CEDAR FALLS — In 16 previous seasons of women’s soccer at the University of Northern Iowa, only one team has ever won five straight matches. Only three other Panther teams have won as many as six home games, and only five have won seven games in a single season.
After shutout wins over Missouri State and Viterbo over the weekend, the 2016 UNI squad has positioned itself to make some program history. Sunday’s win was the Panthers’ fourth straight overall, sixth in as many matches at home and seventh of the season to date.
The good times are rolling for first-year head coach Chris Logan’s team.
“Another good week for Panther soccer,” Logan said Monday during UNI’s weekly coaches’ luncheon. “You can kind of see that there’s a lot of team spirit with our girls right now and a lot of confidence and a lot of belief. That’s one thing that’s really kind of changed over the last few weeks has been the belief amongst the girls that they are as good as we’ve told them they are and they do have that level of ability to compete with just about anybody.
“It’s been fun to watch these girls grow over the last few weeks as a group and individually.”
For the record, the only UNI team to ever win five straight games was the 2011 squad that finished 8-10-3, although the 2003 group that owns the program’s best-ever record of 10-8-1 also won four in a row. Meanwhile, with 22 goals this season, the Panthers have already scored more than 13 of the other 16 UNI soccer teams.
UNI hits the road this week for a Sunday Missouri Valley Conference clash with Evansville.
“They won the conference tournament last year,” Logan noted. “They just had a really good result against the conference favorite. But we’re full of confidence right now and hopefully we can do there and get a good result.”
VOLLEYBALL: If anyone questioned the parity in the Missouri Valley Conference this season, the first full night of league play Friday should have answered that question.
“The first day of conference play, three of the four matches went five sets,” UNI head coach Bobbi Petersen noted Monday. “That just shows you what kind of conference race this is going to be.”
Petersen’s Panthers were on the losing end of one of those five-set battles, falling at Southern Illinois before bouncing back Saturday to swat Evansville in three sets.
“I give these kids a ton of credit,” said Petersen. “They were definitely hurt and frustrated with Friday’s loss, especially when they felt they put everything they had out there on the court, but they turned around and executed very well against Evansville.”
Now 10-6 overall and 1-2 in MVC action, UNI hosts MVC frontrunners Missouri State Friday and Wichita State Saturday on homecoming weekend.
“Missouri State has beat No. 14 Illinois, No. 12 Ohio State, they beat Pacific, they beat Arkansas, they beat Arkansas State ...” noted Petersen. “Wichita has beat Marquette, Colorado State and Creighton, they went four with No. 3 Texas ...
“I think the biggest thing with those teams is they both have all parts of the game.”
Meanwhile, UNI is planning to play an alumni match at noon Saturday in the McLeod Center.
CROSS COUNTRY: Head coach Dave Paulsen continued to see progress with his respective men’s and women’s teams during a Friday meet at the University of Wisconsin.
“We were a better team this week than we were two weeks ago, which is always the plan,” said Paulsen. “I thought our team as a whole, both men and women, did a great job running better as a pack.”
UNI runs at Notre Dame Friday.
WOMEN’S TENNIS: UNI competed at the University of Minnesota’s Gopher Invitational Friday through Sunday. Head coach Chris Sagers said the field was filled with outstanding players that provided good early season challenges for his Panthers.
“We had some good, solid singles play,” said Sagers, who also said UNI’s doubles play was much-improved.
Next action for the Panthers is the Missouri Valley Conference individual championships in two weeks.