CEDAR FALLS — The Northern Iowa volleyball team couldn’t protect a full McLeod Center on Wednesday night, falling to Iowa State in three sets, 25-20, 25-20, 32-30.
The Panthers battled from behind throughout the majority of the three sets, something UNI head coach Bobbi Petersen attributed to a lack of execution.
“Unfortunately, it was a night where we weren’t executing at all,” Petersen said. “There wasn’t a lot of adjustments being made because we weren’t executing what we needed to do. Part of that is, as a coach, you’ve got to reflect back and think about some of the things we were asking our kids to do. Was it a little too much for the situation we were in?”
Iowa State head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch called her first timeout of the match with her team trailing 8-4 in the first set. Cyclones libero Hali Hillegas said after the match that it was an important timeout to regain focus after falling behind early in front of a record crowd of 6,415, the largest since the 2011 UNI-ISU match (6,490).
“It was intense,” Hillegas said. “I think it’s a great environment to play in, but (McLeod Center) is definitely not an easy place to play in.”
Johnson-Lynch credited her team’s out-of-system block and overall defense in the win, while acknowledging concern had that hotly contested third set not gone their way.
“Obviously that third set was big,” Johnson-Lynch said. “I thought whoever won that (set) — obviously we weren’t done — but if UNI would’ve won that (set) I would’ve been a little concerned how we would have came back out of that.”
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After the Cyclones regrouped, the Panthers began to show the lack of execution Petersen mentioned, committing five service errors throughout the remainder of the first set. UNI’s hitting percentage in the loss was a season-low .202, and uncharacteristically they were out-dug, 56-52.
“I thought (Iowa State) did a real good job of putting pressure on our defense,” Petersen said. “I feel like we’re one of the best defensive teams out there, but I felt we didn’t look that way at all tonight. But, also — I’ve talked about this already a few times — is our serve. We did not challenge them with our serve, and when they’re in-system all the time, they’re going to make you look a little foolish on defense.”
Northern Iowa (2-2) returns to action Friday at home against Washington State. First serve is scheduled for 6:05 p.m.