A season which began with wins against some of the top volleyball teams in the country will extend into the 2018 NCAA tournament, after the UNI Panthers claimed the Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship Saturday in four sets over Illinois State.
The Panthers rolled 25-16, 25-22, 26-28, 25-22. UNI’s victory came in the rubber game of three meetings with the Redbirds this fall.
The Panthers started the first set slow but erupted after tying the match at 14, scoring 11 points to take the first set. The second set was a tough back-and-forth afair that the Panthers managed to close out, defeating the Redbirds by three.
Illinois State refused to go easily, claiming the third set after trailing 16-8. However, UNI never trailed in the final frame, finally pulling away after a 22-22 tie.
After the match, Piper Thomas, Kendyl Sorge and Karlie Taylor were named to the All-Tournament Team, with Thomas also recognized as MVP. The senior played one of the best matches of her NCAA career, finishing with 24 kills and only two errors for a .478 attack percentage.
By winning the MVC tournament, the Panthers earn an automatic bid into the NCAA volleyball tournament. Pairings for that event will be announced Sunday.