Northern Iowa hit .299, including .424 in the opening set, as the Panthers topped the Northern Illinois University volleyball team, 25-11, 25-17, 25-19, on Saturday afternoon (Sept. 16) at the McLeod Center in the final non-conference match for both teams as they closed the UNI Tournament.

Kira Fallert recorded a match-high 15 kills for the hosts, Katie Erdmann (Forreston, Ill./Forreston) had a team-high six kills for NIU, Emily Dykes (Winterville, N.C./Ayden-Grifton) and Ella Mihacevich (Brunswick, Ohio/Padua Franciscan) each had five kills. Mihacevich, who also had 10 assists, was named to the All-Tournament Team.

“We saw a very talented team (in Northern Iowa),” said NIU head coach Sondra Parys. “They did a good job of being in system, whether it was defensively or on the serving side, and that made it hard to defend. That was the biggest difference between sides, how many kills they were able to execute on. The takeaway (for us) is we are going to continue to try to find ways to put pressure on teams, from the service line or with our offensive system. That was the focus after the game, to keep getting better, we need to find more ways to score.”

The Panthers scored the opening six points of the first set and pushed that lead to 13-4 as NIU took a timeout. UNI went on to claim the opening set, 25-11, as they hit .424 with 16 kills and just two errors. Layanna Green had six kills on eight swings to pace the Panthers.

Dykes recorded three kills in the opening set for NIU.

UNI jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the second set, forcing a Huskie timeout. The two teams played even over the next 28 points as the Panthers led by four, 20-16, until UNI used a three-point burst to push its lead to seven. The home side took the set, 25-17. Fallert led the way with seven kills in the set while Emily Holterhaus added five.

Crew Hoffmeier (Louisville, Ky./Assumption) had 10 digs in the second set for the Huskies.

The Panthers held an 8-5 advantage in the third set before a four-point burst helped give UNI a 12-5 lead. NIU used a four-point run on the serve of Jada Cerniglia (Cross Plains, Wis./Middleton) to cut the Panther lead to just a pair, 16-14, forcing a UNI timeout. After the timeout, the Huskies extended the run to 7-0 as they took a one-point advantage in the set, 17-16, on a service ace from Cerniglia.

UNI answered with four-straight points to move back in front by three, 20-17, and went on to take the set 25-19. Fallert had five kills in the set for the Panthers.

Hoffmeier finished the match with 22 digs to lead all players, Erin Powers had 14 digs for UNI while Tayler Alden had a match-high 38 assists.

NIU will open conference play on Thursday night, Sept. 21, when the Huskies visit Bowling Green. First serve against the Falcons is slated for 5 p.m. CT.