The Illinois State University volleyball (14-10,7-5 MVC) team is set to host the University of Northern Iowa Panthers (18-9, 12-1 MVC) and the Drake Bulldogs (9-17, 3-10 MVC) in what has the potential to be season sweeps on both teams. ISU first takes on UNI 6 p.m. Friday, then meets Drake 5 p.m. Saturday at Redbird Arena.
The Redbirds welcoming the Panthers into town is one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the year for the Missouri Valley Conference. The two teams were projected number one and two in the conference as they both tied for first place last season. Meeting earlier this season in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the ’Birds found a way to beat the undefeated Panthers in five sets.
Although UNI holds the series lead over ISU 53-28, the Redbirds have beaten the Panthers at least one time in each of the last three seasons. Two of those victories came against a nationally ranked UNI team.
The ’Birds may have an uphill battle against the Panthers, but the demeanor changes when Drake comes to town on Saturday. Coming into the match holding a 64-11 all-time record against the Bulldogs, the ’Birds swept Drake in an earlier match this season.
Throughout the season, the Redbirds have been dealing with injuries that have showcased several freshmen as diamonds in the rough, while also showing the inexperience as we get deeper into the season.
Returning to the team last Friday against Bradley, team captain Stef Jankiewicz appears to be fully healthy after being sidelined for two weeks with an undisclosed injury. On the other hand, libero Kendal Meier is still nursing a hand injury that looks to be keeping her out for a few more weeks.