GRAND FORKS, N.D.-- Behind junior Ronni Munkeby's match-high 15 kills, the University of North Dakota recorded its first win in Big Sky Conference play with a 26-24, 25-15, 26-24 sweep of visiting Montana Saturday night at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. The win marks the first conference victory for a UND athletic program in its new league home.
Munkeby followed-up her career night Thursday (19 kills) with another solid performance, hitting .483 on Saturday (15 kills, 1 error, 29 attacks). Six of the Lisbon, N.D. native's kills came in the first set, including a run of finishes that may have swung the match.
With Montana (2-8, 0-2 Big Sky) holding a slim lead for much of the opening set, UND (5-7, 1-1) found itself down 19-16 and looked a bit sluggish following a tough loss Thursday night against Montana State. After fellow junior Lisa Parlich registered a kill, Munkeby slammed home another and UND inched within one, forcing a Montana timeout as momentum was teetering.
Munkeby scored the next two UND points via kill and North Dakota rallied for a 26-24 win in the first set. That win seemed to light the fire in the Green and White as UND raced out to a 10-3 advantage in the second set and looked in rhythm. Three of those points came via blocks getting the boisterous crowd of 946 behind its team.
North Dakota scored five of the final seven points of the second set to close it out, 25-15 and UND was again in position to grab its first victory as the newcomers of the BSC. This time, UND did not let the opportunity slip away, wrestling a 26-24 win in a tight third set to secure the match.
Munkeby again provided the spark in that set. With the score tied at 8-all, Munkeby ended a long rally that featured several big digs by Montana. The point was finally won when the junior co-captain powered one down from the right side and followed with another kill for a slim UND advantage.
It was a set that featured 15 ties and six lead changes. UM clinged to a 22-21 lead before Munkeby put down kills 14 and 15 on back-to-back points and Lexi Robinson had two of her own for a 26-24 win and the benchmark moment for a school entering a new era.
Parlich and Robinson each chipped-in nine kills as UND outhit its opponent .267 to .143. Ellen Krueger returned to the starting lineup following her brief stint with injury to record six kills on 10 swings. Nikki Husfeldt grabbed her second straight double-double with 38 assists and 11 digs for North Dakota.
Kelsey Schile and Kayla Reno each registered 10 kills for UM.
UND heads west next week to take on Weber State and Idaho State on Thursday and Saturday night, respectively.