GRAND FORKS, N.D.- Sophomore Ashley Brueggeman tallied a match-high 10 kills and earned UND Classic Most Valuable Player honors as North Dakota completed a sweep of South Dakota State Saturday morning at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. Her teammates Faith Dooley and Teodora Tepavac were also honored on the all-tournament team as UND convincingly swept all three match on the weekend.
In the win over SDSU, UND again was efficient with its offensive attack, hitting at a .269 clip for the match and added 12 team blocks on the defensive side. Dooley and Tamara Merseli each recorded eight kills in the win with Dooley notching six total blocks. Merseli added 15 digs for North Dakota, who extends its NCAA-leading win total to 13.
"This really wasn't a pretty match, but we gutted it out," UND head coach Mark Pryor said. "We've had 14 matches in 16 days. The grind these kids went through is real. They are mentally weary. It was nice to see us respond well in sets two and three."
North Dakota, who has won an incredible 26 straight sets dating back to last season, started slow out of the gate, allowing a team to score 20 points in a match for the first time this season. UND would hang on, though, and take the first set, 25-22, with Brueggeman killing the first three points for UND on her way to 10 for the match.
The Fighting Hawks' mojo returned in the second when they leaped out to a quick 7-2 lead and Brueggeman hammered home five balls on just eight swings in that frame. Dooley contributed four of her half-dozen blocks in that set alone, marking a decisive 25-13 score heading into intermission. In the final frame, North Dakota was able to get some reserves some valuable court time and they wrapped up the match with a 25-19 victory in a tidy 90-minute match.
"You know you have a great group that gets what we are trying to do as a program when I go up to Alivia Fraase before set two and tell her, 'Look, you know I don't like having to get on you guys like that...' and before I could finish what I was saying, she looked at me right in the eye, and said, 'No, we needed that.'" Pryor said. "And it was how she said it, very business-like. They understood what our standard should be, and how we want to hold that bar high. That's why this group is special. They simply get it."
They'll get a chance to measure up again next weekend when they head to Green Bay for three non-conference tilts. It starts with a big showdown with Big West power Cal Poly on Friday followed by the host Phoenix later that evening. The tourney ends Saturday against IUPUI in the final tuneup prior to opening Big Sky Conference play the next week.
Notes: UND has not lost a set at home since Nov. 5, 2016 (8 straight sweeps) ... North Dakota (13-1) has four matches left on its non-conference schedule ... The Fighting Hawks were 9-7 in their non-conference regular season slate last year ... North Dakota has won the team title in five of the seven UND Classic tournaments held ... UND has played in three tournaments this year and has had seven different players named to their respective all-tournament teams with three different MVPs (Dooley, Griffin, Brueggeman).