CEDAR FALLS — Home is where the heart is and the 22nd-ranked Northern Iowa volleyball team is certainly glad to be back in Cedar Falls.
After opening the season with 15 of its 16 matches on the road, the Panthers, coming off a 2-0 start to the Missouri Valley Conference season with wins at Valparaiso and Loyola, will host Bradley Friday and Illinois State Saturday at the McLeod Center.
“Any time you get two road wins you have to be happy with that, so happy with our play this weekend,” Panther head coach Bobbi Petersen said. “We’re extremely excited to be at home, I don’t think we know what that is like so we are excited to have our fans here and be able to go out there and play hard.”
UNI’s only home match this season was a three-set sweep of Northern Illinois on Sept. 5.
Petersen said the first home weekend won’t be easy against Bradley (7-9 overall, 0-2 in MVC), and Illinois State (8-7, 1-1).
“Bradley ... as far as wins go they have started off slowly, but they have been playing well and have beaten UMKC which is one of the teams that have beaten us, and also took Missouri State to four games this weekend,” Petersen said. “Illinois State had a great non-conference ... beat UC-Santa Barbara, and went five with Florida State which is in the top 15, and just swept Arizona.
“Looking forward to a very competitive weekend and especially looking forward to being at home.”
At 12-4 overall, and 2-0 in the MVC, Petersen says her team still has plenty to work on as it prepares for Bradley and Illinois St.
“We definitely need to work on consistency in a lot of different areas,” Petersen said. “We talked about that after the weekend. Obviously we were happy to come away with a couple of wins, but definitely some things to keep working on.
“I’m still challenging our serve/receive offense. I really think that can be better and more consistent.
UNI junior middle hitter Piper Thomas was named the MVC Offensive Player of the Week after hitting .354 with a team-best 36 kills in the two road victories.
WOMEN’S SOCCER: The Panthers matched a school record with their seventh shutout Saturday in knocking off MVC preseason favorite Illinois State, 1-0, on Brynell Yount’s goal in overtime, her second game-winning goal of the season.
The victory improved UNI to 8-1-1 overall and 1-0 in league play as it gets set to host Evansville Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Cedar Valley Soccer Complex.
Head coach Bruce Erickson was happy that his team was able to pull out the huge win over Illinois State despite the fact it might have not had its best effort because of the heat.
“Normally I think we would’ve come out with more pep in our step, but the conditions obviously effected the way the game was played on Saturday,” Erickson said. “I didn’t think we dealt with it as good as Illinois State did, but none the less found a way to win a conference game, and an important one.
“I can’t fault our players at all. I thought they showed a lot of grit grinding through the game.”
WOMEN’S TENNIS: UNI competed at the Gopher Invitational and also battled extreme high heat which altered what head coach Chris Sagers hoped to achieve with the competition.
Sagers wanted to mix and match doubles teams as the Panthers prepare for the MVC Individual Championships sets for Oct. 7-9 in Normal, Ill.
“It was the mid-90s on Friday and it kind of got to us on Saturday and we had to rest a couple of players due to, I don’t know if it was some kind of bug or the heat, but unfortunately we didn’t get to learn too much about doubles.”
Despite not getting to see all the pairings he had hoped to see, Sagers said the Sunday bracket victory by Gisela Kemper and Reghan Lynch was a highlight, as well as freshman Harri Proudfoot’s first singles victory of her career.
“Sunday we did pretty well in doubles,” Lynch and Kemper played very well,” Sagers said. “We may have found something there.”