Volleyball team sets up for league play

UND prepares to face Eastern Wash., look to last weekend for guidance

The UND women’s volleyball team traveled back home from Starkville, Miss., earlier this week with three sweeps in hand — amassing a solid 12-5 record.

And conference play hasn’t even begun yet.

This Thursday, the Green and White will set up their first conference matchup against Eastern Washington at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center, hoping to build off its successful Bulldog Invitational tournament last weekend with only one loss in four games.

Saturday’s game solidified the team’s eighth sweep of the season after a 25-17, 25-17, 26-24 victory over Southern Illinois, Edwardsville.

“I’m pleased with the outcome,” UND coach Mark Pryor said. “We did a really good job in the first and second set by playing with purpose. In the third set, we started great and had a little bit of a lull, but finished strong. I’m pleased with our results with the nonconference, but ready to get back home and start league play on Thursday in the Betty.”

But it was last Thursday’s game that was etched into history books.

With a 25-18, 25-23, 25-19 sweep over host Mississippi State, the Green and White collected their first-ever victory over a team in the Southeastern Conference.

Anna Pioske and Lexi Robinson led the team with nine kills apiece, but the team’s efforts weren’t without flaw.

“Tonight was ugly, but we gutted it out,” UND coach Mark Pryor said. “We just didn’t play real crisp, but we made runs when we needed to … We are trying to get ready for league play, and while tonight was rather ugly at time, the good news is that we relied on our defense to help us survive. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be pretty to be good.”

North Dakota notched a sweep over Mississippi Valley State on Friday afternoon, but fell 3-1 to Pacific that same evening.

The opening set saw both teams hitting .000, but the Green and White came out on top.

The next three sets featured a different result. Pacific outlasted North Dakota and handed it the only loss of the tournament.

Despite the outcome, there were bright spots to learn from.

“I was pleased with most everything but the outcome,” Pryor said. “Our hitting percentage was abysmal, but I loved our defense and blocking. That kept us in the first and fourth sets. They are a top-50 team in the Massey rankings, so for us to compete and have a swing for set point to go to five sets is a step. We are slowly but surely getting better.”

The team’s first conference game of the season against Eastern Washington will take place Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.

With a favorable non-conference record, North Dakota’s next match will be the first of another attempt to run to the top.

Elizabeth Erickson is the Sports Editor of The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].