NORMAL, Ill. — Missouri State extended its mastery of Northern Iowa Saturday as the Bears captured the Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship and automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
The 25-15, 25-23, 25-22 win was Missouri State’s third of the season over UNI, its 21st win in a row and the 20th of the season without a loss against MVC competition. The Bears haven’t lost a match since Sept. 16.
Missouri State (28-5) dominated the opening set, recording the largest margin of victory in any game this season between the teams. Five of the seven previous sets were decided by two or three points.
Nothing the Panthers tried in the opening set slowed down the Bears’ early momentum. Missouri State rode a 6-0 run to a 10-3 lead while hitting .359 with 17 kills and just three errors. UNI hit .054 with 10 kills versus eight errors.
The second set was tied at 7-7 when the Bears went on a 7-0 run. The Panthers charged back and got within 23-22 before Missouri State closed out the set.
UNI matched the Bears for most of a final set that was tied 14 times before MSU got two crucial points and the lead on a kill by Lynsey Wright and a Panther attack error. Two kills by MVC Player of the Year Lily Johnson, her 17th and 18th of the match, finished off the win.
Karlie Taylor and Jaydlin Seehase had 10 kills each to lead UNI while offensive leader Piper Thomas was held to eight kills and a .207 attack percentage. Thomas had six blocks, Kate Busswitz had four blocks and Kendyl Sorge led UNI with 17 digs.
The Panthers will learn Sunday if they receive at at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.