Sports recap: A magical year that we will never forget

Stephanie Davison dribbles around to make a play against Indiana State. Davison finished the season with 256 points.

The University of Northern Iowa football team finished their 2015 season with a final record of 9-5. Home field advantage presented the Panthers with a 5-1 record in in the UNI-Dome, their only loss against Western Illinois. The Panthers lost their first game to Iowa State but did not let it get to them, as they quickly turned it around to defeat Eastern Washington at home, followed by Cal Poly on the road. Then a three-game losing streak quickly turned into a seven-game winning streak, with outstanding performances such as the Missouri State game they won 41-0. In the FCS Playoffs, the Panthers came out ready to compete as they won their first game against Eastern Illinois, 53-17.

Afterwards, they came out on top against sixth ranked Portland State with a final score of 29-17. With one game away from the championship, the Panthers fell short to North Dakota State, 23-13. UNI was on the board early after a 25-yard completion from Bailey to Brandon Smith. Michael Schmadeke kicked two field goals for six points, but it was not enough to seal the deal

Quarterback Aaron Bailey had a great season, effectively moving the ball on the ground as well as in the air. Bailey rushed for 1,604 yards and totaled 19 rushing touchdowns and passed for 1,656 yards. Of his 121 passing completions, 13 resulted in a trip to the end zone for UNI. Defensively, Brett McMakin led the team with 80 solo tackles, 42 assists and five forced fumbles. Deiondre’ Hall finished the season with six interceptions which he turned into 100 yards going the opposite way.

The Panthers’ basketball team won against some very recognizable opponents. Some of these victories included their 71-67 win over North Carolina and an 81-79 victory over Iowa State. In their last 10 games of the regular season, UNI went 9-1. To sweep the MVC Tournament, the never-gets-old jump shot by Wes Washpun at the buzzer to take the win against the Evansville Aces, 56-54.Following the Evansville buzzer beater, the Panther’s first game of the NCAA tournament featured another buzzer beater by Paul Jesperson, only his was from half court and the Panthers won the game by three points.

UNI fought hard but lost their second game in the NCAA Tournament to Texas A&M in double overtime.Washpun led the team in field goals, of his 379 attempts, 177 fell for him. He also led the team in scoring 511 total points as well as leading the conference with 190 assists.

From deep range, Matt Bohannon led the conference with 93 three-point shots.
Jeremy Morgan was a defensive juggernaut this season and his effort shows in the statistics. Morgan finished the season with a conference-high 70 steals, 189 rebounds and 32 blocks.

With a healthy starting five, the Panthers had a very successful season by earning the best record in the Missouri Valley Conference. After finishing the regular season with 15 conference wins, they took the top seed in the MVC championship and made it to the championship game. Missouri State denied UNI’s chance at the NCAA Tournament but still earned a berth in the WNIT.

The Panthers went through Nebraska and Drake to advance to the Round of 16, but fell to South Dakota. Coach Tanya Warren was named MVC Coach of the Year after the successful campaign. Madison Weekly and Amber Sorenson were also named first team all-conference. Weekly finished second in the MVC with 17.7 points per game while Sorenson led the MVC with 97 three-pointers.

The Panthers have some big shoes to fill as they lose four starters in Jen Keitel, Sharnae Lamar, Stephanie Davison and Sorenson. With the changes and experimenting with the starting five, one spot is locked in with Weekly. Look for her to come out even stronger next season.

Making it to the NCAA Tournament for the 19th time was UNI’s volleyball team this season.

Although cut short in the tournament, the Panthers performed very well this season, breaking records all the way—including Bri Weber setting the single-season attack record for UNI at 1,303 attacks as a freshman.

A few of UNI’s wrestlers made a significant impact this season, resulting in four Panthers getting automatic bids into the NCAA Tournament—including Blaize Cabell who finished first in the Missouri Valley Conference over all other heavyweights.

Keep an eye out for Dylan Peters next season, the junior wrester who traveled to the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive year, received All-American honors for the second time in his career, and notched six top-20 wins over other ranked 125 lb. opponents this season.

Performing well across the board not only proves UNI’s versatility, but raw talent and strength we have to offer. Great season, Panthers!