Seniors close out careers with one more win in The Betty
UND's seniors huddled in the middle of the court, arms locked around each other's necks.
Some wiped tears from their face.
Others didn't bother to try.
After defeating Northern Colorado 25-19, 25-19, 23-25, 25-19 on Saturday afternoon at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center, realization set in that they had just played their final home game.
"I think it's pretty cool that we got to win in front of our home crowd in our last game in The Betty," said senior standout Faith Dooley, whose class won their 100th-career game. "I love playing in front of these guys."
The 1,319 fans saw a typical performance.
During the careers of the senior class, they went 46-8 in The Betty, including a 22-4 mark the last two seasons. Two of those four losses came against Power Five conference members Ole Miss and Texas Tech.
This season, UND went 11-1 at home, winning 32 sets to their opponents' five.
"I think having the backing of our community is big," Dooley said. "They're all part of our family and they definitely play a role in how we perform. We have to carry it on the road, because we know they are watching when we're on the road. But, definitely, I think the fans are part of it."
UND senior setter Sydney Griffin, who missed Thursday's game with an injury, returned to the lineup Saturday and had a big finale performance.
She had 42 assists and 22 digs to lead the Fighting Hawks.
The other seniors also played key roles—Dooley had six kills, Tamara Merseli had eight kills and 13 digs, Teodora Tepavac had three kills and 11 digs and Julia Kaczorowska had five kills.
"What they've been able to do for our program is massive," UND coach Mark Pryor said. "When you average 25 wins a year, that's a pretty bold statement. I'm really happy for them that they were able to fight through (today's match) and that it wasn't easy."
UND will be the No. 2 seed at the Big Sky Tournament, which begins Thursday in Sacramento. Host Sacramento State is the top seed.
The winner of the tournament advances to the NCAA national tournament.
"Even though we're the No. 2 seed, I think we've got a puncher's chance," Pryor said, "just because our blocking is solid, our defense is really solid. That's going to keep us in matches. If we can start to frustrate some of those teams, if we get past the first round and Day 2 and Day 3 when offense's legs get tired and defenses dig in, we have just as good of a chance as anybody."