Panthers lose to Missouri in NCAA tourney

COLIN HORNING, Sports Editor

After falling in the championship game of the Missouri Valley  Conference Tournament, the Panther volleyball team earned an at-large rebirth in the NCAA Tournament due to their strong record and strength of schedule.

“We’re obviously extremely thankful that the committee felt our resumé was good enough to give us an at-large bid, especially when you look at the pool of 32 teams that they choose from,” head coach Bobbi Petersen said. 

  On Friday, Dec. 6, the Panther women traveled to Lincoln, Neb., for their first-round matchup against the University of Missouri.

“Both of our teams are very different from the first matchup earlier this season,” Petersen said.  “Missouri, to me, is one of the best offensive teams in the country.  They’re loaded offensively.”

In a rematch of a regular season game played back on Sep. 13, the Panthers were unable to get any momentum going offensively and couldn’t stop the Tiger attack, losing in three straight sets. The Panthers fell in the first 25-11, the second 25-13 and the final set 25-14, ending their short-lived NCAA Tournament appearance. Senior Karlie Taylor, playing in her final game as a Panther, led the team with eight kills and 10 digs for the contest, while fellow senior Rachel Koop notched 17 assists.

The Panther volleyball team looks ahead to next year, where they will be returning young talent from this season. They will be graduating setter Rachel Koop, outside hitter Karlie Taylor and defensive specialist Abbie Staack, three of the team’s leaders and key players. This year’s freshmen class of eight players will likely be asked to step up in a big way. Expect the Panther volleyball team next season to remain a force to be reckoned with in the Missouri Valley Conference.