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Panthers Headed For The Sweet 16

Dec. 3, 1999

Box Score Post-Match Quotes

CLEMSON, S.C. — They say revenge is sweet and, for the Northern Iowa volleyball team, it’s 16 times sweet — as in Sweet 16. That’s the road down which the Panthers are headed after a four-game victory over Indiana in the second round of the NCAA Volleyball Championships on Friday night in Littlejohn Coliseum.

The 17th-ranked Panthers stormed back from a 14-6 deficit to claim a first-game victory and never looked back, downing the Hoosiers, 17-15, 10-15, 15-10, 16-14, and will advance in the East Region, most likely to play Pacific in either Stockon, Calif., or Gainesville, Fla., next weekend.

The victory sends the Panthers on to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history and settles the score for the time being with Indiana, the team that knocked UNI out of the tournament in the first round a year ago. The win also keeps UNI as the only unbeaten team in the nation at 30-0, while the Hoosiers ended the season at 20-11.

In a classic collegiate match that took just over two hours, the Panthers were in championship form, propelled by their usual balanced offensive attack, exceptional defense and some of their most solid serving of the season. And although the Hoosiers edged UNI in most statistical categories, it was the Panthers who stepped up at the most important stages of the match.

“We knew what Indiana’s best players were trying to do,” said Panther coach Iradge Ahrabi-Fard. They were able to do what they wanted sometimes, but we stopped them at the crucial times, especially on their quick sets.”

After Northern Iowa pulled out the win in the opening frame, the Hoosiers stormed out to a 6-0 lead in the second game before UNI rallied to within 10-8. Indiana held the lead, however, and evened the match.

The third and fourth games were similar, with the teams trading punches throughout and neither being able to put together a run. The Panthers had two previous match points in the fourth game before junior Alexandra Auker tipped it to the floor after a battle at the net to give UNI the victory.

“I can say that I’ve never played on a team with more heart and more desire,” said UNI senior Shannon Perry. “Indiana might have beaten us in every statistical category, but we had a bigger heart. I can’t say enough…we weren’t going to go out of here without being able to say we did our best and I think every single person did.”

Perry, the two-time Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, dished out 55 assists and recorded 17 of UNI’s 94 digs. The Panthers had five players in double-figure kills and digs. Freshman Kim Kester led the way in both categories with 18 kills and 21 digs. Auker and Kim McCaffrey followed with 15 kills each, with the two adding 15 and 20 digs, respectively. Indiana’s Hillary Toivonen took match-high honors with 25 kills.

Panther sophomore Kim McCaffrey said the matchup with Indiana was a major motivation for the Panthers.

“This is just awesome. To get revenge on Indiana after geeting killed in the first round, that’s awesome in itself” she said, “but to be the first UNI team to advance to the Sweet 16 is unbelievable..I’m just in shock that we could do it like that, but we played strong tonight.”

The Panthers got to the second round by downing Ball State, 3-2, on Thursday night while Indiana defeated host Clemson, 3-1.

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