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Northern Iowa head coach Bobbi Petersen speaks to her team during a time out in a match against Iowa State inside the McLeod Center in 2016.

Courier File Photo

CEDAR FALLS -- Northern Iowa had a chance to determine its own destiny last weekend as far as the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season championship and postseason volleyball tournament.

Friday's win over Wichita State set up a Saturday showdown for first place with Missouri State, but the Bears retained the league lead in four sets.

Wichita State tried to take the Panthers by surprise Friday by changing its scheme, but UNI worked through it and got the victory in three close sets.

"Every single thing that we scouted, every single thing that we told our kids to be prepared for and worked on all week didn't matter," head coach Bobbi Petersen related Monday during UNI's weekly coaches' luncheon. "It was completely different -- the serve receive patterns, the transition offense ...

"So I give our kids a lot of credit. We started off a little bit slow, but they did a really good job of figuring it out and obviously executing a very different game plan than what we had originally gone in with."

With a chance to move into the league lead Saturday,

"Missouri State was great that night," said Petersen. "They played some really good defense. I think what we like to do to other teams -- force them into hitting shots they don't have, force them into being a little bit impatient -- I thought they were kind of doing to our side."

So, the Panthers can still win the regular-season championship and earn the No. 1 seed for the postseason tournament they will host Nov. 24-26, but they'll need help.

"What that means is it's not just about our side of the net now and what we're doing," Petersen explained."As far as the conference championship goes, there's going to have to be some other things that happen for that to happen."

UNI (18-8 overall, 9-4 MVC) faces just one match this week with Drake scheduled to visit the McLeod Center Saturday night.

CROSS COUNTRY: A year ago, the UNI women's cross country team finished seventh at the Missouri Valley Conference championships. Saturday, the Panthers walked off the course as champions.

"To flip the script entirely and go from seventh to first in one year is a testatment to what those young ladies have done over the summer and just buying into the process and focusing on what we needed to do as a team to get better," said MVC women's cross country coach of the year Dave Paulsen.

Ashley Norem, Kelsey Kirchoff, Hannah Truniger and Brette Correy finished in the top 10 and Lucy Conroy's 20th-place finish clinched the win.

"For all five of those girls to step up on the biggest stage, I just could not be more proud of those young ladies," said Paulsen.

UNI's men got strung out more than they wanted and finished sixth, but also improved from a year ago.

Next competition for both squads comes in two weeks at the Nov. 11 NCAA Midwest Regional Championships in Iowa City.

WOMEN'S SOCCER: UNI's season came to an abrupt end with a 1-0 loss to Loyola Sunday in the quarterfinals of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.

Still, the Panthers took a giant step in their first season under new coach Chris Logan, finishing a program-best third in the league (8-8-3 overall, 2-2-2), defeating a Power 5 opponent (Kansas State) for the first time and finishing 7-2-1 on their home field.

"I think when we look back at the body of work over the course of the season, there's certainly a lot for us to be proud of ... Above all else, a fantastic group of young women," said Logan. "I've been blessed to coach them every single day. They're a wonderful group of people and we're hopefully only going to keep getting better."

WOMEN'S SWIMMING: The Panthers dropped a dual meet at Nebraska Friday, then won one Saturday at Nebraska-Omaha. It was an eye-opening weekend for head coach Doug Humphrey.

"I kind of flashed back to my first year here when we went to Nebraska and really we had no business being there," said Humphrey. "Now they have to put up their best lineup against us to be competitive ... It really taught our girls a lot about going against teams that may have more talent top to bottom. We were still able to go in there and swim really well."

Saturday, the Panthers fought off fatigue and put together a strong performance at UNO.

South Dakota visits UNI Friday.

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