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CEDAR FALLS — Preseason favorite Northern Iowa put together a strong defensive effort to defeat Evansville in four sets Friday to open the Missouri Valley Conference volleyball season.

Set scores were 25-17, 30-32, 26-24, 25-17.

UNI (7-8 overall, 1-0 MVC) out-hit the Aces .242-.032 in the opening set. After Evansville (9-3, 0-1) won a marathon second set, the Panthers battled through the pivotal third set. The Aces led 13-8 and 20-17 late, but UNI pulled ahead 22-21 and then broke a 24-24 tie with a block by Emily Holterhaus and Karlie Taylor. Jaydlin Seehase closed it out with a kill.

The Panthers built a 9-5 lead in the fourth set and protected it to seal the match.

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Melanie Feliciano had 22 kills and Rachel Tam 20 for Evansville, but they needed a combined 125 attacks as the Aces hit just .121 for the match.

UNI got 22 kills from Karlie Taylor (.269) and 12 from Kate Busswitz. Rachel Koop logged 47 assists, Inga Rotto and Carly Spies were in on four blocks each, Abbi Staack had 23 digs and Baylee Petersen added 18 digs.

The Panthers host Indiana State at 5 p.m. Saturday inside the McLeod Center.

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