of the sideline, they weren’t exactly giving themselves an opportunity to win the point. Bad passes either led to a scramble on the floor or a weak attack that was easily dug.
The Mavs could only get within nine the rest of the way and lost the deciding set 14-25.
“I’m very, very disappointed in our performance tonight,” Shires said. “It’s not how we’ve been playing as of late.”
Though the Mavs lost all three of their matches last week, Shires felt that her team’s response to playing three Division I opponents in four days was mostly positive.
On Sept. 20 UNO was swept at Wichita St., returned to Omaha early the next morning after 1 a.m., then played UMKC later that day at 6:30 p.m.
The Mavs pushed the Kangaroos to five sets that night, then went to North Dakota and lost in four, two days later. It may not sound like much, but compared to how poorly UNO was playing against Division I teams earlier in the season, Shires thought her team made some strides.
Tuesday night was a different story.
“They scored a couple points on us [in the second set] and all of a sudden it got to be [we thought] we were doing terrible,” Shires said. “It should have been, ‘OK you got a point, you got two points, no worries on that.’ Mentally they shut down, and that’s not what we needed at that point.”
Though UNO has an alumni appreciation dinner and match at the Sapp Fieldhouse on Oct. 22, the Mavs play their next 12 opponents on the road. UNO goes to the Washburn Crossover Tournament this weekend to play against Division II teams.
But the Mavs do have four more Division I teams to measure themselves against before the end of the season. One of those games includes a rematch with South Dakota in Vermillion on Oct. 11.
“We have to be there for each other, we can’t give up on each other at all at any point,” Shires said. “I’m not gonna turn my back on them, and they’re not gonna turn their back on each other. We just didn’t play well tonight and we gotta come back this weekend. We got four chances to play better.”