CEDAR FALLS — Heather Hook knew this night was coming.
The third-year starting setter who facilitated UNI’s offense during back-to-back NCAA Tournament runs following a two-year postseason drought, bid farewell to the home McLeod Center crowd Saturday night during a sweep of Indiana State, 25-20, 26-24, 25-22, in front of 2,469 fans.
Hook’s family members and friends throughout the community of nearby Grundy Center showed up for a spirited sendoff before UNI finishes league play with back-to-back weekends on the road and travels to Illinois State for the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
“I’ve absolutely loved my time here,” Hook said. “As senior night has been coming up, I’ve really started to reflect on it more. I just couldn’t be more grateful for this program, the coaches and them taking the chance on me to bring me here.
“This is the last time I’ll play in McLeod, but our season is far from done. I’m not sad at all. I’ll miss the awesome crowd we have and the awesome atmosphere.”
UNI’s lone senior reached a significant milestone as Hook became her storied program’s sixth setter to surpass 4,000 career assists early in set three.
The fifth-year senior distributed 37 assists on this night with middle Piper Thomas and outside hitter Karlie Taylor each leading the Panthers with 13 kills. UNI overcame 19 attack errors and improved to 23-6, 13-2 MVC, while Indiana State fell to 7-19, 5-9. In addition to the gains Hook has made on the court and her success in the classroom and community as a role-model for younger children, UNI head coach Bobbi Petersen has admired her evolution into a team leader.
“The thing I’m most proud of is her leadership and how she’s grown,” Petersen said. “It’s not the easy thing to do nowadays — to be a good leader and want the most of her team and have high expectations and bring all the personalities and different commitment levels together to be able to reach that. I’m really proud of her for getting out of her comfort zone.”
Part of that leadership is never being satisfied with the status quo.
“We’ve been talking a lot about trying to get better every day,” Hook said. “It gets to be a grind and the team that goes the furthest is going to be the team that never plateaus and keeps getting better.”
In addition to Hook’s assists milestone, Thomas eclipsed the 1,000 career kill mark in the opening set.