CEDAR FALLS — Throughout its non-conference schedule, the University of Northern Iowa volleyball team has been keeping company with some the best teams in the country.
Now the Panthers are keeping company with them in the polls, too.
Tuesday’s five-set win at No. 19 Iowa State and Saturday’s four-set victory over 10th-ranked Nebraska — UNI’s third and fourth wins over Top 20 programs in six tries this season — vaulted the 10-4 Panthers to 22nd in Monday’s American Volleyball Coaches Association rankings.
“When you look at our non-conference schedule, I’m just very proud of our team and I guess the resilience they’ve had to what has been a pretty crazy tough schedule,” head coach Bobbi Petersen said Monday during UNI’s weekly coaches’ press conference.
“Obviously, they’re great wins for our program this season, but I think great wins for our program over the history and I’m very proud of our kids.
“We also know through those matches and throughout our entire non-conference season, we have found a lot of things we want to get better at and we want to get more consistent at,” said Petersen. “Our job is to make sure that we’re going out every day and getting better because we have a lot of goals for this season ...”
Now it’s on to the challenging Missouri Valley Conference schedule. UNI plays at league newcomer Valparaiso Friday and at Loyola Saturday.
WOMEN’S SOCCER: UNI ran its record to 7-1-1 with a win at Northern Illinois Friday and a tie against North Dakota Sunday. Friday, the Panthers head into Missouri Valley Conference play when they host Illinois State at 7 p.m. at the Cedar Valley Soccer Complex.
“It’s nice to start out with the top team, I think, and get the chance to play them at home,” said Panther head coach Bruce Erickson.
UNI has outscored its first eight opponents 17-5, but the Panthers have allowed all five of those goals in the last three games.
“I think we’ve probably shown our wear a little bit more the last few games,” said Erickson. “We’ve expected really most of our back four to play the full game. Now with the Fridays-Sundays done and we can give them an extra day off this week, that’s going to help.”
In other news, UNI’s Sarah Brandt was named MVC Offensive Player of the Week Monday. She scored three times in two games over the weekend.
CROSS COUNTRY: Head coach Dave Paulsen got a strong showing from his team at Wisconsin’s Mayflower Day Open Saturday. C.J. May led the men with a top five finish, and Hannah Truniger set the pace for the women with a third-place effort.
UNI has a week away from competition before heading to Notre Dame.
“I’m really pleased with where we’re at,” said Paulsen.
WOMEN’S TENNIS: Four newcomers made their UNI debuts at the Drake Invitational over the weekend.
“Overall, a pretty good weekend for us,” said Coach Chris Sagers. “Lots of unknowns with four new faces to our squad.”
UNI experienced some good results in singles where Reghan Lynch and Kate Merrick overcame opening-match losses to win their consolation brackets and Val Caro fell short in the consolation finals.
The Panthers compete at the Gopher Invitational in Minneapolis this weekend.