CEDAR FALLS — If there were any first-match jitters, University of Northern Iowa volleyball coach Bobbi Petersen did not see them last weekend.
Petersen wouldn’t call it mid-season form, but her team surprised her during a 3-0 weekend that saw the Panthers capture the Culver’s Governors Challenge in Clarksville, Tenn.
UNI opened the weekend with an eye-opening, five-set win over No. 19 Missouri.
“We didn’t talk about it with our team, but there are a lot of things that go on, especially when you have some new people out there,” Petersen said. “I could not be prouder of our kids and how they handled the first match of the season.”
Petersen gave a lot of credit to her returning veterans — Heather Hook, Kendyl Sorge, Bri Weber and Piper Thomas..
“I’m not saying there weren’t moments that yes this is our first match, but I thought we were able to just get out of those moments very quickly and keep the confidence where it was at,” Petersen said.
Thomas had a huge weekend, hammering home 47 kills while hitting .482 and stuffing 15 shots. Hook was her steady self at setter, while Weber was solid all over the court.
Additionally, sophomore Karlie Taylor in her first extensive action led UNI with 53 kills.
Both Taylor and Thomas were named to the all-tournament team with Thomas being named Most Valuable Player. In addition, Thomas was named the Missouri Valley Player of the Week Monday.
“We talked about each match that we go into that we are who we are at this moment and have to be proud of that and confident of that and then know each day we are going to get a little bit better,” Petersen said. “I thought our kids really embraced that.”
UNI’s schedule ramps up this weekend when it will face No. 18 Southern Cal on Friday, before taking on No. 13 Kentucky and No. 7 Creighton Saturday in Omaha, Neb.
“All three teams beat ranked opponents this past weekend,” Petersen said. “We have watched a little film on USC, but the neat thing with the four-year rotating tournament is you get a familiarity with the teams and style of play they have and some of the personnel that is still there. But obviously it is a new year.”
WOMEN’S SOCCER: After winning just one road game last year, UNI has started the 2017 season with three road wins — all shutouts.
“The two highlights were getting three wins and getting three wins on the road is important,” first-year head coach Bruce Erickson said. “The fact that defensively we are shutting teams out and getting three clean sheets in three games is a good start.”
Offensively, Sarah Brandt (two goals) and Brynell Yount have led the way. Brandt was named Missouri Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Week Monday after scoring in both wins over the weekend.
UNI hosts North Dakota State Friday at 7 p.m. at the Cedar Valley Soccer Complex.