Illinois State Tops #19 UNI for First Ranked Win Since 2003

  0 Wendy Mayer | October 28th, 2017 | College - Women's Indoor, Missouri Valley Conference, News


  • Illinois State def. No. 19 Northern Iowa 3-2 (22-25, 25-21, 25-18, 21-25, 15-12)
  • Illinois State moves to 15-10, 8-4 Missouri Valley; UNI falls to 20-6, 10-2 MVC
  • Normal, Illinois
  • Attendance: 591
  • Box Score


NORMAL, Ill. – Illinois State bested No. 19 Northern Iowa in every statistical category except digs and held off a late Panther surge en route to a five-set upset win, its first over a ranked foe since 2003.

After coming back from down 2-1 in the match to send it to a decisive fifth set, UNI jumped out to a 7-3 lead in the final stanza. Three kills by junior middle blocker Piper Thomas and two by junior outside hitter Bri Weber helped the Panthers to the lead. Senior middle Jaelyn Keene kept Illinois State close with a trio of kills, but the Redbirds still trailed by three at 9-6. ISU scored eight of the next 10 with help from three kills by freshman middle Sydney Holt, a block and an ace by freshman setter Stef Jankiewicz and a block and a kill by sophomore outside Ella Francis. The rally put Illinois State up 14-11. A Thomas kill saved the first set point try, but a Keene kill sewed up the upset.

The Redbirds topped the Panthers in kills (67-66), aces (4-1) and blocks (9-4) in the match, but were edged 106-102 in digs.

After hitting .293 and .355 in the first two sets, UNI managed just a .022, .088 and .086 effort in the final three stanzas.

Francis led a group of four Illinois State players with double-digit kill efforts, notching 16. Senior outside Juma Armando (14), Holt (13) and Keene (11) followed. Francis and Keene put up a team-best four blocks apiece, while junior libero Courtney Pence pulled up a match-high 37 digs. Freshman defensive specialist Kendal Meier (15) and Jankiewicz (11) also added double-digit save totals. Jankiewicz rounded out a double-double with 58 assists.

Thomas led all hitters with a match-high 24 kills, while hitting at a match-high .385 clip. Sophomore outside Karlie Taylor (14) and freshman outside Jaydlin Seehase (10) also posted double-digit putaways for UNI, while Weber added nine kills. Thomas and redshirt senior setter Heather Hook recorded two blocks apiece to pace the Panthers at the net, while junior libero Kendyl Sorge led the backcourt with 30 digs. Hook (23), redshirt freshman defensive specialist Taylor Hedges (18), Weber (15) and Taylor (15) also managed double-digit dig efforts.

UNI cruised to an 8-2 lead in Set 1, including two kills and a block by Thomas and three ISU errors. Later down 12-16, Illinois State sliced the margin to one at 16-15 with putaways by four different players. The Panthers called timeout and scored five of the next seven, all on kills, to go up 21-17. The Redbirds tied it up at 21, but UNI wrapped up the 25-22 win with a final 4-1 run, capped by a Thomas kill.

Illinois State built a five-point advantage in Set 2 at 11-6 and later 14-9. Two kills each by Keene and Francis and an ace by Pence helped ISU to the initial edge. Back to back Armando kills made it 14-9. UNI was within one at 15-14 and three more times, last at 22-21, but couldn’t hold off a 3-0 Redbird run to end it. A stuff by Ali Line and Francis and Meier ace gave ISU the win.

The Redbirds jumped out to an 11-6 lead in Set 3 as Armondo notched two kills and a block and Francis chipped in two putaways. Up just three at 14-11, Illinois State put together a 5-0 run, with three kills and two UNI miscues, to vault ahead 19-11. The Panthers would get no closer than five the rest of the way (19-14). Two Francis kills and two Northern Iowa errors set up the final point, which came on an Armando putdown.

Northern Iowa took advantage of four ISU errors en route to a 10-7 edge in Set 4. Illinois State scored three of the next five, but UNI answered with a 6-0 run to go ahead 18-10. Four players tallied kills in the rally, while Hook notched a solo block.  The Redbirds cut the margin to four at 23-19, including two Holt kills and a stuff by Keene and Francis, and held off two UNI set point tries at 24-19, but a Jaydlin Seehase kill sent the match to the decisive fifth set.



Courtesy: Illinois State Athletics

The Illinois State volleyball team picked up its first win over a nationally-ranked opponent in nearly 14 years as the Redbirds topped visiting No. 25 Northern Iowa Friday at Redbird Arena. Illinois State won by scores of 22-25, 25-21, 25-18, 21-25, 15-12.

Ella Francis led the Redbirds with 16 kills and four blocks. Juma Armandoregistered 14 kills, while Sydney Holtchipped in 13. Jaelyn Keene was the fourth Redbird with double-digit kills, with 11, including four in the decisive fifth set.

Stef Jankiewicz posted a double-double with a match-high 58 assists to go with 11 digs. Courtney Pence led all players with 37 digs, the eighth-highest single-match total in Illinois State history. Kendal Meier set a career high with 15 digs.

The win was Illinois State’s first over a Top 25 opponent since the Redbirds beat then-No. 8 UNI on Nov. 21, 2003 at Redbird Arena, also in five sets.

“I’m just so excited, so proud of the team,” said Illinois State head coach Leah Johnson. “I was thrilled with their performance. They followed the game plan. They took risks. We executed at such a high level for five sets and I’m just so proud of them.”

UNI (20-6, 10-2 MVC) built a big lead early in the first set and the Panthers needed all of it as the Redbirds fought back late in the set. The Panthers led by as many as six points early on but Illinois State slowly chipped away at the visitor’s lead, eventually tying it up at 21-21 after a four-point run. But UNI scored four of the final five points in the set to take an early advantage in the match.

Illinois State (15-10, 8-4) used an early five-point binge to take control of the second set. The five-straight points gave the Redbirds a 9-5 lead and the home team never trailed again in the set. UNI got back within a point at 22-21, but ISU scored the final three points in the set, the final on a service ace from Meier.

A four-point run early in the third set gave Illinois State a lead and a five-point rally later helped the Redbirds pull away. ISU led 19-11 after the five-point spree, which included kills from Armando, Francis and Ali Line. The Redbirds claimed the third set on a kill from Armando on set point.

The Panthers pushed the match to a fifth set thanks to a 6-0 run midway through the fourth set that gave the visitors an 18-10 lead. A late 6-1 push by the Redbirds got Illinois State to within four at 23-19, but a kill from Jaydlin Seehase on set point sent the match to a fifth set.

UNI seemed destined to complete its comeback when the Panthers scored the first five points of the fifth set, prompting both Illinois State timeouts. But the Redbirds scored three-straight points out of their second timeout and slowly clawed their way back into contention. Another three-point run later, capped by a Jankiewicz ace, helped the Redbirds tie it up at 9-9. Another three-point run, featuring kills from Francis and Holt, made it a 12-10 lead. A kill from Keene on match point finished off the win for Illinois State.

The Redbirds return to Redbird Arena Saturday night to host Drake at 7 p.m.


Courtesy: Northern Iowa Athletics

The Illinois State Redbirds rallied from a 5-0 deficit in the fifth and deciding set and scored a 3-2 victory over the No. 25-ranked University of Northern Iowa volleyball team at Redbird Arena on Friday night. Illinois State won by set scores of 22-25, 25-21, 25-18, 21-25, 15-12.

The Redbirds (15-10 overall, 8-4 MVC) defeated the Panthers for the third time in their last four matches at Redbird Arena. UNI (20-6 overall, 10-2 MVC) was held to a conference-low hitting percentage of .152 in the match. Prior to Friday’s match in MVC play, UNI’s lowest hitting percentage was .218 in a loss to Missouri State.

Junior Piper Thomas posted a career-high 24 kills (.385 hitting percentage). Senior Heather Hookregistered a career-high 23 digs and also notched a double-double with 55 assists. Junior Kendyl Sorge notched a season-high 30 digs.

UNI looked to be in control in the fifth set as the Panthers took a commanding 5-0 lead. However, the Redbirds whittled away the advantage and tied the set at 9-9. Following a 10-10 tie, the Redbirds scored four of the next five points to take a 14-11 lead. Thomas secured a kill to fight off one match point, but Jaelyn Keene scored the game-winner and gave the Redbirds a 15-12 victory in the fifth.

UNI will play again on Sunday against Bradley in Peoria, Illinois. The Panthers and Braves will get underway at noon.

NOTES: Karlie Taylor has had 19 consecutive matches with double-figure kills totals … redshirt freshman Kate Busswitz made her collegiate debut in the third set … Busswitz also recorded her first collegiate kill in the match … Bri Weber moved into No. 10 on UNI’s all-time digs list as she surpassed Bre Payton’s total of 1,222 career digs … Weber has 1,230 career digs.

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About Wendy Mayer

Wendy Mayer

Wendy Mayer has worked in athletics media relations for the last 20 years. The Northwest Missouri State alumna is currently senior writer for after spending the last 15 years with Purdue athletics.

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