The Nebraska-Kearney volleyball team will try and make a 14th straight appearance in the NCAA Division II Tournament this fall.
Only two other schools in the country, MIAA-member Central Missouri (29) and Tampa (16), have longer consecutive NCAA D2 appearances.
Head coach Rick Squiers is 417-58 in 13 years as Lopers head coach but his program will now have to compete in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA), a step up in competition from the RMAC (Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference).
The Lopers start fall camp on Monday, August 13th, with its first match August 31st in Hawaii.
UNK officially joined the 15-member MIAA on July 1st. Of note, Lincoln U. (Mo.) and Northeastern State U. (Okla.) do not sponsor volleyball at this time.
In addition to playing in a league with such national powers as Central Missouri (4th in last year's final national poll) and Washburn, Kans. (7th), UNK remains in the Central Region.
That means, comes NCAA time, the Lopers will have to fight through five-time defending national champion Concordia-St. Paul (1st), Minnesota-Duluth (6th), SW Minnesota State (8th), Wayne State (10th) and Minnesota State (20th) to just get to the Elite Eight.
Setter Jenna Rouzee & middle Ellie Pesavento
Coming off a 32-2 campaign in which it finished ninth in the final national poll, UNK returns most of its firepower but must replace first-team All-American middle blocker Haley Lake (2.69 kps, 0.75 bps, .375 attack pct.) and defensive specialist Shelby Workman (2.94 dps).
Senior outside Ariel Krolikowski (Grand Island) earned honorable mention All-American honors last fall after averaging 2.92 kills and 3.12 digs per set while serving up 26 aces.
Next to her is junior Ashley Leitner (Lincoln SW), who earned All-RMAC honors thanks to a team-best 3.20 kps and a .291 attack percentage.
A pair of juniors return in the middle and on the right side in Ellie Pesavento (Omaha Marian) and Katie Sokolowski (Kearney Catholic).
Pesavento has twice earned All-RMAC honors as she boasts a career .364 attack percentage with Sokolowski at 1.92 kills and 0.44 blocks per set last season while hitting a solid .318.
A likely candidate to replace Lake in the middle is Wayne State transfer Steph Brand, who was an all-state selection at Grand Island Central Catholic. Brand, at six foot, also has three years of eligibility remaining.
Running the show is senior setter Jenna Rouzee (11.33 aps, 2.41 dps & 24 aces) with senior Kaleigh Anderson (3.04 dps) and sophomore Liz McGowan (4.76 dps) both capable of being the libero.
McGowan can also play on the outside as can senior Abbey Schueth (Ewing). Showing her versatility, Schueth replaced an injured Sokolowski at right side in last year's NCAA regional match.
The new faces are outsides Mari Jo “MJ” Massanet (Manhattan, Kans.) and Christina Silver (Grand Island), setter Erin Seele (Johnstown, Colo.), middle Kalei Fertig (Kearney Catholic) and outside hitter/middle blocker Katie Morten (Loomis H.S.).
Finally, setter Hannah Afman (Denver) returns after redshirting last fall.
Home matches of note include September 29th vs. Washburn, October 12th vs. Truman State (Mo.) and November 9th vs. Central Missouri.
UNK begins the regular season August 31-September 1 in Hawaii.