GRAND FORKS, N.D.-- University of North Dakota head volleyball coach Mark Pryor unveiled his team's 2018 schedule Thursday, as it makes the transition to its new home in The Summit League. The 32-match slate is complete with 11 home matches and will see the Fighting Hawks battle some of the nation's top teams.
North Dakota, who will lose five players due to graduation from a season ago, will be tested right off the bat. UND will travel to Texas to play four consecutive opponents who qualified for the postseason a year ago and finished in the top 100 of the RPI.
UND faces Lone Star State foes Rice and Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas to start the season on Aug. 24. Two days later, the Fighting Hawks travel north to Ft. Worth, Texas to face Green Bay and host TCU. All four of the opening weekend teams were part of the 32-team National Invitational Volleyball (NIVC) postseason tournament in 2017.
The UND Classic is back again as the home schedule opens Aug. 31 against Western Carolina and Louisiana Tech. Former league foe Eastern Washington returns to the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center as the final UND Classic opponent the following evening.
A two-week trek through the Southeast sees UND head to Clemson again for a tournament followed by stops in Jacksonville for two matches (North Florida, Jacksonville) and Tampa, Fla., for USF, Charlotte and New Orleans. That will be the final tuneup before the premiere of Summit League matches, beginning with Western Illinois and Fort Wayne in the first week. Three straight at home starts Sep. 26 with the highly-anticipated battle with North Dakota State, now a twice-a-year affair as leaguemates.
A key stretch comes on Oct. 7 when North Dakota plays host to four-time defending Summit League champion Denver, part of two straight matches against NCAA Tournament teams. UND then heads to Pittsburgh to face the 28th-best team in terms of RPI from last season, the Pitt Panthers, a team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tourney. That stretch is then met with a return trip to Fargo, N.D., Oct. 12 for the second match with NDSU followed by another key tilt against South Dakota Oct. 14 at the Betty. One of the tougher road trips takes place the next weekend at Oral Roberts, who also went to the NIVC, and then the rematch with Denver.
North Dakota completed its six-year stint in the Big Sky Conference with three conference titles (2013, 2016, 2017) and a league record of 75-29.
In Pryor's tenure, UND has met or eclipsed the program record for wins in three of the four seasons, including a 30-win campaign last year and a successful defense of its Big Sky Conference Tournament crown.
All-conference senior middle Jordan Vail and junior outside Ashley Brueggeman headline a talented returning group of starters for the Fighting Hawks, including junior libero Alivia Fraase and senior Tamika Brekke in the back row.
BY THE NUMBERS
*5 matches against top 100 RPI teams
*9 matches vs. 2017 postseason teams (NCAA- 3, NIVC- 6)
*11 home matches
*28- highest opponent 2017 RPI (Pitt)
*32 total matches
|Most wins last 4 years|