Panthers win. 2 of 3 in Washington State tournament

DAVID WARRINGTON

This past week, the UNI Panthers volleyball team traveled to Pullman, Wash.  to compete in the 2021 Washington State Tournament, hosted by Washington State University. The Panthers entered the tournament with a record of 2-4 on the season. After picking up wins in two of their three matches, they improved their record to 4-5.

In their opening match of the tournament, UNI took on the Gonzaga University Bulldogs. The Panthers got off to a fast start in the opening set, scoring the first five points. They didn’t slow down, eventually coming away with a 25-12 win in set one. In the second set it was the Bulldogs who got off to a fast start, pulling away 6-1. The Panthers finally tied it up at 11-11, and after a series of back-and-forth points, UNI pulled away for a 25-21 win. The third set was close until the Panthers put together a 10-2 run, ultimately winning the set 25-16, and the match 3-0.

Both of the final two matches took place on Friday, with UNI’s first match of the day being against the hosts of the tournament, the Washington State University Cougars. 

The Cougars, who were previously a top-25 team in the country before dropping out of the rankings last week, struggled to pull away from the Panthers until a 7-0 run put the Panthers away in the first set, with UNI falling 25-13. The second set was also back and forth, with the Panthers never falling behind by a huge margin, but ultimately failing to match the Cougars, falling 25-16. The Cougars went on the offensive to start the third set, pulling away 9-1. The Panthers made a comeback with a run of their own, but it wasn’t enough as the Cougars took the set, 25-17, and the match 3-0.

In the final match of the tournament, UNI took on the Long Beach State University Beach. In the opening set, the Panthers pulled away early before surviving a comeback effort to win the set 25-21. After a tight beginning to the second set, it looked like the Beach would pull away before UNI made a comeback of their own to take the set 25-23. The third and final set was the closest of the tournament for the Panthers. With neither team able to get any separation when they reached 25 points, the teams were tied 26-26. Back-to-back kills by Olivia Tjernagel and Emily Holterhaus secured the set for the Panthers, 28-26, and the match, 3-0.

With the two wins in Washington, the Panthers improved their record to 4-5 on the season. UNI will host their home-opener this coming Wednesday, Sept. 15, hosting in-state rival Iowa State. They will then travel to Milwaukee, Wis., for a tournament on Friday, Sept. 17 and Saturday, Sept. 18.