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On the way up

In the second half of last week's game against Minnesota-Duluth, UND found itself staring at the possibility of a three-game losing streak - something the Sioux haven't experienced since February 1989.

In the second half of last week's game against Minnesota-Duluth, UND found itself staring at the possibility of a three-game losing streak - something the Sioux haven't experienced since February 1989.

In early 1989, UND freshmen guards Jossy Bergan and Alys Seay had yet to see their second birthdays.

But the two Sioux freshmen did see to it that they wouldn't be part of a three-game UND losing streak with their solid play against Duluth.

The emergence of the freshmen guards has given UND more quality depth as the Sioux prepare for games tonight against South Dakota and Saturday at Nebraska-Omaha. Their combined 46 minutes and 13 points were critical against Duluth as the Sioux kept pace with Augustana for the NCC lead.

"We're at the point of the season where we'll play the players who will play hard and go at it," UND coach Gene Roebuck said. "And we have the luxury of having bench players who can come in and create things.

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The play of Bergan and Seay helped offset the loss of starting guard Karla Beck, who has missed two games with a sprained ankle.

But Roebuck wasn't surprised with their performance.

A needed spark

Seay saw extensive playing time last week, logging 19 minutes after averaging just more than five minutes per game.

"With Alys, she's had to get acclimated to this level of play," Roebuck said. "Also, once you get into the conference season, the rotation is cut down a little bit. But Alys has practiced hard with a great attitude to get better. Now, that's paying dividends for her down the stretch.

"She's a late bloomer. When she came in last week, she gave us a big lift. Now, she'll have the opportunity."

Roebuck said Seay brings an element to the game that few players possess.

"She has the natural ability to put the ball on the floor to create her own shot," Roebuck said. "And she doesn't get tight. She stays clam. She does exactly what she's asked to do. She's a student of the game."

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Seay, a former Grand Forks Central standout, said she knew before the Minnesota-Duluth game that she'd see considerable court time.

"During our shoot-around, coach said I'd be in the game in the first half," Seay said. "So I was prepared for it. I felt good out there. I felt that I was in the flow of the game instead of trying to keep up with the flow.

"It was a big confidence booster. You always hear about the NCC games. But it's a confidence booster knowing that you can compete at that level."

An energy boost

Bergan, meanwhile, is a 5-foot-3 guard whose competitiveness is what pleases Roebuck.

"I try and play like I'm not 5-3," Bergan said. "When I go out there, I try and give a little spark. I just want to contribute as much as I can."

At Valley City (N.D.) High School last season, Bergan played on a team that didn't win a game. She had to do virtually everything for the Hi-Liners. Now, she finds herself in a completely different setting.

"My role changed a lot when I came here," she said.

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Like Seay, Bergan said it took time to become accustomed to the college game.

"Every single day, I learn something new in practice," Bergan said. "But it wasn't until after Christmas that I didn't get as nervous for practice."

UND's demanding practices usually come as a shock to freshmen.

"I sometimes feel our practices are more competitive than games," Bergan said.

UND's final three NCC games will be competitive, starting tonight with South Dakota. The Sioux beat the Coyotes on a last-second basket by Kierah Kimbrough last month in Vermillion.

The Sioux close out the NCC season with road games at Nebraska-Omaha and Minnesota-Duluth. UND and Augustana are tied for the league lead at 7-2. More important, the teams are 1-2 in the North Central Region rankings - the all-important rating system that determines home-court advantage in the Division II playoffs.

"The margin of error is no longer there," Roebuck said, referring to two UND losses in its last three games. "We have to win games and not worry about other teams. We have to play the way we did against Duluth (last Saturday). We have to be aggressive and attack."

Reach Nelson at 780-1268, (800) 477-6572 ext. 268 or wnelson@gfherald.com .

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