EL PASO, Texas-- With 10 matches in nine days to open the season, one might not have predicted a 9-1 record, especially given the competition. But, UND managed that-- with its third straight sweep-- defeating host UTEP Saturday evening.
"The win tonight was great, but I'm more proud of how much this team has grown over these past nine days," UND head coach Mark Pryor said. "We talked about how tough it was going to be on us all physically, mentally, and even socially as a team. There was a lot of individual and team self discovery going on these past nine days. What's scary is that at times today, we were actually looking like we were getting stronger as the match went on. That is a great sign."
North Dakota finished the lengthy road trip-- which included matches in four different states-- in style, rattling off the final five points Saturday to earn the win. Once UTEP got set point at 24-21 in the third, UND (9-1) went to work on wrapping up the match. It started with a Lydia Rutten kill then a block by Sydney Griffin and Jordan Vail followed by a Miner error prompted a timeout. Out of the break, Maggie Smith registered an ace and then the match ended on Vail's seventh kill of the night, delivering UND's fifth straight win.
The set prior was all North Dakota as the Fighting Hawks held the Miners to a .000 hit percentage. For the match, UND hit .266 as a team, the third straight match in which the squad hit better than .250. That second set was highlighted by a 15-5 set-ending run by North Dakota to give it to the visitors, 25-15.
In the first, North Dakota was efficient, hitting at a .314 clip with senior Tamara Merseli posting five of her team-high eight kills in that frame alone. Griffin ended the night with 28 assists, six kills and four digs. Faith Dooley and Ashley Brueggeman each contributed a half-dozen kills in the win.
"This gauntlet that we were able to run through has everything to do with our UND strength staff, our UND training staff, and my assistants Erin Green and Mia Tabberson. We are ready to be home and rest up. Last time I looked, we have a special visitor coming to see us on Wednesday about 7:00 p.m.
North Dakota will open its home schedule with an in-state rivalry match against North Dakota State Wednesday evening. First serve is slated for 7:00 p.m. on Midco Sports Network and WatchBigSky.com.
Notes: Freshmen Amelia Johnson (3) and Lydia Rutten (2) each registered career highs for kills in the win ... Faith Dooley cracked the top 10 in the career kill record book at UND (1,141 -- tied with Britta Hanson) ... Sydney Griffin was named the Glory Road Invitational Most Valuable Player with teammates Ashley Brueggeman and Alivia Fraase joining her on the all-tournament team.