Panthers take down unbeaten Valpo, UIC



Olivia Tjernagel (4) had a standout game on Saturday against UIC. Tjernagel finished with a career-best 15 kills.

CADEN SHEA, Sports Editor

The Panthers had a busy weekend as they took to the road to face both Valparaiso and the University of Illinois-Chicago in volleyball action. The Panthers headed into these games with a record of 7-6 on the year. They would go on to improve that record as they defeated both teams to have an undefeated weekend. 

The Panthers started off in Valparaiso, Ind. as they looked to take down the undefeated Valparaiso Beacons. The Beacons entered into this game with their best opening record in the school’s history with 12-0. The Beacons started off hot against the Panthers with a 25-14 victory in the opening set. The Panthers quickly rebounded with a set that featured gritty performances from both teams with multiple ties and lead changes throughout. The Panthers ultimately won the second set with a hard earned score of 25-22. 

During the third set, the two teams battled it out constantly looking for the win. They would trade runs which ultimately ended with Valparaiso victorious with a score of 25-18 to take a 2-1 lead going into the fourth set. The fourth set was a high stakes one as the Beacons looked to have the set sealed with a score of 23-19. The Beacons put on the gas, leading UNI by a total of seven points at one point in the set. The Panthers were not going down without a fight and climbed back to a score of 24-23. The two teams traded points for the win which was won by the Panthers 27-25. It all came down to the final set where the Panthers put on the gas and never looked back. They won the set 15-9 and broke the undefeated record of the Beacons while going the distance. Kira Fallert led the team with a season-high 18 kills while Tayler Alden obtained a double-double with 51 assists and 14 digs. 

Valparaiso was not the only team UNI faced on the road this weekend. The team traveled to Chicago, Ill. to take on the UIC Flames on their home court. The Panthers got the ball rolling with a 25-22 win in the first set. UNI kept their rhythm up with another triumph over the Flames in the second set. Emily Holterhaus’ five kills helped give the Panthers the 25-18 edge. This made way for an intense third set in which the Panthers would look to ensure their victory over the Flames. Unfortunately, UIC rallied back and won 25-22 after a tense finish. The final battle saw Olivia Tjernagel help aid the Panthers with four consecutive points that kept the Flames at bay for the remainder of the game and give them the decisive victory over UIC. This gave UNI an overall record of 9-6 on the 2022 season and an undefeated record of 2-0 in the Missouri Valley Conference. Tjernagel and Fallert both tallied 15 kills in this game while Sydney Petersen led the team with 12 digs.

The Panthers big weekend gives them a momentum boost that they will ride into even more upcoming road games against Missouri State on Sept. 30 at 6 p.m. and the Southern Illinois Salukis on Oct. 1 at 5 p.m. to conclude their four game road stretch.