Matt Buttermore wasn't turned off by the turnover the past few years in the Hastings College volleyball program.
The Broncos played under three coaches in three years. But they've found stability and success with their new coach, a former assistant at Bellevue and Concordia.
Under Buttermore and his assistant and wife, the former Laura Pilakowski, Hastings has surged to sixth in the NAIA rankings with a 21-3 record. The Broncos are 11-0 and in first in the Great Plains Athletic Conference.
“I knew we'd have a good team,” Buttermore said. “If you'd asked me if we'd be 11-0 in conference, I don't know if I would have gone that far.”
Buttermore wanted a head coaching position and said he liked the athletic tradition at Hastings. It's proven to be a perfect fit for him and Laura, a two-time All-American at Nebraska.
The Broncos had a lot of talent and senior leadership, Buttermore said. It was just a matter of building relationships and trust. He could tell that the team was buying into his philosophy after performing well last spring at a tournament at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
Behind captains Shayna Schacher, Kendra Schwein and Haley Beardsley, the Broncos are in the top five in every category in the GPAC. Schwein is first in kills (4.3), Beardsley is first in assists (10.5) and Schacher is second in hitting percentage (.312). Schwein and Beardsley are seniors, along with Carissa Kinne, Allison Kern and Kirsten Nickel.
Buttermore is excited at how well his team is performing.
“We're just good at everything,” he said. “We really focus on serving, passing and defense and we have some girls who can really hit the ball. We try to hang our hat on ball control.”
The Broncos knocked off second-place Dordt over the weekend. The schedule stays tough with games in the next week against Nebraska Wesleyan, Northwestern and Midland.
“There is no coasting in the GPAC,” Buttermore said. “We have to keep working hard and maintaining our standards of play.”
Buttermore said he's been enjoying coaching for the first time with his wife, who is also the team's strength coach. Laura had been the strength coach at Nebraska from 2004 to '11.
“She's been at a program that achieves at a high level,” he said, “so she knows how things need to be run.”
'Gorilla' is gone for the Lopers
It was a Sunday like no other this season for the University of Nebraska at Kearney football team.
The 1-7 Lopers ended an eight-game skid dating to last season by scoring 21 straight points to defeat Southwest Baptist 34-20 on Saturday.
“The kids were in better moods, the coaching staff in better moods,” coach Darrell Morris said. “The kids were chatty. You can just tell they felt good about themselves.”
Morris said after a poor third quarter, the Lopers came on strong in the fourth. They also got a few breaks they hadn't earlier in their first season in the MIAA.
They've continued to work hard and stay positive as the losses and injuries piled up.
The win felt great, Morris said.
“You can tell that they got that old 800-pound gorilla off their back,” Morris said. “Just a sigh of relief.”
UNK plays Central Missouri on Saturday. The 5-3 Mules were upset by 1-7 Northeastern Oklahoma State 24-23 on Saturday.
Nebraska connection at Minnesota State
Nebraska natives have made their presence felt on Minnesota State's offensive line.
The seventh-ranked Mavericks (8-0) play at Wayne State at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Junior guard Andrew Essman of Lincoln Southwest has started 30 games. Center Josh Meeker of Millard West and tackles Gary Hiatt and Max Hofmeister of Millard South are sophomore starters.
Another starter, tackle Chris Reed of Omaha Central, has missed several games with an injured ankle. He'll find out Tuesday if he can play this week.
Each weighs more than 300 pounds.
“They are just hard-nosed blue-collar Nebraska kids,” offensive line coach Mike Cunningham said. “They are all good kids and tremendous football players. We've had great success with offensive lineman out of Nebraska.”
Cunningham, who is from Milford, Neb., has been coaching at Minnesota State since 2006. Nebraska is one of his recruiting areas.
Other Nebraska starters include linebacker Marcus Hall-Oliver of Omaha Central, who leads the team in tackles with 41. His career total of 124 leads the team. Safety Jordan Hale of Millard South has 27 tackles.
Josh Couch of Millard North has also seen some action. Linemen Garrett Biebl of Millard West and James Anderson of Omaha Burke are redshirting.
>> The Bellevue volleyball, women's soccer and men's soccer teams are undefeated in MCAC competition.
The volleyball team, which has won five of its past six matches, is 7-0. The Bruins (25-9) defeated College of the Ozarks to take sole possession of first in the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference.
The women's soccer team is 11-3 and 6-0 and the men are 8-6-1 and 5-0. Both are riding a seven-match win streak and both will play Oklahoma Wesleyan on Saturday for the MCAC regular-season titles. The women play at noon and the men at 2:30 p.m. at Tranquility Park.
>> South Dakota's Kendall Kritenbrink, a sophomore hitter from Omaha Gross, has been named the Summit League offensive player of the week for the second time. She recorded 20 kills in back-to-back matches.
>> The Hastings women's soccer team clinched the GPAC regular-season title by defeating Northwestern 2-1 last weekend. The Broncos (8-6-1, 7-0-1) outshot the Red Raiders 34-8.
“The team has been through a lot this season and have responded extremely well to every obstacle and challenge,” coach Mark Hiemenz said.
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