Astounding Ahrens and Fantastic Flores Pace Four Set UND Win

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons-FightingHawks.com)

Coming into their second to last home game, UND needed to find some consistency. They were unable to do so in the first set as a 1-23 Western Illinois side was able to come in and take the first set 25-21. They did so with with 15 kills and capitalizing on six attack and two service errors.That said, the rest of the match played out quite a bit differently as UND went on to win this key conference match in four sets (21-25, 25-21, 25-17, 25-23).

After the 25-21 first set loss, UND needed to adjust. The Fighting Hawks were able to dramatically improve their team hitting in the second set to even things up in the second as they flipped the score to a 25-21 set two win. Through two sets, the teams evened things out a bit as they both finished set two with ten attack errors apiece. Throughout the first few sets both teams had stars emerge. Shia Sanders for the Leathernecks paced them with 15 kills on the evening , and Lexi Ahrens paced UND. Both of them were the most efficient players for their teams with multiple kills, and both were able to limit their errors. On the night Ahrens finished with 13 kills on 21 swings including a mere two attack errors for the Fighting Hawks.

Set three looked identical from a hitting perspective for UND. The Fighting Hawks were able to rack up 16 kills on 33 swings again combined with only four attack errors to take the third set 25-17. Finally, in the fourth set the Leathernecks fought back but UND was able to hang on despite 11 attack errors and wrap up the match with a 25-23 fourth set win. In addition to Ahrens, credit Taliyah Flores tonight. The normal back-row player for UND played a more offensive role tonight and played a superb game. She finished with 11 kills on 25 swings with a mere three attack errors and 7 digs. She was able to fill gaps in UND’s lineup created by injury and, along with Ahrens showed how much their games have developed in their first season for UND.

On senior night, where UND’s three seniors were honored, two freshman stole the show. The Fighting Hawks will look to make large steps to a Summit League Tournament appearance this Saturday in their home finale against Purdue Fort Wayne. If this team can play a consistent match and lower their errors a bit, they can as they have in the past, compete with anyone in this conference. Saturday morning will go a long way to determining UND’s postseason fate.

UND Loses 3-1 to UNO Volleyball: Now What?

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons-FightingHawks.com)

On Friday, UND did some things differently. One of its best middle hitters, Ashley Brueggeman, played the outside for the first time in her college career. She tied her career high in kills with 17. Despite UND developing its new look lineup and showing that it is still competitive with a good Omaha team, they did not pull off the victory. The Mavericks hit .232 on the evening and used their limited error sets to pull away and take the match in four sets.

What now for UND? Where do the Fighting Hawks go the rest of the way?

Develop Depth 

UND has relied more on freshman like Darian Chwialkowski in the past few matches. I have been impressed with how Head Coach Mark Pryor has developed some of his depth and freshman players this season. As UND has played more games, they have featured more diverse lineups as the season has progressed. While UND’s Summit record does not place them near the top of the table, the development of underclassmen like Lexi Ahrens among others will benefit UND immensely this season and beyond. This team does not rebuild in college volleyball, they merely reload. This process is merely reloading and development.

That Was Fun 

Mark Pryor noted how much fun it was to coach that group last night. The result was what no one wanted, of course, but you could tell this team is developing a chemistry that will serve them well in the long run. If UND can iron out some of its hitting error issues, then they could still surprise a few teams in Summit Volleyball down the stretch. This team willed its way back into the match playing a strong third and fourth set to get things a little closer last night. Do they still have work to do? Of course. Does this team look like a squad building for both the rest of this season and the long term? You bet.

3-1: How UND Volleyball Lost in Four Sets to Denver and Now What

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons-FightingHawks.com)

Coming into today, UND had been working with its lineup featuring new players. along with key stars like Ashley Brueggeman. Today, the Fighting Hawks saw what winning the Summit League would take. The class of the league, Denver, won a four set victory over them (3-1) on the road this afternoon. Besides the second set, which UND won, the Pioneers finished every other set with at least 17 kills.

One thing that stood out today was the disparity in receive errors which has been a theme this season. UND finished with eight, and Denver finished with only two. In addition, the Pioneers had a distributed attack which keyed them to victory.Three Pioneers finished with double-digit kills. Becca Latham and Tina Boe each had 12 apiece, and Katarina Marinkovic finished with 11 kills. For UND, only Ashley Brueggeman finished above the 10 kill mark with 14. She was the only Fighting Hawk to hit above the .200 clip. She hit .286 on the day.

Going into their Tuesday tilt against Pittsburgh on the road, UND can use this game for a few things. First, they will look to lower their receive errors where possible to keep themselves in more points. Second, they will get this new look lineup some more reps and look to further hone their skill development. Third, they will find out which of their hitters besides Jordan Vail and Ashley Brueggeman they can look for to help provide their offense some more depth. Finally, they will have a chance to see one of the best teams in the country in their court and put good things on tape to further work on to help them out when they get back to Summit League play next weekend. After the Pittsburgh matchup, UND then heads on the road to take on North Dakota State University on Friday October 12 before returning home next Sunday to take on South Dakota back at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.

 

That Was Close: How UND Won Five Set Thriller Against Oral Roberts

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons-FightingHawks.com)

On a cold Friday night in Grand Forks, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks nearly had their first loss at home at a loud Betty Engelstad Sioux Center this season in front of the 932 loud and invested fans that came to watch them take on the Golden Eagles of Oral Roberts. Those fans were worried as heading into set four, the Fighting Hawks were facing a 2-1 deficit and coming off of their  UND was able to come back and take the final two sets to win a 3-2 five set thriller.

Lydia Rutten was the most efficient attacker with over 20 swings for UND. She finished with 12 kills on 24 swings with a mere three attack errors to finish hitting at a .375 clip on the evening. On defense, libero Taliyah Flores led the way with 30 digs. Four Fighting Hawks had double digit digs. Setter Roosa Rautio finished with a double-double with 57 assists and 10 digs. Finally, Kayla Williams also chipped in a double-double with 13 digs and 15 kills.

In the first set, UND was able to soar past the Golden Eagles early on. The Fighting Hawks forced both Oral Roberts timeouts with ten point leads in the first set. The Golden Eagles fought back with a 7-2 run to bring it to 20-15 UND, but the Fighting Hawks were able to take five of the final seven points to take the first set 25-17. In the opening stanza the Fighting Hawks hit .314 with a mere four attack errors.

In the second set, Oral Roberts took advantage of 14 total Fighting Hawks errors including 10 attack errors to take a wild second set that saw UND have eight set-point chances to go up 2-0. Oral Roberts forced more mistakes in the second set and kept themselves in a lot of long rallies with superb back line play from libero Tori Roe who finished the second set with 15 digs.

Following that, in set three, the Golden Eagles took the third set putting away 16 kills on 42 swings. They used their offense and took advantage of six attack errors by UND to go up two sets. In the fourth set, UND was able to force ten attack errors and put away 12 kills to take the fourth set 25-18.  In the deciding set, UND made quick work of Oral Roberts, winning it 15-8. The Fighting Hawks capitalized on their most efficient set of the night. They hit at a .471 clip and only committed one attack error in route to finishing strong against the Golden Eagles.

Next up for the Fighting Hawks is South Dakota State. SDSU was swept by NDSU in Fargo last night. The third UND match since Wednesday night starts Saturday afternoon right back at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center at 4 PM.

UND Soars to Sweep of Eastern Washington: Three Thoughts

Coming into this one, the Fighting Hawks showed they could hang with top talent in their four matchups in Texas last weekend. One thing they wanted to build on was limiting errors. The first set provided the best example of that as UND limited itself to two errors while soaring past Eastern Washington 25-10. The team hit well in the first set, hitting 36.7 percent with a mere two attack errors. That set the pace for the rest of the way. UND has a doubleheader tomorrow to round out their participation in the UND Classic. The Fighting Hawks first take on Western Carolina, then later on in the evening they take on Louisiana Tech.

Here are some thoughts on today and what to expect tomorrow.

  1. Kayla Williams is going to make a claim to best six rotation hitter in the Summit League if she keeps up her pace. She had a superb game and was all over the court for the Fighting Hawks. She had a double-double and finished with 12 kills and 13 digs. She was there when Eastern made a few mini runs in the second set. Her versatility complements the superb blockers and front line of UND Volleyball.
  2. Jordan Vail has shown that she is on track to have another superb year up front for UND. Her hieght and versatility in the rotation are a proven asset for this team, and today they were on full display. She hit at a 40 percent pace today with 16 kills.
  3. Heading into tomorrow’s doubleheader, look to see how UND plays with limiting its errors, a key component to this one. Head coach Mark Pryor has made this a key component of the culture he has instilled, and it will be a key thing to watch tomorrow as UND plays a doubleheader.

UND Volleyball: Retooling with Kayla Williams

(Photo Courtesy of Russell Hons/UND Athletics)

On Tuesday night, UND Volleyball fans got to see their first look at a revamped 2018 squad trying to carry its Big Sky success over to the Summit League.  This retooled squad comes with transfer Kayla Williams. The former University of Connecticut star came to North Dakota for this season and looks to take over one of the key outside hitter roles vacated by UND’s large senior class. She has already produced an immediate impact with 23 kills (16,7) in the Fighting Hawks’ first two matches, and another double digit kill effort to help UND win its first match of the season against Green Bay this morning.

Upon her transfer, VolleyMob noted some key statistics from Williams’ previous season with UCONN:

“This past season, Williams missed eight matches yet still led the Huskies in kills (310, 3.83 per set) and aces (33, 0.41 per set). She also notched 228 digs (2.81 per set) and 33 blocks (0.41 per set).”

On recruiting Williams to UND, Fighting Hawks Head Coach Mark Pryor described the importance of being able to attract talent like Kayla to UND. Williams can play all six rotations and is an outside hitter. Last year, she finished third in the American Athletic Conference in points per set. Having Williams helps UND maintain its competitive nature going into the new season in the conference. Look for the Staten Island, NY native to have an immediate impact on the Fighting Hawks this season.

From Williams’ perspective, she was drawn to UND due to the superb culture that Coach Pryor has built. She was contacted after the start of 2018. Williams came to Grand Forks during the one of the coldest parts of the year to check things out. She came when the temperature was -19 degrees outside. Atmosphere and the team, definitely not the weather first drew her to this campus to play.

Kayla describes her style on the court as ” hard working, persistent, and a little annoying.” That superb tenacity has already payed immediate dividends with her contributions to the score sheet in all three matches this season.

Away from the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center, Williams appreciates the design of the campus and its overall home-like feeling it provides.

Look for more from Kayla this season as she has already proven to provide an immediate impact on the court.

 

 

UND Flies Past Eastern Washington to go 4-0 in the Big Sky

Photo Credit: (Tyler Ingham for UNDSports.com)

In front of 1289 fans at the Betty Englestad Sioux Center the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks (19-2, 4-0) swept (25-15, 25-12,25-20) the Eastern Washington Eagles (5-8, 2-2)

This win marks the 17th consecutive win at the Betty for the Hawks. They have won the last 32 sets at home.

The Fighting Hawks raced out to a quick lead due to their ability to limit errors. Four of their seven attack errors came in the first set. UND had 12 kills on 34 swings in the first half.

Coach Pryor mentioned the need to improve “ball security” and limit mistakes after the match against Idaho. The Fighting Hawks would replicate this formula in the second and third sets to take the match. Coach Pryor’s side had an attack error free second set.

The Fighting Hawks had to battle in the third set to close out Eastern Washington. The Eagles had a few runs, and forced UND to use its only timeout of the match. North Dakota benefited, once again, from its strong defense to short-circuit a lot of Eagle attacks. Eastern Washington only hit .073 in the third set (14 kills on 55 swings with 10 attack errors).

This attack error free second set was the first for the Fighting Hawks since the second round of the 2017 Big Sky Tournament on November 18, 2016.

UND was paced throughout by Faith Dooley who lead the way on offense for the Hawks with nine kills on seventeen swings. The Wheatland, ND native hit above .500 (.529) for the second match this week.

Four players pitched in big defensive evenings for the Fighting Hawks. Teodora Tepavac, Tamera Merseli, Alivia Fraase,and Sydney Griffin each had double digit digs (15,14,11,10).

Once again the Fighting Hawks were able to limit their attack errors to single digits. UND had seven attack errors on the day which tied its season low. The Hawks last had seven attack errors against George Washington on September 8 in the UND Classic. Eastern Washington had 30 attack errors on the day.

The Fighting Hawks head on the road next weekend to take on Sacramento State, and Portland State as they look to extend their undefeated record in the Big Sky.

Check out Faith Dooley’s thoughts on the game, the win streak at home, and more.

 

 

 

 

UND Sweeps Idaho Keyed by a Trio of Double-Digit Kill Evenings

(Photo credit to Joel Helbling for UNDSports.com)

In front of a crowd of 1,333 fans anxious to see the first home match at the Betty Englestad Sioux Center in almost three weeks, the Fighting Hawks (18-2 2-1) swept (25-22, 25-18, 25-21) the Idaho Vandals (7-7, 2-1) in their Big Sky home opener. This win gave the Fighting Hawks their 16th straight home win at the Betty.

The Fighting Hawks persevered through an eight error first set with 20 kills to put the Vandals on their heels early. As the match went on, the Fighting Hawks were able to slowly control their attack errors and the game.

In the second set, the Fighting Hawks hit .500 as they were able to put the Vandals down 25-18 going into halftime. This allowed the team the chance to avoid going to four sets. Given that UND has played 20 matches, maintaining their stamina is becoming increasingly important. Coach Pryor noted the issues with fatigue, and the importance of closing Idaho out in three sets.

Seniors Faith Dooley, Tamera Merseli, and sophomore Ashley Brueggeman each (13,12,and 10) notched double digit kills on the evening.

The Wheatland, ND native was the most efficient Hawk on the offensive side of the ball  on the evening. She notched her 12 kills on 19 swings with zero attack errors. She hit .632 on the night and was a constant force for Head Coach Mark Pryor’s team throughout the match. Pryor noted how much Faith has improved over her time at UND, as she has put herself just outside the top five of UND’s career kills list.

Tamera Merseli had her ninth double-double of the season this evening with 14 kills and 10 digs. The Belgrade,Serbia native had a keen eye for placing the ball as she caught Idaho’s defenders off guard with well placed kills.

The Fighting Hawks are back in action this Saturday at the Betty against Eastern Washington. The match is scheduled for 11 AM.