STORY BY ADAM ROGAN
The Bulldogs were able to put up a fight in the Knapp Center against the University of Northern Iowa Panthers on Saturday night, but were unable to close out the match in the fifth set.
“I have mixed emotions about the game Saturday,” head coach Darrin McBroom said. “On one hand, (I’m) disappointed that we pushed them to five (sets) and couldn’t quite get it done in the fifth. On the other hand … it does show tremendous progress the team has made, that we have gotten so much better from where we’ve been and that we are heading in the right direction.”
UNI is currently ranked fifth in the Missouri Valley Conference and an upset could’ve kept Drake’s playoff hopes alive, but the loss ended them definitively. Drake will not be participating in the MVC Playoffs in 2015.
Despite recording a hit percentage over .100 in just one set, the Bulldogs remained competitive throughout the match. They started strong out of the gate – something that the team has struggled with this season – and took a commanding 9-2 lead in set one. UNI was able to close the gap after a string of kills, two aces and a couple of Drake errors, bringing the score to 12-11.
Drake then took four of the next five points to give itself some space, but the Panthers clawed back into it and took the lead: 20-18. Not to be bested, three kills from freshman Grace Schofield got Drake back on top and got the win, 25-21.
The tough fight in the first set seemed to have drained the Bulldogs, however, and they only managed to score 26 points in the next two sets. UNI was a set away from victory when game four began.
The Bulldogs put on a hitting display in the fourth set, hitting .239, their best performance of the match. Kyla Inderski and Makena Schoene led the way for the Bulldogs, who finished with 13 and nine kills, respectively. The Bulldogs never trailed in set four and won 25-20.
The fifth and final set wasn’t quite as competitive as the Bulldogs hoped it would be. Drake took an early 3-1 lead, but struggled to keep the match close thereafter. UNI went on an 8-3 run that put them in the lead and would not relinquish it.
Five of UNI middle hitter Kayla Haneline’s 21 kills came in the fifth set, helping keep the Bulldogs down. The Panthers finished the match on a 5-2 run. The final point came from a UNI block on a hit from Schoene, who finished with a hit percentage below .050.
The Bulldogs will face Loyola at 7 p.m. on Friday before taking on Bradley the following afternoon at 3 p.m. for Senior Day.
The Bulldogs were in an almost identical situation last season. With two games to go, they had Loyola and Bradley on the slate and could claim seventh place in the MVC with two wins, or fall to ninth with two losses. The only difference is that last year they were on the road. This season, they get to play at the Knapp Center on their home court.