DES MOINES, Iowa — UNI volleyball fought hard for every point and came out on top of the competition for the 10th straight match as the Panthers earned their ninth Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) win of the season in a thrilling 3-1 win over the Drake Bulldogs ” on Monday evening at the Knapp Center.
In one of the most anticipated matchups of the conference schedule, UNI now holds a two-game lead over the second-place Bulldogs midway through the conference schedule. Monday’s matchup was the first meeting between the teams since last year’s MVC Tournament Championship, where the Panthers rallied to a 2-1 victory over Drake.
HOW IT HAPPENED
UNI struggled to get into an offensive rhythm early in the first set as Drake took an early 4-0 lead. The Panthers gradually chipped away at the Bulldog lead as the purple and gold recorded five blocked shots at the net and took advantage of four Drake serving errors. Trailing by five points at 20-15, the Panthers scored six of the next seven points with a service ace. Erin Powers to request a Bulldog timeout. UNI finished strong after the timeout was called, scoring the final six points in a closing 9–0 run to win the first frame 25–21.
The Panthers jumped out to an early lead and never relinquished control of the second set, jumping out to a 5-1 lead as UNI maintained its offensive momentum after a late rally in the first frame. Hitting .326 as a team, the Panthers stifled Drake’s attempts to get into a rhythm with their attack, holding the Bulldogs to just seven kills with five offensive errors and a .057 hitting percentage. While Drake managed to pull back to within one point with a 10-9 score, UNI gradually pulled away thanks to 18 team kills and impressive team performances. Taylor Aldenand Emily Holterhouse and Lainna Green on a charge and block to take the second stanza, 25-19.
The third set will test both teams in an epic back-and-forth game that will feature 14 ties throughout the match. Although Drake continued to struggle at the pitching line with four errors, the Bulldogs racked up 17 completions while hitting .256, led by Macy Daufeldt and Haley Bush on offense. Green and Holterhouse continued to push the pace of the Panthers’ offense, which produced 13 kills while hitting .175. With the score tied at 21-21, the Bulldogs finished 4-2, winning 25-23 and preventing a sweep.
After a slow start to attack in the first three sets, Kira Fallert gave the Panthers a spark early in the fourth frame, ending the fight three times early as UNI and Drake battled back and forth again. In a set that featured six lead changes and 11 ties, the Panthers had 19 kills with just one offensive error as Drake continued its attack led by Daufeldt, Bush and Ashlynn Kuhn. Megan Witte would tie the score 16-16 on her first kill of the night, and the Panthers wouldn’t look back for the elimination Olivia TiernagelHolterhaus and Green, along with a dominant defensive grid, held off a late Bulldog rally to give UNI a 25-22 victory and the match.
Green finished the night setting new career highs in kills (16), attack attempts (26) and blocks (7) in the win over the Panthers, while Holterhaus had 15 completions with a career-best six blocks. Meanwhile, Alden recorded his sixth career triple-double with 12 kills, 43 assists and 12 receptions. Tiernagel tallied nine kills in the win with three blocks. Kira Fallert recorded five kills and a team-high 16 defensive digs. Erin Powers recorded 15 digs for the Panthers.
UNI improved to 89-16-2 all-time against Drake. The Panthers-Bulldogs Series is the longest volleyball streak at 107 matches in UNI history.
Monday’s win will mark the 13th time the Panthers have started Gateway/MVC 9-0 (1987, 1990, 1995, 1998-01, 2009-11, 2018, 2022). On all 12 previous occasions, UNI has won at least a share of the MVC regular season title, including 11 outright championships.
The Panthers have won the first set in all nine MVC matches this season. UNI is 15-6 overall on the season when winning the first set.
Monday’s match marked only the second time UNI has played four or more sets in a conference match this year. UIC pushed the Panthers to four sets in September. thirty.
UNI allowed just seven kills to Drake in the second set, the fourth time the Panthers allowed seven or fewer kills in MVC competition this season.
The Panthers’ 12 total blocked shots matched the season high set Oct. 7 at Indiana.
Taylor Alden Monday’s triple-double was the 54th in program history out of 1,343 games played all-time at UNI. Alden is now tied with Kara Gahler (1993-96) for the second most triple-doubles in Panthers history (six), behind all-time leader Bre Payton (2007-11) with 17.
Emily Holterhouse just 26 kills away from becoming the sixth Panther in school history to retire 1,500 times. She is also two blocks away from the 250 mark in her career.
UNI returns to action this weekend as the Panthers head south to take on Belmont on Friday night at 6:00 pm CT in Nashville. The Panthers will also take on Murray State on Saturday at 5:00 pm CT. Coverage of both games can be found on ESPN+ and Panther Sports Radio Network.