MADISON, Wisc. – The 2023 UNI volleyball season came to an end on Thursday night as the eighth-seeded Panthers dropped a 3-1 decision to the Miami (FL) Hurricanes inside UW Field House in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
Northern Iowa overcame a tough start, dropping the first two sets on the night before rallying for a five-point victory in the third set. The loss snapped the program’s 21-match winning streak, the fourth-longest active run in the nation and eighth-longest in school history.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Panthers scored the first two points of the opening set before Miami rattled off a 7-0 run to take the lead on a strong serving and defensive game on the backline. UNI battled back with its own 4-0 run, featuring a pair of service aces by Erin Powers to pull within one point, but saw the Hurricanes take advantage of open holes in the Northern Iowa defense to jump back ahead. The Panthers would battle tough and give Miami all it could handle down the stretch, pulling back within a point at 21-20 on a Laynna Green kill before holding of UNI, 25-23 to take the first set.
Miami opened the second stanza with a punishing 5-0 run and never looked back despite the Panthers staying within five points of the Hurricanes for the majority of the frame. The Hurricanes defense racked up five blocks and held UNI to just .067 hitting with 13 kills with 11 attack errors in the set. Olivia Tjernagel’s kill was able to pull the Panthers to within one point at 14-13, but Miami cruised down the stretch en route to a 25-19 set win to take a two set to none lead in the match
UNI flipped the script in the third set with an improved offense with just four attack errors and a .405 hitting percentage. Northern Iowa scored the first three points of the third frame and led from start to finish, holding off rallies by Miami who tied the set up at 14-14 and 18-18 before shutting down the Hurricanes in a 25-20 win with 19 team kills.
Northern Iowa and Miami jockeyed back and forth early in the fourth set, but the Hurricanes pulled ahead thanks to a dominant night offensively from Grace Lopez, who finished the match with 30 terminations. UNI would cut Miami’s lead down to four points twice but could not overcome the Hurricanes’ .408 hitting clip and 17 team kills. The Panthers recorded 14 kills on a .200 hitting percentage, coming up five points shy in a 25-20 set loss to drop the match in four sets.
Kira Fallert finished the night with an 18-kill, 12-dig double-double on 38 attempts, while Tjernagel recorded 11 kills and a pair of block assists. Emily Holterhaus tallied ten kills and seven digs in the final match of her collegiate career, with Kaylissa Arndorfer posting an eight-kill performance. Tayler Alden ended the evening with a match-high 48 assists, plus three terminations, as Powers tallied 12 digs.
The Panthers finish the 2023 season with a 26-7 record and as both Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) regular season and tournament champions.
Thursday’s match was the first all-time meeting between the Panthers and Hurricanes in NCAA Division I women’s volleyball.
UNI now holds a 16-25 all-time record in the NCAA Tournament after Thursday’s loss.
Kira Fallert’s 18-kill, 12-dig double-double was her 20th of her career, her 11th of the season and second of this year’s postseason.
Fallert became the 31st player in UNI history to surpass 1,000 career kills on Friday, finishing the season with 400 terminations.
Kaylissa Arndorfer recorded her 300th career block on Thursday, finishing her career with the most career blocks among her active teammates.
Emily Holterhaus appeared in her 156th and final career match against Miami, one shy of tying the program record of 157 held by her former teammate Inga Rotto (2018-22).