The UNI volleyball team defeated the Valparaiso Crusaders in a Missouri Valley Conference semifinal match on Friday night, 25-22, 22-25, 25-21, 25-22. UNI will meet the Illinois State Redbirds in the MVC Championship match Saturday.
Close sets and intense back-and-forth action kept the teams on their toes.
Karlie Taylor finished with a double-double while leading the Panthers in kills with 21 and finished with 14 digs. Setter Rachel Koop recorded 60 assists and 15 digs in the four-set victory. Piper Thomas ended with 17 kills and four total blocks.
Now, the number one and two seeds will face off in the MVC Championship match on Saturday, November 24 at 4 PM. UNI and Illinois State split a pair of regular season meetings.
Prior to the tournament, the Missouri Valley Conference announced its post season award winners. Thomas came away with the Player of the Year award, the MVC’s highest volleyball honor. She and two other UNI stars – Koop and Taylor – earned First Team All-MVC honors. Two additional Panthers claimed Second Team All-MVC honors: Kate Busswitz and Jaydlin Seehase.
Thomas has dominated MVC competition all season long, recording a league leading .400 attack percentage and finished the regular season with 411 kills. She will complete her college eligibility as the UNI career solo block leader, with 97.
Koop earned First Team All-MVC recognition after averaging a league high 11.81 assists per set, good enough for 6th best in the NCAA. Taylor led the conference in kills per set, total kills, and total points. She ranks eighth in the NCAA with 4.80 kills per set.