LAS CRUCES, N.M.-- Just six days ago, UND trailed 0-2 at Ole Miss and rallied for a 3-2 win. The Fighting Hawks turned the trick again, this time with a 22-25, 8-25, 25-21, 25-21, 15-10 win at New Mexico State for an incredible third five-set win already on the young season and improving to 5-1 overall.
"While I am very pleased with a win against a quality team in their home opener, enough is enough. We have to be better at beginning matches," UND head coach Mark Pryor said. "We had 22 hitting errors in the first two sets. We can go weekends without having that many. The good news is that we are becoming aware of where our areas for growth are. One of them has been a consistent issue for some time, going back to last year. We really got lucky tonight. We are all grateful for that.
"At some point, we aren't going to be able to flip it like we did tonight. We are playing with fire, and at some point we will get burned. I'm truly hopeful that we can address this soon, because if we do, watch out for the Fighting Hawks, we could be scary."
To see the first two sets, one likely wouldn't have predicted a carbon copy of that come-from-behind win at Ole Miss. The Fighting Hawks uncharacteristically notched four attack errors in the first five points to dig themselves a 5-0 hole right off the opening serve. With the score 8-3 Aggies, UND embarked on an impressive 14-5 run to climb in front, 17-13. But, NMSU had an answer, rattling off seven straight points then holding off North Dakota down the stretch to inch out a 25-22 victory in the opening set.
In set two, the Aggies turned a six-point lead at 12-6 into a comfy victory, 25-8, by scoring 10 of the next 11 points to head into the intermission with a 2-0 advantage. The stats were decidedly in favor of the home team as NMSU was out-hitting North Dakota, .145 to -.079 through two sets, including a .360 to -.172 clip in the second set alone.
North Dakota had a whopping 22 attack errors at that point and had mustered just 16 kills combined.
UND would total just 14 combined attack errors in the next three sets combined to mount a rally. Coming out of the break, UND hung around and hit .182 while holding the Aggies to .067 in that frame to take a 25-21 win in the third. It was another 25-21 win for the Fighting Hawks to set the stage for another fantastic finish.
The visitors didn't disappoint as they powered home nine kills in the final set, including four from Tamara Merseli and three more from Ashley Brueggeman for the win. Those two would complement Faith Dooley's match-high 15 kill-effort in the win. Merseli made it another double-double by adding 14 digs while Sydney Griffin tallied 40 assists and a career-high 22 digs.
North Dakota will continue play at NMSU Friday with matches against UNLV (noon) and Youngstown State (7:30 p.m.) before Saturday tilts at UTEP with New Mexico (1:00 p.m.) and UTEP (8:30 p.m.).
Notes: Three of UND's five wins this season have gone the distance ... UND lost the first set in all three of those matches, including dropping the first two in two of those ... Dooley's 15 kills give her 1,097 for her career to move into 14th all-time at North Dakota ... She's currently one shy of Lexi Robinson (2011-14) for 13th place ... Teodora Tepavac set a new career high with 18 digs in the win ... New Mexico State was 169-36 at home since 2003 entering the match.