MOSCOW, Idaho-- North Dakota rallied from down two sets to none to force a fifth set, but fell just short as Idaho picked up a huge home win in Big Sky Conference play Saturday evening. The teams are now tied atop the league's North Division with two matches to play in the regular season.
Junior Jordan Vail recorded a career-high 19 kills in the loss, part of four North Dakota players to etch double figures in kills (Tamara Merseli 14, Ashley Brueggeman 14 and Faith Dooley 11). Sydney Griffin had a double-double with 56 assists and 14 digs.
"What this team needs to realize is all that separates us from first place in the Big Sky and where we are now is a measly nine points. That might be less than two percent of all the points we have played," UND head coach Mark Pryor said. "In three five-set matches this year in conference, we have been up by scores of 10-8 at Sacramento State,10-8 vs. Montana State and 13-11 tonight in the fifth set. At that point in each of those matches, we have been outscored by a combined 18-3. That's an issue. For us to not finish those matches off is just completely unacceptable. That's a mentality that has to change.
"This team has exceptional talent, but for us to achieve greatness they need to take the reins and embrace finishing with purpose, and just not hoping the opponent will make mistakes."
A very tight opening set featured eight tie scores and four lead changes before Idaho eventually claimed a 20-16 lead. The Vandals would go on to secure the frame, 25-20 by hitting .370.
Set two saw Idaho win 25-16 to take control of the match, two sets to none. At that point, the Vandals had out-hit UND .330 to .136 as they looked to split the season series and tie atop the Big Sky North.
UND (25-7, 10-4) would not go quietly, rallying to post wins in each of the next two sets. The Fighting Hawks raced out of the intermission with points on five of the first six rallies. North Dakota grabbed the set with a 25-21 score by hitting a whopping .459 in that stanza alone.
In the fourth, UND build a 16-9 advantage but the Vandals roared back to tie it at 21-21. North Dakota fended off a match point at 24-23 before finally getting the 29-27 victory for a deciding fifth set.
Idaho lept ahead 6-3 in that set but UND answered with a 10-5 spurt to lead 13-11 with the final points in that run coming on back-to-back kills by Merseli. The Vandals got a sideout then scored three straight to win, 15-13.
North Dakota will host a pair of matches in the final week of the regular season. UND welcomes Northern Arizona on Thursday before a Saturday morning tilt against Northern Colorado on Nov. 11.
Notes: Sydney Griffin now has 18 career matches with 50 assists or more, including six this season ... Vail's previous match-high in kills was 15 (Sep. 21 at Southern Utah) ... Vail has now registered double-digit kills in each of her last seven matches played and nine of her last 10 ... UND remains one win shy of tying the school record for single-season victories.