North Dakota still holds top spot

Volleyball team takes loss and win last weekend, still ranked first in Big Sky Conference.

Freshman Anna Pioske (left), senior Ronni Munkeby (center) and sophomore Emily Thompson (right) celebrate during last Friday’s game against Northern Colorado. Photo by Chester Beltowski.

UND went into last weekend as the No. 1 team in the Big Sky Conference; and, after a loss Friday and a win Saturday evening, the team remains on top.

Both games were played at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center, the first against Northern Colorado, whose victory marked UND’s first loss at home since Aug. 31.

The team bounced back for Saturday’s game to beat Sacramento State for the second time this season, ultimately allowing North Dakota to keep the No. 1 spot in the conference.

“This is a tough league to win games in,” UND coach Ashley Hardee said. “And I think we’re very fortunate to have won 14 out of 16 (matches). I love who we are as a team and as a program right now, and I do believe that we are the best ranked team in the league.”

After Friday night’s loss, however, UND’s second so far in its Big Sky play, Hardee remains focused.

“We got some more to play though,” he said. “It’s not over by any stretch. These teams are going to keep coming at us, whether it’s Portland State for a 1-2 battle or somebody else trying to get in.”

UND began its season with 11 matches that were not part of Big Sky play. Of those 11, North Dakota won just four. This made for lower expectations for the team; but the Green and White came charging into conference play, winning the first 10 straight games.

A loss to Northern Arizona in mid-October only temporarily halted the team’s winning streak, as North Dakota went on to win its next five of six matches, putting its overall record at 18-9, (14-2 Big Sky).


Conference loss

UND won against the Northern Colorado Bears on the road early last month when it came back from a 0-2 deficit to win the match. Almost five weeks later, the Bears came to Grand Forks hungry for a win and got it in four sets (25-23, 25-22, 25-19, 25-15).

Friday night, North Dakota faced the strongest blocking wall it has seen so far this season, as Northern Colorado stopped 17 of UND’s swings. The Bears kept North Dakota to under .100 for three of the four sets and swung over .200 for the majority of the match, making for a frustrating night at home for UND.

North Dakota was able to force a fourth set when the UND women out-swung their visitors in the third, but North Colorado went on a run early in set four, and despite UND’s perseverance over some long rallies, the Bears put the set and match away.

Senior Ronni Munkeby led North Dakota on Friday with 15 kills and was closely followed by teammates Anna Pioske and Lisa Parlich, who swung in 12 and 10 respectively.

Getting back up

Saturday night started out with an ace from North Dakota setter Nikki Husfeldt for point one, marking the first of seven aces UND served during the match. After that, Sacramento State and UND battled for each point, staying within a couple points of each other. There was a total of 14 tie scores and seven lead changes, but UND was able to jump back on its victory track in just three sets.

Co-captains Munkeby and Parlich led the team again in kills with 12 each, and Pioske was right up there with 11 in the match. Husfeldt continued to enable her teammates’ big numbers and added on some numbers of her own. The setter had 40 assists and three service aces Saturday evening with a total of 79 assists on the weekend, most of which were made possible because of defensive specialist Lauren Clarke’s passing abilities.

Clarke, who said an average of five digs per set is what to shoot for as a back row player, ended the weekend with 37 digs, seven assists and three service aces.

“Our goal is definitely to not lose any more and to be the first in conference,” Clarke said.

UND travels to Portland this Thursday to take on second-ranked Portland State at 9 p.m. and then continues on to Cheney, Wash., to face Eastern Washington on Saturday evening at 8 p.m.

“We’ve got to go on the road now, and we’ve got a tough one on Thursday night,” Hardee said. “We’re one right now and they’re number two, we played a five-gamer here, and I’m sure it’s going to be an exciting match.

“We’re one game up, but nothing’s set up yet.”

Marie Monson is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].