UNI falls to Cyclones in home opener

In their first game of the 2021 season, the Panthers fell to in-state rivals Iowa State in three sets in front of an energetic McLeod Center crowd. The Panthers will return home on Sept. 24 against Bradley University.

DAVID WARRINGTON

After traveling to tournaments around the country to open the season, making stops in Wisconsin, Kentucky and Washington, the UNI Panthers volleyball team finally came home to the McLeod Center for their home opener of the 2021 season this past Wednesday. 

In their home opener, the Panthers hosted one of their biggest in-state rivals, the Iowa State Cyclones. Led by head coach Bobbi Petersen in the 22nd season opener during her tenure at UNI, the Panthers came in with a record of 4-5 on the season, whereas the Cyclones entered 6-2. Despite a good fight throughout the match, the Panthers fell to the Cyclones, three sets to zero.

In the opening set, the Panthers got off to a fast start, taking the first five points and forcing the Cyclones to use a timeout. However, the Cyclones responded with a run of their own, taking a 7-6 lead and forcing a UNI timeout. This set the tone for what would be a back-and-forth set. No team led by more than two points until, with the set tied at 18, Iowa State went on a 6-0 run to take a 24-18 lead. UNI rallied to score two more points, but a kill by ISU’s Kenzie Mantz gave the Cyclones a 25-20 win in the opening set.

The second set showed signs of also being close until, tied at four, the Cyclones went on a 12-0 run to take a 16-4 lead. This all but put the set out of reach for the Panthers as they ultimately fell 25-9. This second consecutive set loss gave them a 2-0 deficit in the match heading into the third set.

Facing a third and potentially final set, UNI went on a run early to take a 10-4 lead. However, the Cyclones came storming back to tie things up at 12. ISU continued on their run, before a response by the Panthers evened things up at 21 a piece. UNI couldn’t keep up that momentum, and ultimately lost the set, 25-22, and the match 3-0.

Tayler Alden was a standout in several statistical categories for the Panthers, tying for the lead in kills and assists, as well as being the sole leader in digs. As a team, the Panthers had a hitting percentage of .063, compared to .282 for the Cyclones. Iowa State also had a large advantage in kills, finishing with 43 while the Panthers had 30.

After the match, Jenna Brandt, UNI’s setter who spent her last three years at Iowa State, touched on playing against her former team. 

“I prepared myself knowing that it was going to be a little different night tonight, knowing that I know three fourths of the girls on the other side,” said Brandt. “Knowing that my new family has my back and will be there with me every step of the way was kind of reassuring to me the whole night.”

Petersen also spoke to the media after the match, and she pinpointed where she thought the game went wrong for the Panthers. 

“I think the biggest thing was our first ball contact,” said Petersen. “It was probably one of our poorest passing matches of the season.”

Petersen also touched on how talented the Cyclones are. 

“They’re good in all aspects of volleyball and they put a lot of pressure on us,” said Petersen. “I would have really liked to see us respond better.”

With the loss, the Panthers fall to 4-6 on the season. They will travel to Milwaukee, Wis. for a tournament this coming weekend, before starting their conference schedule on Friday, Sept. 24, when they host Bradley University.