NORMAL, Ill. — Northern Iowa middle hitter Piper Thomas took control of Friday’s Missouri Valley Conference Tournament volleyball semifinal with 28 kills and 10 blocks as the Panthers ousted Illinois State, 25-20, 24-26, 25-22, 25-15 inside Redbird Arena.
The win advanced UNI (26-7) into the championship match of the MVC Tournament for the 23rd time in program history, ending a rare finals drought that dated back to 2014.
In one of the most dominant performances of the season, Thomas’ 28 kills were the most by an NCAA Division I player without an attack error this fall.
The UNI middle collected the seventh-most kills in an MVC Tournament match and tied for the fourth-most in a four-set UNI match. Thomas posted eight kills in the first set, six kills in the second and then added seven kills in both the third and fourth sets. Her 10 blocks matched a career-high set on Nov. 18, 2016, also at Redbird Arena.
UNI outside hitter Karlie Taylor added 16 kills and 20 digs for her 23rd double-double of the season. Panther setter Heather Hook posted 56 assists and 15 digs, and libero Kendyl Sorge tallied 25 digs to lead the Panther defensive effort.
Bolstered by Thomas’ defense, UNI tallied a season-high 14 team blocks.
Illinois State finished the season 21-12 after being out-hit .276 to .152.