CEDAR CITY, Utah-- Following a sloppy 25-16 loss in the first set Thursday at Southern Utah, the University of North Dakota volleyball team rebounded nicely to win 3-1 in the Big Sky Conference opener for both teams. UND tallied 10 attack errors in that first set, then combined for just 16 more in the next three sets combined on the way to the road victory.
North Dakota's middles were key in the win as senior Faith Dooley tied a career high with 18 kills and junior Jordan Vail also set a new career best with 15 kills as both players hit above .500 Thursday. Senior Sydney Griffin recorded 50 assists while four different UND players collecetd double digit in digs led by Tamara Merseli's 21.
"This team just discovered what it means to be a defending conference champion," UND head coach Mark Pryor said. "They were absolutely not ready to play in set one. If that continues we will struggle... a lot. Teams are going to come at us. An off night is a loss, it's just that simple. That's also the best Southern Utah team I've seen. They are absolutely on the right track.
"We fought back and took care of business. That's a step in the right direction."
UND (16-2, 1-0 Big Sky), which has made its living this season being efficient, had an uncharacteristic 10 attack errors in the first set alone as SUU (5-8, 0-1) grabbed a 25-16 win. It was 6-2 Southern Utah right off the bat and North Dakota never recovered.
The Fighting Hawks would get their revenge in the second set, scoring the first four points and mounting a quick 16-6 lead. UND equalled the match at one set apiece with a convincing 25-13 win in that set, re-establishing momentum.
In the third, Dooley tallied seven kills in that frame alone helping North Dakota to a 25-18 victory. UND ended that set on a 5-1 run with three of those Dooley kills coming in that stretch.
Set four saw SUU take an early lead but North Dakota went on a 9-3 run midway through the set on the way to another 25-18 win and its 10th win over Southern Utah in 11 tries.
North Dakota remains on the road to face Northern Colorado Saturday. First serve is set for 7:00 p.m. from Greeley, Colo.
Notes: UND improves to 10-1 all-time against Southern Utah ... Jordan Vail's previous career high was 11 kills (vs. Louisiana Tech, 8/26/17) .. Dooley has tied her career high five times (three times this season and in back-to-back matches) ... UND is 4-2 in Big Sky Conference openers ... North Dakota has won eight straight conference regular season matches, dating back to last season.