EVANSVILLE, Ind. – An historic season for the University of Evansville volleyball team came to a close in a hard-fought match against top seeded Northern Iowa inside Meeks Family Fieldhouse. The Purple Aces put forth a stellar challenge from the outset but it was UNI advancing to Wednesday’s Missouri Valley Conference Championship match.
The 2022 campaign was a memorable one that included a program record for MVC victories, MVC Championship wins and individual accolades that included Alondra Vazquez setting the all-time UE program kills record and Giulia Cardona setting the single-season mark with 574 kills.
Cardona was the top performer on Tuesday, posting 19 kills, 3 assists and 2 aces. Vazquez added 12 kills and 9 digs. Kora Ruff recorded 33 assists while Blakeley Freeman picked up 10 digs.
Set 1 – UNI 25, UE 19
After Northern Iowa opened up a 3-0 stretch, they extended their lead to 6-2. Vazquez put the team on her back, giving the Aces pinpoint serving as the squad registered four in a row to tie it up. Back-to-back kills from Vazquez saw Evansville take its first advantage at 12-10.
UNI responded with four in a row to jump back in front before pushing their lead to 18-15. A Panther error saw the Aces get within a pair before UNI pulled away for a 25-19 win and a 1-0 lead.
Set 2 – UNI 32, UE 30
Game two was a battle that saw both teams have chances to pick up the win. Out of the gate, Evansville put forth another battle, taking an 8-6 lead on a Cardona ace and Emilee Scheumann kill. The tides turned the Panthers way as they wrestled away an 11-9 lead, but Evansville swung things back in their direction with a 4-0 run. Maddie Hawkins tallied an ace as UE retook a 13-11 edge.
Back-and-forth play ensued with the Panthers going up 19-17 before a 4-0 UE run was capped off by a Laura Ruiz ace that made it a 21-19 game. Northern Iowa reeled off three in a row for another lead change before UE countered with a Cardona kill to have set point at 24-23. Each team had its shot to end the set, including the Aces having set point on four occasions. Up 30-29, the Aces looked to take control but it was the Panthers who were able to hang on for the 32-30 win.
Set 3 – UNI 25, UE 21
Following their win in the second set, UNI sprinted out to a 6-1 lead. The persistent Aces crew never gave up, make it a 3-point game at 12-9. Northern Iowa responded to push the lead to eight points – 19-11 – but UE still would not bow out of the fight. Scoring eight of the next 11 points, the Aces made it a 22-19 game on a Kate Tsironis kill. Unfortunately, UE just ran out of time as the Panthers took a 25-21 victory to clinch the match.