Panther volleyball back on top

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COURTESY

UNI defeated Missouri State in four sets on Saturday to cinch an outright Missouri Valley Conference regular season championship.

CADEN SHEA, Sports Writer

For the 20th time in program history, UNI crowned MVC regular season champions 

The UNI Panthers are the outright Missouri Valley Conference champions after wins against Southern Illinois and Missouri State this weekend at home in the McLeod Center. This team has become the 20th team in school history to hold this honor. The team had an amazing turn around from last year in which they placed eighth in the conference and had a conference record of 7-11. The Panthers have had an exceptional season so far and have finally capped it off by becoming the definitive champions of the conference for the regular season.

Before the Panthers became the outright champions, they first clinched at least a share of the conference title on Saturday night after a hard fought battle with the Southern Illinois Salukis. The Panthers came into this game on a mission to win a championship and clearly showed so in their gritty style of play. Emily Holterhaus came to play with a career-high 22 kills. Carly Spies, Kira Fallert and Inga Rotto each recorded double digit kills as well with 13, 11 and 10 respectively. Fallert and Tayler Alden both got double-doubles as well with the 11 kills paired with 20 digs for Fallert while Alden had 12 digs and 46 assists as well as the one and only ace on the game. Sydney Peterson had an astounding 24 digs, tying for the season-high in that statistic.

The Panthers and the Salukis began the first set dueling it out to a 7-7 tie after a hot opening. UNI kept the pressure on Southern Illinois after going on a lengthy run to achieve a 20-13 score in favor of the Panthers. However, the Salukis had an answer as they went on their own run of 11-0 which ended up securing the set 25-22.

The next set was also a fight as the two teams were deadlocked in ties for a majority of the game. However, Holterhaus got the energy up for the team, helping them achieve a 25-18 win to tie up the game. The next set was a back and forth match-up that went way past the usual goal of 25 with a 29-27 win for the Salukis making the game 2-1 in favor of Southern Illinois. 

The Panthers were backed into a do-or-die situation with a big win-or-go-home set and they did not disappoint. The teams had yet another back-and-forth matchup but many Panthers stepped up and helped aid them in an eventual 25-21 set victory. The last set was a high stakes matchup which would formally decide the game. This set was much like the rest with 10 ties going back and forth. The two teams battled until the very end in which the Panthers won 17-15 to win their first share of the conference. 

The Panthers had to win one more match if they wanted to be the outright conference champions and their opponent was the Missouri State Bears. The Panthers had yet another great game in the conference with Petersen’s 30 digs and a Spies double-double with 10 blocks and 16 kills. Alden recorded a whopping 56 assists while also gathering 10 kills in the win for a double-double. 

The Panthers started out the set much like the last game with many ties between the two teams early on. However, the Bears were no match for UNI’s late onslaught of attacks as the Panthers got the first edge up on their opponent after a 25-17 set. An impressive second set for Rotto and Fallert helped the Panthers get the 2-0 advantage on the Bears 25-20. 

Missouri State rebounded back in yet another hard-fought set for both teams. The set went down to the very last play as the Bears clinched the set 26-24. Olivia Tjernagel helped seal the game for the Panthers with an impressive performance. The Panthers made sure to solidify their place as the MVC Champions with a 25-18 win over Missouri State in the fourth and final set.

UNI will look to finish their spectacular regular season and complete a perfect conference record on Wednesday night against the Drake Bulldogs in Des Moines at 6 p.m.