CEDAR FALLS — Bruce Erickson joked that he may have angered Mother Nature last week after praising her for all the great weather his Northern Iowa women’s soccer team has enjoyed this fall.
Both of the Panthers’ scheduled matches were postponed a day because of poor weather as UNI lost to Drake, 2-1, Wednesday, before rebounding with a 2-1 overtime win over Valparaiso Sunday, the Panthers’ single-season program record 11th victory.
It was key victory that keeps UNI (11-3-1 overall) close to the top of the Missouri Valley Conference standings as five teams are 2-2 or better and just two games back of league-leader Drake, which is 4-0 in conference play.
“We had two games cancelled and moved and I thought our team, despite going 1-1 with that did very well, particularly this last weekend,” Erickson said. “I thought our players showed a lot of resolve. Really pleased with how we played over the week.”
UNI plays at Loyola in its second to last game of the regular season where a win over the Ramblers could keep the Panthers in contention for home-field advantage in the MVC tournament.
Loyola has a high-powered offense that has scored three or more goals in 10 contests this year, including a 5-2 victory over Kentucky and a 3-0 win over Iowa.
“They have two wins against power-fives and the games weren’t that close,” Erickson said. “They are high-powered. Valpo beat them at Loyola last week so they are certainly beatable, but you have to slow them down.”
Erickson said setting the program record for wins in a season is big for a lot of reasons.
“It shows two things,” Erickson said. “It shows how hard the players have work because they are as responsible for that as anyone. The other thing, and it goes into that, it instills a little bit more belief. They won one game on the road last year, one game on the road the year before, and (Valpo) was a tough team that we made look not as tough.
“To be able to do that it just gives them more belief. This goes into the how tough is Loyola question, is when you get good wins on the road, those tough games don’t seem as tough because you go into them a little more confident.”
VOLLEYBALL: After opening MVC play with seven consecutive wins, the Panthers dropped a 3-1 decision to Missouri State Saturday at home, one night after sweeping Southern Illinois.
“We played a real good match against Southern Illinois,” UNI head coach Bobbi Petersen said. “I think the biggest difference was the serve and pass game. I think we were able to take a really good Southern Illinois out of their offense with our serve. They were very rarely in system.
“Coming into the Missouri State match, I felt a little opposite of that. I felt Missouri State was in system most of the night and we were kind of in and out of that.”
After giving her players the day off Sunday, Petersen had one message for her team, which is set to face a Drake team that enters with an 18-4 overall mark, and a 7-1 conference record. UNI stands at 17-5 overall and 7-1 in the MVC.
“For us, it is interesting, I always talk about lick your wounds and move on,” Petersen said. “We have to do that very quickly this week because we play a very tough Drake team. They went five with Missouri State a night before Missouri State played us and it was not because Missouri State did not play well.”
WOMEN’S SWIMMING: It was a strong weekend for the Panthers despite losing to its third Big Ten opponent of the season, Nebraska, Friday, before topping Sioux Falls on Saturday.
Against the Cornhuskers, Katie Taylor (200 free and 100 back) and Molly Lembezeder (50 free and 100 free) each won three events as they also teamed with Moriah Ross and Crystal Florman to win the 200 medley relay.
“Saturday we had a chance to move some people around and work on our depth,” head coach Nick Lakin said. “We had 10 individuals win an event on Saturday.
“The three tests we had against Big Ten opponents really showed us things we need to work on technically and pacing. So we are going to go to work on those things today and hopefully those translate in two weeks.”
UNI returns to action Oct. 27 (at South Dakota) and Oct. 28 (at South Dakota State).
CROSS COUNTRY: UNI competed at Bradley Friday in their final competition before the MVC Championships in Springfield, Mo. on Oct. 28.
The women’s team had seven top-25 finishes led by Brette Corey’s 15th, while the men, missing three of their top six, were led by Luke Johnston in 67th.
“One of the things to take away from it is how much better we can be heading into the conference meet,” Panther head coach Dave Paulsen said. “We didn’t have a bad outing on the women’s side, we just weren’t as good as we have been in the last couple of weeks. Nothing really to panic about, just shows the need to run a little bit better together as a team.”