ThunderWolves hang with Kearney, but fall in three

Pack senior Alea Wildman knocks a ball home against fifth-ranked Nebraska-Kearney, part of her 17-kill night.

Pack plays close sets with fifth-ranked Lopers before folding.

PUEBLO, Colo. ( - Sept. 16, 2011) - If there's one thing that CSU-Pueblo head volleyball coach Jen Gomez doesn't put up with, it's "moral victories."  Friday, the ThunderWolves certainly claimed one of those moral victories when it matched fifth-ranked Nebraska-Kearney nearly shot for shot for a bulk of the match, but the final three sets to none sweep decision was still a hard one to swallow, losing 25-22, 25-23, 25-16.

The ThunderWolves were playing right with the Lopers for the first two sets, never falling behind more than four points and grabbing the lead at several points.  Janae Heiser (Sr., Westminster, Colo.) was on fire in the first set, converting seven kills and turning in the rare 1.000 hitting percentage on the Lopers.  But in the end, a few well placed kills by the Lopers coupled with some clutch blocks down the stretch delivered the set for Kearney.

In the second set, Kearney pulled away by as much as 17-8, but a spirited ThunderWolf comeback left the Lopers shaking in their shoes.  CSU-Pueblo converted 12 of the next 16 points, pulling to within one, 21-20.  But in the end, three late kills by Ariel Krolikowski helped the Lopers eke out a 25-23 win.

The Pack's performance in the first two sets certainly showed they could play with Kearney, but the push was missing that extra something, Gomez said.

"We would push them, and fall back, then push them, and fall back," Gomez said.  "I think we showed we can play with anybody, and that's a good thing.  But we need to have the attitude that losing in unacceptable."

The top attacker of the night for the Pack was Heiser, who finished with 16 kills.  Alea Wildman (Sr., Denver, Colo.), who came through with the top attack percentage on the squad of .407.  As a team, CSU-Pueblo hit a very respectable .244 against one of the top defensive teams in the nation.  It was the Lopers' very tall attack that gave the ThunderWolves fits, though, registering a .353 attack percentage on the night.

The three-set loss drops the Pack to 1-1 in conference play and 5-5 overall.  CSU-Pueblo will host Chadron State in another conference battle Saturday night at Massari Arena.