Volleyball season ends with upset

North Dakota loses to Idaho State last weekend to conclude 2013 season

Sophomore Lauren Clarke bumps the volleyball earlier this season against Southern Utah University at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. File photo.

After winning the honor of co-champions of the Big Sky Conference regular season two weeks ago, the North Dakota volleyball team went into the Big Sky Conference Tournament with high expectations.

But those expectations were dashed in the semifinal match against Idaho State, which beat UND three sets to one with scores of 20-15, 26-24, 25-23, 25-12.

UND, along with co-champion Portland State, had a bye in Friday’s first round, in which the No. 3 seed Idaho State took down six-seed — and defending tourney champion — Northern Colorado to advance to the semi finals.

North Dakota beat Idaho State in both regular season meetings this season, but weren’t as successful in tournament play. The Bengals met and defeated No. 2 seeded North Dakota in four sets, taking away UND’s shot at the tournament championship match against Portland State, which the Bengals also won.

The semifinal match went by in a blur as North Dakota struggled to maintain possession of the ball. The first set was close until a late 5-0 run by the Bengals gave them a one set to none advantage.

Set two was a heart-breaker as North Dakota started out strong but failed to grab the win as Idaho State went on multiple runs to surpass UND. The Green and White did, however, take home the win of a close set three, forcing a fourth set, but the team was unable to stop the Bengals.

Senior Ronni Munkeby led her team in pushing to the final ball-drop, putting down a season and match-high 19 kills. Munkeby ended her collegiate career with 1,111 kills in all, putting her 12th in UND’s record book.

Co-captain Lisa Parlich also contributed mightily to the match as she swung in nine kills and had six blocks on the night. Parlich ended her career with 983 kills. Many of these ladies’ kills were made possible by standout junior Nikki Husfeldt already has 3,990 assists in her UND uniform, putting her third in school history. Husfeldt had 48 assists in Friday’s match, which also saw 11 kills from freshman Anna Pioske and 10 from Lexi Robinson.

On the defensive end of North Dakota’s play was Sophomore Lauren Clarke, who got behind 32 digs in the tournament game and who could be seen behind the majority of UND’s digs this season. The defensive specialist has 1,017 digs after her second season with North Dakota. She is the first player to surpass 1,000 digs as a sophomore and the 15th player in UND history to do so.

Although North Dakota didn’t come home from the tournament with the hardware it hoped for, it had a very successful season as it was only the team’s second in the Big Sky Conference.

The Green and White ended their season with a 22-11 overall record, which improved 2013-14 coach Ashley Hardee’s overall record at UND to 110-43 (.719). After just his fifth season with North Dakota, Hardee sits in third place for all-time UND coaching victories.

After winning the regular season, multiple Green and White players received All-Big Sky Honors. Munkeby was named to the All-Big Sky Conference First Team. Parlich and Husfeldt both made the second team. Freshman outside hitter Pioske received the Co-Freshman of the Year award and was given honorable mention.

Next season, the Big Sky Conference Tournament will be hosted by the season’s top seed, a change from this year’s rule that named Portland State host after its regular season championship in 2012.

UND did not make it to the NCAA tournament, but will start its season next year as the defending regular season co-champion.

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