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.

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 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.