UNI goes 2-0 versus SIU, wins thrilling second game


Toni Fortmann

UNI rallied back for a thrilling 3-2 victory in the second game of their weekend series against Southern Illinois. The final three sets of the game were decided by the final point.

COLIN HORNING, Sports Editor

With the unorthodox spring volleyball season now in full swing, the UNI Panthers volleyball team hit the road for their third Missouri Valley Conference matchup of the season, taking on Southern Illinois at the Davies Gymnasium in Carbondale, Ill. Coming into the matchup, the Panthers were 3-3 in the MVC and 3-6 overall, with their opponents coming in at 1-5 in conference play and 2-6 overall on the season. UNI was in control for much of the two-game set, defeating the Salukis 3-0 on Sunday and 3-2 on Monday.

The visiting Panthers had no trouble handling the Salukis in game one on Sunday afternoon. In the first set, SIU got out to an early 7-5 advantage before the Panthers scored six unanswered points, taking an 11-7 lead, one which they wouldn’t revoke the remainder of the match. The second set was a hard-fought, back-and-forth affair between the MVC rivals. With UNI clinging to a 20-19 advantage, Southern battled back with four consecutive points, three of which came on attack errors on the UNI side. With the hosts now holding a 23-20 lead, the Panthers fought back themselves, scoring the final five points of the set en route to an exciting 25-23 victory. The third set would prove to be the final set of game one; however, Southern Illinois did not go down without a fight. The Salukis gained a 16-15 advantage before the momentum dramatically shifted in favor of the Purple and Gold. UNI scored eight in a row to take a commanding 23-16 lead in the set. Southern had a mini-rally of their own and outscored Northern Iowa 5-2; however, it wouldn’t be enough as the Panthers capped off the sweep in game one with a 25-21 win.

Leading the Panther women in kills was junior Inga Rotto and sophomore Kaylissa Arndorfer, who had 11 and nine, respectively. Emily Holterhaus and Taylor Alden lead UNI with four aces each, and Alden leads the way with 36 assists. Alden was also named MVC Freshman of the Week for her weekend performance.

Game two took the entirety of five sets to decide the victor, with UNI ultimately coming away with the 3-2 win. The first two sets were controlled by Southern however, as they defeated the Panthers 25-18 in the first set and 25-19 in the second. UNI could not seem to string any momentum together in the first two sets and were prone to giving up large runs from the Salukis, and seemingly were unable to answer back. With Southern holding a strong 2-0 set lead heading into the third, things looked bleak for UNI. The Salukis started out strong, leading 15-7 at one point in the third set and were in the driver’s seat to put this one away. UNI rallied back to score nine of the next 12 points, trimming the Saluki lead to 18-16. The Panthers then picked up eight of the next 10 points and needed just one more to complete the comeback, leading 24-21. SIU rallied again, scoring the next three and knotting the third set at 24 apiece. Needing to win by two, the extended time saw both teams trade points until the Panthers finally were able to score twice in a row, completing the thrilling comeback and winning 29-27.

Both the fourth and fifth sets went the distance as well, with UNI holding off SIU 25-23 in the fourth and 15-13 in the fifth. The three victories were all in dramatic, hard-fought fashion. Rotto again led the team in kills with 14, and Alden led the way with 44 assists. Arndorfer and Carly Spies both had four blocks apiece for the Panthers.

The two-game sweep puts UNI at 5-6 overall and 5-3 in Missouri Valley Conference play. They will return home on Feb. 28 and March 1 for a two-game series against Indiana State. Both games will be held in the McLeod Center.