The No. 1-seeded University of Northern Iowa volleyball team dominated from start to finish en route to a sweep of the No. 5-seeded Illinois State Redbirds in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference Volleyball Tournament on Friday evening in the McLeod Center. Set scores were 25-15, 25-12, 25-12.
UNI recorded a .310 hitting percentage for the match, and held Illinois State to a -.011 hitting percentage. UNI tallied 15 blocks to just three for the Redbirds.
The Panthers were led in kills by junior Krista DeGeest with 10. DeGeest posted a .533 hitting percentage for the match. UNI junior Megan Lehman chipped in with nine kills and three blocks, giving UNI its fifth straight appearance in the MVC Tournament championship.
Illinois State opened the scoring in the match by capitalizing on a UNI attack error. The Panthers then ripped off eight straight points with a kill from senior Bre Payton, two kills from junior Amy Braun, and a kill apiece from sophomore Shelby Kintzel and Krista DeGeest. The run was capped off by DeGeest, who turned away two Illinois State attacks. UNI never looked back, leading the rest of the way to win the opening set, 25-15.
The Panthers held Illinois State to a .061 hitting percentage in the first set and posted a .355 hitting percentage of their own, led by Braun and DeGeest with four kills apiece. Payton tallied 10 assists as well as one service ace in the opening set.
UNI won the second set in convincing fashion, using four kills from Megan Lehman and two kills each from Kintzel and DeGeest. Payton chipped in with two service aces and five assists in the set for the Panthers.
The Panthers closed out the match with a third set in which they led from start to finish.
Panther middle blocker Krista DeGeest set a career high in blocks with 12, topping her previous best of 9.
No. 1-seeded UNI (31-1, 18-0 MVC) will square off with No. 3-seeded Wichita State (21-9, 13-5 MVC) in the championship round of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in the McLeod Center on Saturday night. The Panthers are searching for their third consecutive MVC Tournament title. First serve is slated for 6:37 p.m.