Panthers win MVC Volleyball Tournament

The UNI’s volleyball team has dominated in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) all season. After finishing the regular season with an 22-9 record as well as beating ranked opponents such as Creighton and Kentucky, the Panthers proved they can strongly compete with the best.

UNI hit the road for the MVC Tournament in Springfield, Mo. over the Thanksgiving break looking to win their first conference tournament title since 2011. With the top seed in the bracket and a first-round bye, the Panthers took on the Valparaiso Crusaders in their first match in the semifinal round.

The Crusaders have never beaten the Panthers in their two seasons in the MVC, and from start to finish, the match was very intense. The first two sets would be split between the Crusaders and the Panthers.

UNI gained momentum in the third set, winning 25-21, and in the final set, winning 25-22, sealing the match. Three sets to one to advanced to the conference championship match.

MVC Player of the Year Piper Thomas ended this outing with 17 kills and four blocks. Karlie Taylor led the team in kills with 21 against Valparaiso.

This season has been one to remember for the UNI Panthers volleyball team. To determine the conference champion and the MVC’s automatic berth to the NCAA tournament, the Panthers would have to face the team that handed them their first conference loss of the season, the Illinois State Redbirds. UNI and Illinois State split their two regular season meetings.

In the first set of the championship, the Panthers crushed the Redbirds 25-16. The second set for the Panthers was back and forth, but UNI took the lead by three points and finish the set, 25-22.

In the third set, the Panthers were up 16-8, but the Redbirds found their way back and push their way to a 28-26 win, forcing a fourth set. Both teams gave it their all in the fourth set. After being tied at 22 a piece, the Panthers would rattle off three straight kills to win the match and clinch their first conference tournament championship since 2011.

Thomas led the way with 24 kills and two blocks for the Panthers. Taylor finished with a double-double of 15 kills and 16 digs. The final point would be scored by Jaydlin Seehase, who finished the match with 16 kills.

Taylor, Thomas and Rachel Koop were all named MVC first team all-conference. Kate Busswitz and Jaydlin Seehase were named MVC second team all-conference.

UNI will begin their NCAA tournament run tonight as they take on the Pepperdine Waves in Madison, Wis.

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