CEDAR FALLS — If it weren’t for the UNI-Dome, the University of Northern Iowa wouldn’t have much of a home softball season this spring.
In fact, the Panthers might be looking at a season with just three total home games on their field at Robinson-Dresser Complex, assuming they can play there as scheduled April 28-29. Of the 12 scheduled home games to date, nine have been played in the Dome with three more moved to Missouri State.
This week, UNI will host Drake (29-9, 12-0) for a 4 p.m. doubleheader in the Dome today. It’s likely that this weekend’s series against Indiana State will also go indoors.
“It was nice to play some home games this week,” head coach Ryan Jacobs said Monday during UNI’s weekly coaches’ press conference, although his team dropped three of four Dome games last week.
While teams were once reluctant to play indoors, they’ve warmed up to the idea.
“A good example ... this weekend Coach (Jeff) Tylka from Loyola, he had never been in here before. They’re used to playing in the Rosemont Dome in Chicago. The second he walked in he said, ‘I didn’t expect this. This is a nice facility.’”
The Panthers aren’t the only ones taking advantage of the indoor venue. Sunday, Drake and Valparaiso played a doubleheader under the big top rather than lose it to unplayable conditions in Des Moines.
“I’ve never heard a complaint about playing in there, and that was a big hurdle to get past the last four or five years with the league making sure that was a venue we could play in,” noted Jacobs.
“This year, it’s very valuable to have that. Otherwise we wouldn’t be playing any games at home.”
WOMEN’S TENNIS: UNI fell just short in two Missouri Valley Conference duals over the weekend, losing 4-3 and 5-2 to Bradley and Illinois State, respectively. Of the Panthers’ four MVC matches this season, three have been decided by 4-3 margins.
“I like how our players are playing,” said head coach Chris Sagers. “We’re playing hard. We’re playing well. It’s just coming down to a couple of points here and there and a match here and there. We’re so close to being 4-0 in conference right now ...”
UNI hosts Missouri State Saturday and Missouri-Kansas City Sunday. The Panthers will honor seniors Gisela Kemper and Savanna Hunt Sunday.
TRACK AND FIELD: UNI put together a strong showing at the University of Iowa’s Musco Twilight meet, which was moved from the weekend to Thursday to take advantage of better weather.
“We had a great meet,” said coach Dave Paulsen.
Among the highlights, Isaac Holtz moved into the top four in the Missouri Valley Conference in the shot put, hammer throw and discus. In the 400 hurdles, Jacob Smith and Jojo Frost ran under 52 seconds and rank 1-2 in the MVC, and the men’s 4x400 relay ran a 3:08.3, which is the fastest time for UNI since 2009.
“Right now on the men’s side, we have 15 performances in the top three in the conference,” said Paulsen.
On the women’s side, Paralympic athlete Jessica Heims posted a big personal best in the discus and is less than one meter from the American record. McKayla Cole broke the freshman 3,000 outdoor record.