Panthers split series vs Indiana State

DAVID WARRINGTON

On Sunday, Feb. 28 and Monday, March 1, the UNI volleyball team welcomed the Sycamores of Indiana State to the McLeod Center for a pair of Missouri Valley Conference matches. The Panthers entered the series with a record of 5-6 on the season, while the Sycamores came in with a record of 4-7. The Panthers managed to split the two matches, falling in five sets the first time before bouncing back for a four-set victory in the rematch.

Early on in the opening set of match number one, the two teams went back and forth with very little separation. With the Panthers holding a slim 12-11 lead, they went on an 8-0 run and cruised the rest of the way, winning the set 25-15, and taking a 1-0 lead in the match. The second set was a similar story, with both teams seemingly unwilling to give their opponent the upper hand. However, with the score tied 17-17, the Panthers took over, scoring eight of the last nine points to win the set 25-18.

Needing a set win to stay alive, the Sycamores came out strong, winning five of the first six points in set number three. UNI did what they could to stick around, but Indiana State had the edge throughout the set, winning 25-16.

In similar fashion to the first two sets, there was very little separation between the teams throughout much of the fourth set. With the set tied at 13-13, the Sycamores went on a 12-3 run to finish the set with a 25-16 victory and force a decisive fifth set. The Panthers had a tough time sticking with their opponents in the fifth set, falling behind 7-1 and never recovering, ultimately losing the set 15-5, as well as the match, 3-2.

Freshman Tayler Alden had a nice game for UNI, finishing with a team-high 44 assists as well as matching the team best with 21 digs. Baylee Petersen also managed 21 digs in the match. Junior Inga Rotto led the Panthers in kills with 14.

The teams were back at the McLeod Center for a rematch just 24 hours later, and the first set was a story of runs. As soon as one team scored a few points in a row and looked like they were going to pull away, the other team would respond with a run of their own. Ultimately, the Panthers were able to put together enough runs to win the set 25-19 and take a 1-0 lead. The second set was more of the same, with mini runs coming frequently. Ultimately, the Sycamores got the upper hand in this one, winning 25-20 to tie the match at 1-1.

UNI came out hot in the third set, opening with a 12-3 run to firmly take the momentum. Indiana State would do what they could, but the Panthers wound up victorious, 25-16. Needing just one more set for a match victory, UNI got the upper hand in set number four, winning 25-16 to take the match, 3-1.

Alden was once again the leader in assists, finishing with 39. Emily Holterhaus had a team-high 17 kills, and Petersen led the Panthers with 18 digs.

With the series split, the Panthers move to 6-7 on the season. They were originally scheduled to play Illinois State on March 7 and 8, but those games have been postponed. They are now scheduled to play Depaul on Sunday, March 7.