UND ends weekend on high note

Volleyball team remains tied atop Big Sky standings as season comes to close.

Thursday evening, No. 1 ranked North Dakota lost to No. 2 Portland State in a grueling five-set that tied the teams in the Big Sky Conference. However, the Green and White got back on their feet quickly for Saturday evening’s game against Eastern Washington, when they swept the Eagles (25-17, 25-21, 25-18).

The road trip brought UND to a 20-10 record, as the team took its third Big Sky loss and 15th victory in conference play. North Dakota only has one week left of regular season play.

Tough Loss

When PSU came to Grand Forks in October, the two teams went five sets, UND was able to finish strong at home in the fifth for the win. Thursday night was much the same story, but with a different ending as the five set battle was won by the previously No. 2 Vikings (26-24, 25-22, 25-10, 26-24, 15-12). Portland had nine service aces on the night — seven more than North Dakota — which helped the home team gain the upper hand and capture the much desired victory.

“I loved the toughness our group showed battling to win game four and to even the score in game five,” UND coach Ashley Hardee said. “PSU deserves credit for the way they served tonight.”

All sets but the third were close, as North Dakota saw between two and 13 tie scores in every set but the middle, which saw neither a single lead change nor a tie score. PSU had the momentum going into the fourth set after winning the previous, but UND held on for its second win, forcing a deciding fifth set.

The final set was led by Portland State throughout, except for two tie scores from North Dakota, the second of which brought the teams even at 11 points each. Despite UND’s 7-2 run, which tied it with the home team, the Vikings scored four of the final five points for the victory.

Freshman Anna Pioske led North Dakota in kills on the road once again, with 16 on the night. She was closely followed by co-captains Ronni Munkeby and Lisa Parlich, who added in 14 and 13, respectively. Lauren Clarke was key to defense as she ended the night with 19 digs, followed by setter Nikki Husfeldt who had 15 digs on top of her 45 assists.

Regaining Control

Despite Thursday’s loss costing UND its position as the sole team at the top of the Big Sky, UND charged into Saturday night’s match against Eastern Washington, when it swept for the 11th time this season.

“A nice night for Lexi Robinson out there and it’s good to see her getting back into a rhythm,” Hardee said of the junior just recently returned from injury. “McKenzie Hart was also fantastic tonight defensively and serving.”

North Dakota had a strong offense on Saturday, out hitting the Eagles .257 to .109. Munkeby and Parlich led UND up front with 13 and 10 kills, respectively. Also swinging well were Robinson and Pioske, who both added nine kills.

In its 20th season win, North Dakota out-blocked Eastern Washington 8-7 and had 47 digs — seven more than the home team. Hart led UND in the back row with 12 digs on the night. Freshman Candice Yager and defensive specialist Clarke also dug up 11 and 10, respectively.

Set one went quickly as North Dakota flew ahead for an early 10-3 lead and never stopped pushing. However, the second set proved more challenging, as UND had to dig itself out of an early 7-1 deficit. A kill from Munkeby marked the end of the Eagles’ run, and from there UND rallied with a 15-5 run to capture the set.

The third and final set of the match and the weekend was quickly put away by North Dakota, who built on an early lead to capture its 20th season victory, a feat that has only been met 13 times in UND history. Four of these instances have come under the coaching of Hardee, who has been with the team for five seasons.

North Dakota finishes off its regular season play at home this weekend, when it will host Northern Arizona on Thursday at 7 p.m. and Southern Utah on Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. Thursday’s match will be televised live on Midco Sports Network.

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