The Drake volleyball team suffered another Missouri Valley Conference defeat at the hands of the No. 14 Northern Iowa Panthers on Friday evening.
The Bulldogs kept the match close early, before falling in four sets (20-25, 25-16, 21-25, 13-25).
The loss dropped Drake to an 18-6 overall record and 4-6 in the Missouri Valley Conference.
The Bulldogs were tied with Southern Illinois for the sixth and final spot in the MVC tournament going into action on Sunday. The Panthers remained atop the conference standings with a perfect 10-0 record.
Sophomore Whitney Westrum finished the evening with her third-straight double-double with 12 kills and 14 digs.
Senior Angela Bys planted 12 kills with an attack percentage of .244 on 41 attempts. Alisa DeBerg Roth and Michelle Reidy both added eight kills apiece. Four of Reidy’s eight kills came during the Bulldog victory in the second set.
The Bulldog defense had no answers for the Panther attack in the final two sets of the night. The Panthers finished with an attack percentage of .405 in the third set, and an impressive .621 in the decisive fourth set.
The Panther attack was set up by junior Bre Payton, the 2009 Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year. Payton finished with 50 assists, 10 digs and 5 kills.
Senior libero Alana Wittenburg led the Bulldogs with 16 digs. Junior Caitlin Johnson added 12, and was the only other Bulldog to record a double-double. Johnson finished with 27 assists from her setter position. It was Johnson’s 11th double-double on the year, which is best on the team.
Senior Susan Clausen recorded 19 assists in the affair.
Drake had been riding a two-match winning streak, defeating Creighton in four sets on Oct. 16 and South Dakota State in five last Tuesday.
The Bulldogs dug themselves into a 0-2 hole against the Jackrabbits, but rallied to win three straight sets to take the match. Four players reached double-digits in kills, including Roth’s season-high 14. Johnson had 14 digs to go with 30 assists.
Against Creighton, Westrum recorded her first career double-double with 23 digs and tying a career-high with 11 kills. Bys had 13 kills, and became the 21st player in MVC history to reach 1,500 kills in a career.
The Bulldogs host Illinois State and Indiana State at the Knapp Center over the Halloween weekend. Action gets under way on Friday evening at 7 p.m. against Illinois State. The Bulldogs lost in four sets against the Redbirds in a match earlier this season.
Drake was scheduled to play at Bradley at 5 p.m. on Saturday, but the match was moved to Sunday.