HEAD COACH BOBBI PETERSEN
When thinking about the tradition-filled history of UNI volleyball, few names jump out like Bobbi Petersen’s. A former standout on the court for UNI - and arguably the greatest player in the school’s history - she has continued her connection with the Purple and Old Gold as both an assistant coach, and as head coach. Under her guidance, she has taken UNI volleyball from its usual standard of excellence to a tier among the nation’s elite programs.
In 2017, she finished her 18th year as the Panthers head coach. Petersen has posted an impressive 461-141 record at the helm of UNI’s program, with seven Missouri Valley Conference regular season titles, eight MVC tournament crowns and two NCAA Sweet 16 appearances to her credit. She ranks in the top 10 of active Division I coaches in winning percentage (.766), with the Panthers winning 20 or more matches in 15 of her 16 years as head coach.
In 2017, UNI returned to the NCAA Tournament, earning it’s second consecutive “at-large” bid. The “at-large” bid marked the 21st NCAA appearance in program history. UNI finished the ’17 season ranked in the top 2, nationally in four of the six team statistical categories: #1 (Kills/set), #2 (Assist/set), #2 (Team attack/set), #2 (Digs/set).
Petersen joined an elite club of three MVC coaches to have reached 400 career victories in the 2015 season. Petersen joined Iradge Ahrabi-Fard (UNI - 503 wins) and Linda Dollar (Missouri State - 427 wins) on that illustrious coaching list.
During her tenure as head coach, Petersen has also helped numerous student athletes garner individual recognition, with 10 different student-athletes earning All-America, 24 athletes earning All-District, and 46 athletes earning first-team All-MVC honors, which includes six conference Players of the Year. In addition, UNI has placed 15 athletes on the All-Freshman Team.
AVCA All Americans:
2017: Heather Hook (HM), Karlie Taylor (HM), Piper Thomas (HM)
2014: Kayla Haneline (HM)
2013: Shelby Kintzel (HM)
2012: Krista DeGeest (HM)
2011: Krista DeGeest (HM), Bre Payton (2nd)
2010: Ellie Blankenship (HM), Bre Payton (2nd), Michelle Burow (HM)
2009: Ellie Blankenship (HM), Bre Payton (HM)
2002: Molly O’Brien (3rd)
Academically, the Panthers have shined under Petersen’s guidance as well. A total of 34 players have earned first-team MVC Scholar-Athlete honors during her time at the helm, with four players earning CoSIDA Academic All-America honors. In 2013, UNI was the only NCAA Division I school to have two players earn Academic All-America honors as Shelby Kintzel was named to the first team and Macy Ubben was named to the second team.
Petersen led UNI to a share of the 2013 MVC regular season title with Wichita State. It marked the seventh regular season for Petersen as she also garnered MVC Coach of the Year honors for the fifth time in her coaching tenure.
Petersen guided the Panthers to a seventh consecutive berth into the NCAA Tournament in 2012. The Panthers knocked off No. 25 Kansas State in the first round in a 3-0 sweep, but fell to No. 10-ranked Nebraska in the second round.
In 2011, UNI posted a 33-2 mark and earned the No. 6 overall seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. UNI was a perfect 18-0 in MVC play for the third straight season. Petersen was named the MVC Coach of the Year for the fourth time in her career - and third straight season. Four Panthers (Amy Braun, Michelle Burow, Krista DeGeest and Bre Payton) earned first-team all-MVC honors. Payton was named the MVC Player of the Year for the third consecutive season. UNI defeated Niagara in the first round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament before dropping a four-set decision to Florida in the second round in the McLeod Center.
The year 2010 saw the Panthers extend their dominance in the conference, posting their second-straight undefeated season in league play. UNI finished with a 30-3 record and was ranked as high as No. 10 in the nation. Ten of UNI’s 30 wins came against teams selected to play in the 2010 NCAA Championships, including a win over then-ranked No. 8 Minnesota.
Petersen was named MVC Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season. Six Panthers earned conference honors including Payton being named MVC Player of the Year and Blankenship being named the MVC Libero of the Year and MVC Tournament MVP. In addition, Blankenship was named the inaugural Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award winner for volleyball. Blankenship, Payton and Michelle Burow also earned AVCA All-America honors.
The 2009 season was a record-breaking year for the Panthers, as Peterson led UNI to a perfect 18-0 MVC season and regular-season and tournament championships. UNI finished with a 31-3 overall mark, going 29 straight matches without a loss, the second-longest win streak in the nation. UNI advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the 15th time in program history. The Panthers advanced to the second round with a 3-0 win over Washington State in the first round of the tournament before falling to eventual Elite Eight team Nebraska.
Petersen was named the 2009 MVC Coach of the Year. Seven Panthers picked up conference honors, including MVC Player of the Year and MVC Tournament MVP Payton and MVC Freshman of the Year Amy Braun. Payton and Blankenship also earned AVCA All-Region and All-America accolades.
The 2008 season was another banner one for the Panthers, as Petersen guided UNI to a 25-9 record, and its ninth NCAA tournament appearance in the past 11 years. For the first time ever, UNI earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, after finishing as runner-up at the State Farm MVC Tournament. The Panthers also kept their streak alive of 20-match victory seasons, having now won at least 20 matches each of the past 11 seasons. Seniors Amy Sampson and Ashten Stelken earned first-team All-MVC honors, with Stelken being named honorable mention AVCA All-District.
The Panthers claimed the 2007 State Farm MVC Tournament title in 2007, their fifth under Petersen. Two UNI players, Stelken and Kristin Belzung, earned first-team All-MVC honors, while Danielle Brazda and Laura Rowen were second-team all-league picks. Blankenship was an MVC all-freshman team selection, as she set a Panthers single-season record for digs. Shannon Aschoff was named the 2007 State Farm MVC Tournament MVP, helping lead the Panthers to their second straight tournament title.
In 2006, Petersen was honored as the MVC coach of the year, after piloting the Panthers to a 28-8 mark (16-2 in MVC matches) and the second round of the NCAA tournament. After putting together another of it’s patented winning streaks - the Panthers won 19 of 20 matches at one point. UNI defeated Winthrop in the first round of the NCAA tournament, marking the sixth straight time the Panthers had won at least their first-round NCAA match. UNI’s season ended with a loss at top-ranked and eventual national champion Nebraska.
The 2006 season was not the first time Petersen had been honored with coaching accolades by her peers. She was named the AVCA National Coach of the Year in 2002, along with earning her second consecutive AVCA Central Region Coach of the Year award, after leading the Panthers to a 34-3 mark and a top four national seed in the NCAA tournament.
Injuries and inexperience did not stop the 2005 Panthers from posting their eighth straight season of 20 or more wins. Three players expected to be key contributors each saw time on the sideline due to various ailments. However, with just one senior on the roster, UNI continued to grow and mature with each match. The Panthers also posted wins against a pair of NCAA tournament teams.
In 2004, with a young squad, Petersen guided UNI to its seventh consecutive season of 20+ victories, and a second-place tie in the Missouri Valley Conference standings. Playing its usual rigorous schedule, Petersen saw UNI post a season-best nine-match winning streak midway through the season, which marked the 12th consecutive season that Panther volleyball has won at least nine matches in a row during the season.
Petersen led UNI to its sixth consecutive MVC championship in 2003, as the Panthers defeated Missouri State on the Bears’ home court to win the title. UNI finished with a 28-6 record and was ranked as high as sixth in the nation during the 2003 campaign. The Panthers advanced to the NCAA tournament’s second round, dropping a close decision at eventual Final Four participant Minnesota.
Petersen took the Panthers to new heights in 2002 as they were ranked sixth in the nation - the highest ranking in school history - while entering into the NCAA Tournament as the number four seed. Along the way, UNI faced some of the toughest teams in the country, including Stanford, the defending national champion in the first match of the season. The Panthers came up big with wins over No. 3 Florida, No. 7 UCLA, No. 8 Pepperdine, No. 20 Minnesota and No. 20 Missouri.
In 2001, Petersen led UNI to a 31-2 mark, as the Panthers knocked off third-ranked Wisconsin, No. 19 Notre Dame and downed Minnesota in an epic five-game marathon in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers eventually fell to No. 1 Long Beach State in the NCAA regional semi-finals. She also became the first person in conference history to win a league championship as a player (1986 and ‘87) and head coach when UNI beat Missouri State in the 2001 MVC tournament final and Southern Illinois in 2002.
As a player at UNI from 1986-89, the former Bobbi Becker was a three-time first team all-conference selection and two-time first team all-region pick. Although it has been more than 15 years since she last donned a Panther uniform, her name still appears on UNI’s top 10 lists in numerous statistical categories.
Her 40 kills in a 1989 match against Illinois State not only tops UNI history, but also stands as the all-time Missouri Valley/Gateway Conference record. A native of Dike, Iowa, Petersen compiled 1,611 career kills and 1,457 digs during her career. In 1992, she was voted UNI’s Gateway Conference Volleyball Athlete of the Decade. In 2006, she was further honored by being voted to the Missouri Valley Conference All-Centennial volleyball team.
A former standout as a Panther player, Petersen replaced the legendary Iradge Ahrabi-Fard as head coach when he retired in 2001. It marked the second time she had replaced Ahrabi-Fard; she served as interim head coach in 1997, going 18-9 while he was serving as a consultant to USA Volleyball.
Petersen spent six seasons as a Panther assistant prior to her appointment as permanent head coach. In that capacity, she was responsible for nearly all aspects of the Panther program, including recruiting, camps, scheduling, fund-raising and scouting.
Petersen earned her bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation in 1990 and her master’s from UNI in physical education in 1992. She served as a graduate assistant with the Panthers in 1990 and, after completing her master’s, was employed as a therapeutic recreation specialist in Fort Smith, Ark., and Fort Dodge, Iowa.
She was inducted into UNI’s School of Health, Physical Education & Leisure Services Hall of Excellence in 2012.
Petersen and her husband, Duane, reside in Dike with their two sets of twin daughters, Baylee and Sydney (17), and Jadyn and Payton (11).