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The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

Panthers dominant in MVC Tournament

The Panthers won the MVC Tournament with wins over the Salukis and the Bulldogs. The Panthers get a chance to compete in the NCAA Championship.
Isabelle Bradley

Women’s volleyball started out the 2023 MVC Tournament with a game against the Salukis of Southern Illinois. The Panthers and Salukis went back-and-forth in this match, getting to a 12-12 tie midway through the set. The Panthers quickly turned around and went on a 6-0 run thanks to kills by Kira Fallert, Olivia Tjernagel and Kaylissa Arndorfer and kept it going to a 25-17 Panther win.

The Salukis got out to an early four-point lead as the Panthers struggled on offense to start. UNI gradually made their way back into the set after trailing by as much as five and scoring 17 of the last 19 points off of terminations. A kill by Emily Holterhaus and multiple by Fallert helped to push the Panthers to a set win of 27-25 after multiple SIU errors late in the set.

The third set started as a back-and-forth set much like the second one. The match got a 10-10 tie point before the Panthers took over and kept the lead for the set. The Panthers held the Salukis to just 10 kills in the set. UNI would go on to finish the set scoring five of the last six points for a 25-19 victory.

The Panthers would then go on to play Drake in the MVC Tournament Championship in a match that would be a repeat of last year’s finals matchup. The Panther defense would start out strong in the match with four blocks and aces against a well-rounded Drake offense. The Bulldogs would take a slight lead, but the Panthers would fight back with seven kills by Fallert and three kills each from Holterhaus and Layanna Green which helped the Panthers onto a 25-19 victory in the first set. 

The Panther middles stepped up in the second set, helping keep the momentum for the Panthers. With a service ace each from Tayler Alden and Erin Powers helped keep the Panthers moving and capitalizing on rallies with the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs pulled within one at 9-8, but Green would fire on all cylinders to help boost the Panthers to a lead. With 17 team kills, the Panthers would go on to win the set 25-23 and take a 2-0 lead. 

The Panthers started off scoring the first seven of nine points in the third stanza, before Drake made their way back into the set. The Bulldogs would go on a 6-0 run to tie the set at 19-19 before taking a three point lead. Kills by Alden, Fallert, and Tjernagel helped the Panthers to tie the set at 23-23, but Drake would score on consecutive kills to take the set 25-23. 

The fourth set continued to be a back-and-forth match. Drake’s defense stepped up and the Panthers could not get anything down on them and the Bulldogs went on to a lead at 22-18. The Panthers were able to pull within one, thanks to an ace by Fallert. The Bulldogs would rally on though with a kill and a Holterhaus error to push themselves to a 25-23 win and to force a fifth set. 

The Panthers did not back down in the fifth, coming out hot. Defense helped bring the team back to life, taking a quick lead and not looking back on an errorless set. They forced attack errors on Drake and went on an 8-0 run to close out the set with a 15-6 win. 

The Panthers had an outstanding season going undefeated in conference play, 18-0 and posing a 26-6 overall record. They currently have a 21-win streak, which is one of the best in the nation amongst teams. The Panthers went 11-1 at home, 9-3 away and 6-2 at neutral sites. In the Panthers’ game against Drake, the team played in just their third, fifth set game of the season. The Panthers fired on all cylinders this season with consistent offensive and defensive players. 

Head coach Bobbi Petersen brought in a decorated freshman class and some very talented transfers that helped her team to be successful throughout the season. Libero Powers served as a great addition to the team for the position. Middle blocker Green also fit in her role comfortably attacking like no other this season and showing her hitting speed and volleyball IQ. Freshman Cassidy Hartman has also fit into her role as a Panther transitioning into the DS position and showing she is a scrappy player to do so. 

The Panthers will look to continue their streak as they automatically qualified for the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament with their win over Drake in the MVC Tournament. They will play the University of Miami on Thursday, Nov. 30 at 5 p.m. CT. They will play in Madison, Wis. at the UW Fieldhouse home of the Wisconsin Badgers, which is the region the Panthers are in.

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NICOLE WATERS, Sports Writer

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