(Photo Credit: Russell Hons-UND Athletics )
Tonight, in front of a decent crowd at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center, we saw an incomplete picture of how good the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks’ Volleyball team can be this year in front of an electric 888 patrons. They put together a strong effort on defense in a five set (3-2) win against the Eagles of Eastern Washington that featured five players reaching double digit digs lead by McKenzie Damon with 20.
This now 8-5 team had some success up front as well. Lydia Rutten did a superb job of staying within the system of first year head coach Jeremiah Tiffin among others. She lead the offense and was the difference up front. On the night she notched 18 kills on 33 swings with a mere 3 errors, good for a .455 hitting percentage. In a sport where hitting above .300 is considered really good, it is fair to say she was great this night for the Fighting Hawks. She gave credit to the consistent play of her setters and defense in giving her a chance to be that efficient. Peyton Sewell finished the night with 42 assists, spearheading the bulk of distribution for UND on this night.
In addition to the exploits of Rutten, the sole senior on this squad, Ashley Brueggeman notched her 1000th career kill en route to 11 on the evening as part of a double double. Only 18 people in UND Volleyball history, including Ashley have accomplished this rare and momentous feat. On defense she chipped in 11 digs. She played the back row on multiple rotations and showcased the versatility fans in Grand Forks are used to seeing her utilize on a game-by-game basis.
As a team,these Fighting Hawks have not shown their best for a full game yet. They already have had some harrowing moments, including a five set win against Marist, where the Fighting Hawks had to rattle off three set wins in a row after losing the first two sets, including the second set by 18 points (25-7).
This team showed something tonight. When they start well, like they did in the second, fourth, and fifth sets, they get into their offense, and as Tiffin noted, can play more aggressively and afford to take an error when on the attack or a “good error”. When this team starts well, they can make games interesting in the Summit League. Now, they have one more tune up against a good team from the MAC, Akron.
The Zips are one of the bigger teams UND will see this season, and play a versatile game where their setters will join the attack as needed, presenting another wrinkle to account for tomorrow night at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. Come 7:30 PM tomorrow night, we will get the final picture of what this team looks like heading into a tough Summit League schedule the following week.