CEDAR FALLS — Bri Weber and her Northern Iowa volleyball teammates were determined to quickly flush the taste of Saturday night’s first Missouri Valley Conference loss of the season.
The Panthers embraced the shortest turnaround between matches on their league schedule as an opportunity for immediate redemption.
With a surgeon’s precision, Weber picked apart Drake’s defense to the tune of 21 kills as No. 25 UNI completed a dominant sweep of its in-state rival, 25-14, 25-17, 25-15, during a 1 hour, 13-minute McLeod Center sprint with 2,454 fans in attendance.
“We were itching to get back on the court and redeem ourselves,” Weber said. “We knew Saturday night we did not play the best volleyball we could have. We were kind of frustrated knowing that we could have done more, could have done better.
“We just came out here tonight with all the energy we had.”
Weber’s kill total ranked No. 2 on UNI’s all-time list for a sweep since the conversion to 25-point sets in 2008, just behind the 25 kills she tallied at Indiana State earlier this season.
“What I love about Bri is she has just expanded her game so much,” UNI head coach Bobbi Petersen said. “Two years ago she’s a kid that’s going to hit a lot of the same shots, and they’re going to be able to defend. Now she mixes things up. She can fire her arm with the best of them, but she has a lot of shots she can hit to really expose areas that are open on the defensive side.”
Finding instant success against this Drake team (18-5, 7-2) wasn’t a given for UNI (18-5, 8-1) as the Bulldogs had pushed conference leader Missouri State to five sets last weekend, winning one more than the Panthers managed.
It didn’t take long, however, for Petersen to realize her team came to play on this night. UNI landed 21 of 36 swings and hit .528 in set one before going on to out-hit Drake, .355-.123.
Setter Heather Hook tallied 44 assists with Piper Thomas (11 kills), Karlie Taylor and Jaydlin Seehase (10 kills apiece) each reaching double figures. No player from Drake managed more than six kills.
“I really feel like it’s one of the best matches we’ve played up until this point,” Petersen said. “Drake is a very good team. Very scrappy on the defensive side, one of the best blocking teams in the conference. If you told me we’d be hitting .355, I’d have not probably believed that.
“Heather did a really good job of mixing things up and really advancing her game in terms of seeing what kind of commitments were being made, what they were doing defensively, and then our hitters were able to finish.”
While it may not have shown up on the stat sheet, Petersen praised Moriah Johnson’s execution on the block. Taylor finished with 20 digs and Weber had 14 in the back row. It was a match that showcased UNI’s ability to quickly pick itself up as the first rotation through league play came to a close.
“We take a lot of pride in that,” Weber said, addressing the defense. “We don’t want to be just outsides that are only dominant in hitting. We want to be a well-rounded team and do what’s best for our team.”
WILDCATS REUNION: Drake freshman and Janesville native Gillian Gergen met her former high school teammate, Kendyl Sorge, Tuesday for the first time in collegiate competition. Gergen led Drake with six kills on .333 hitting with three blocks and an ace. Sorge recorded 17 digs for UNI.