ATLANTA, Ga.-- Georgia Tech, fresh off an upset of 17th-ranked Michigan State a night earlier, handed North Dakota its first loss of the season with a 25-15, 25-20, 25-23 win Sunday afternoon in nonconference play.
UND had played four matches in the past two days-- two of them going five sets-- before boarding a bus and making the five-hour trip to Atlanta last night. The Yellow Jackets were able to pounce quickly in the opening set, going on an 8-1 run midway through the first frame then later piecing together seven straight points on the way to a 25-15 win in the first set.
"This was by far the best team we've played. They were definitely on an emotional high from beating No. 17 Michigan State yesterday," UND head coach Mark Pryor said. "The first set they really jumped on us and made a good run in the middle of the set, and then it was just side out ball to finish, and we couldn't get enough stops.
"The second set we were tied at 17, and we just hit a mental wall, and made some mistakes that we couldn't recover from. That third set, we had some chances, but made a couple errors late that cost us an opportunity to get to the other side of the net for a fourth set."
In the second, Georgia Tech used a set-ending 10-3 spurt to overcome a 17-15 UND lead to lead the match, two sets to none. UND wouldn't go quietly, however. After trailing 5-0 in the final set, the Fighting Hawks stormed back to eventually tie it at 10-10 then fought back from another five-point hole to take their first lead in the stanza at 17-16. North Dakota held that slim edge at 21-20 but the Jackets were able to keep North Dakota at bay and finally closed it out, 25-23.
Sophomore Ashley Brueggeman paced the UND offense with nine kills while Tamara Merseli and Faith Dooley each notched eight finishes. Senior Sydeny Griffin had 30 assists to propel her past the 3,000 career assist mark, just the fifth UND player to reach that plateau. Sophomore Alivia Fraase tallied 16 digs to lead the defensive effort while Dooley tacked on eight more blocks to her strong start to the season (32 blocks in five matches).
"Overall, this was actually the match we needed this weekend," Pryor admitted. "In no way are we happy with a loss, but we needed to see some things that we don't do in our gym. We needed to see how hard it is going to be when we are exhausted mentally and physically, and what we can do to push ourselves and get out of our comfort zones. This match shows us what we have to get better at to reach our potential and now it's on us to find ways to make that happen."
North Dakota will play five more matches next week, starting with two in Las Cruces, N.M. on Thursday. UND gets the host New Mexico State Aggies at 8:00 p.m. Thursday followed by UNLV on Friday before it heads to El Paso, Texas for the Glory Road Invitational hosted by UTEP.