OXFORD, Miss.-- North Dakota improved to 4-0 on the young season with a pair of neutral-site wins at the Ole Miss Rebel Invitational Saturday. UND defeated Louisiana Tech in four sets in the morning match then outlasted Florida A&M in five to end the tournament.
North Dakota 3, Louisiana Tech 1
Seniors Tamara Merseli and Faith Dooley each powered home 16 kills to pace the UND offense. Merseli added 22 digs for her second straight double-double while Dooley chipped in three blocks to take sole possession of the school's all-time record.
UND dropped the first set, 25-20, but sneaked out wins in the sets two (29-27) and three (27-25) to put itself in position for the win. North Dakota closed it out with a 25-21 victory in set four, hitting .262 as a team for the match.
"The whole purpose of our first two weeks is to figure out what we are made of, and where we can get better," UND head coach Mark Pryor said. "After an emotional win last night, the question we asked was, can we be mentally tough enough to come back in the gym in less than 11 hours and be willing to compete both physically and mentally?
"After the opening set, we slowly started to get going. We are slowly but surely figuring out what we can be."
North Dakota 3, Florida A&M 2
Dooley tied her career high with 18 kills as North Dakota earned its second five-set win in as many nights. UND again had to rally from down as the Fighting Hawks dropped the opening set, 26-24.
UND (4-0) got rather convincing wins in the next two sets (25-15, 25-18) to gain control of the match but the Rattlers claimed a 25-23 victory in the fourth to send it to a decider.
There, FAMU led 6-4 until UND embarked on an 11-4 match-ending run. It started with a Merseli kill and continued with four blocks in the run, with Ashley Brueggeman involved in three of them. The final block in the stretch made it 14-9 and a kill by Teodora Tepavac gave North Dakota the five-set win and an incredible 15-5 record in five-set matches under Pryor.
"What this match showed is that what we train works for us," Pryor said. "We had a five-set match and we were tired. These girls dug in, and played really efficient volleyball. To have 16 hitting errors in a long five-set match is pretty impressive. That shows a real attention to detail. They were mentally solid. This W is due in large part to our UND strength staff. They have prepped us to enjoy the process of just outlasting teams.
"We are all pleased with this weekend, but we have an ACC team tomorrow (Georgia Tech) on their home turf. It is going to be tough, but this group understands these first two weekends are all about self discovery as a team and personal and team growth. It's another opportunity for us to define our identity this year, and discover where we can get better. I'm pretty damn proud of these kids."
Merseli made it three straight double-doubles with her 17 kills and 25 digs. Dooley's 18 kills and 10 blocks gave her a double-double as well. Jordan Vail had 10 kills and a career-best eight blocks while Griffin handed out 52 assists in the win. UND combined for 18.0 team blocks en route to victory.
North Dakota heads to Atlanta, Ga., to battle Georgia Tech Sunday afternoon. The match is set for a 3:00 p.m. start on ACC Network + and WatchESPN.com.
Notes: Faith Dooley was named the Rebel Invitational Most Valuable Player following Sunday's Ole Miss match ... Her teammates Tamara Merseli and Jordan Vail joined her on the all-tournament team ... UND's last 4-0 start came in 2009 (first year in NCAA Division I) ... North Dakota is 21-2 over its last 23 matches dating back to last season ... Vail notched back-to-back matches with double digits in kills (11 vs. LT, 10 vs. FAMU) for the first time in her UND career ... Griffin tallied back-to-back matches with 50 assists or more for the third time in her career ... She now has 14 career matches with at least 50 assists ... Griffin ran her career assist total to 2,972, surpassing Megan Langseth into fifth place in the UND record books in that category ... Dooley picked up her 500th career block in the win, extending her school record in that category.