Niagara University, NY - The Niagara University volleyball team had its season come to an end in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The No. 6 seed Northern Iowa Panthers defeated the Purple Eagles, (25-16, 25-13, 25-17), on Friday.
Niagara (25-9) was making its third consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament while the host, UNI (33-1), was in its 17th appearance. The matchup of three-time defending conference champions went to the Panthers who extended their win streak to 24 matches.
"With the adversity we faced this season, we are all glad that we made it back to the NCAAs," head coach Susan Clements said. "We played some tough defense, but UNI offense was very quick and their setter was exceptional. We fought hard against a very tough opponent."
Niagara kept it close in the first set, down 9-6, but faced a seven-point deficit later in the set and the Panthers won, 25-16. UNI jumped out to a 6-1 lead and never looked back in the second set en route to winning 25-13. Niagara fell into another early hole in the third set, however, the Purple Eagles didn't go away quietly. NU scored three straight points while facing elimination though a kill by Krista DeGeest clinched the match, 25-17.
This was the final match for the winningest class in program history: Lisa Bilich, Kathy Bibler, Hannah Hedrick, Michelle James and Sam Morgan. Hedrick led the team with nine kills and had 11 digs. She finished her career with the second most kills in program history (1,587). Morgan led the match with 19 digs and concluded her career with an NCAA record by registering double-digit digs in every match she played in (130).
"They all played so hard and gave it all they had," Clements said about the class. "I'm proud of what they have accomplished at Niagara. They have made NU volleyball to what it is."
MAAC Tournament Most Outstanding Player Kari Honomichl had seven kills and 11 digs and Ellen Senf had six kills. Nicole Bayer had 24 assists and 12 digs for her eighth double-double of the season.
Niagara ends the season with a 25-9 record, which ties the school record which was set last season.