Panthers still perfect at MVC halfway mark



For the 12th time in program history, the UNI volleyball team is off to a 9-0 start in Missouri Valley Conference play.


The UNI volleyball program is halfway through their Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) schedule, and they have yet to lose a match, sitting at a perfect 9-0 in conference play. The Panthers are also currently ranked 49th in Ratings Percentage Index, best among MVC teams. It is a team with depth, experience and tons of skill that has plenty of potential to make a lot of noise in the postseason.

Starting conference play 9-0 isn’t anything new for the UNI volleyball program. This is the 12th time it has happened in program history, most recently in 2018. In all 11 other instances, the Panthers won at least a share of the MVC regular season championship, including winning the outright title 10 times.

The Panthers regular season didn’t get off to the start they wanted, losing five of their first six matches. In a trip to Arizona, the Panthers fell to Toledo and Arizona State in four and five sets respectively, but did pick up a 3-0 win over CSU Bakersfield. Next up was a trip to Omaha, Neb. for a tournament hosted by Creighton. In matches against three ranked teams, the Panthers picked up just one set win, falling to USC, Kentucky and Creighton, ranked 25th, 16th and 17th in the nation, respectively.

After this start, the Panthers turned it around at their home tournament. Inside the McLeod Center, UNI took down Western Michigan in four sets, Southeast Missouri State in three and Grand Canyon in a reverse sweep, winning the last three sets after falling behind 2-0. This started a string of success for the Panthers, winning 15 of 16 matches in that time. This included a win in Ames against Iowa State, and the one loss came to Big 10 foe Iowa on the road.

Emily Holterhaus has led the way offensively for the Panthers. The Pella, Iowa native has recorded 269 kills to lead the team. Kira Fallert has also done very well, as the sophomore has 230 kills. Fallert has also been deadly at the service line, totaling a team-best 24 aces so far this season. A total of six players have at least 100 kills.Tayler Alden has done a great job leading the UNI offense. Alden has totaled 818 assists on the season, and has also added 117 kills.

Carly Spies leads the way in blocks for the Panthers with a total of 87. Inga Rotto, who has now played in more sets and matches than any other Panther, has also been good defensively, totaling 62 blocks alongside 190 kills on a .356 hitting percentage. Sydney Petersen has added a team-best 340 digs. The libero is a transfer from Texas and the daughter of head coach Bobbi Petersen playing her last collegiate season for the Panthers.

There are plenty of other Panthers that have made huge contributions this season, such as Sydney’s twin sister Baylee Petersen, who is just 22 digs away from 1,000 in her career, Olivia Tjernagel, and Payton Ahrenstorff, that help prove just how deep and talented this team is.

Next up for the Panthers will be a road trip to Indiana, taking on Indiana State this Friday as well as Evansville on Saturday. Your next chance to catch the Panthers at home will be Friday, Oct. 28 and Saturday, Oct. 29. The Panthers will host Murray State on Friday and Belmont on Saturday. All games remaining on UNI’s schedule can be viewed on ESPN3, with the exception of the season finale at Drake, which will be available for streaming on ESPN+.