Questions remain as to what team will win the Big Sky Conference volleyball race. UND, based on its No. 3 preseason league ranking, legitimately has a shot at winning the Big Sky title.

There is no question, however, concerning UND's nonconference schedule. It's been the most demanding since the Fighting Hawks moved to Division I.

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Whether that schedule has prepared UND well for the comping league season remains to be seen. But part of that question may be answered tonight as UND opens Big Sky play at The Betty against Southern Utah.

"RPI-wise, this is the hardest schedule we've faced since we went Division I," said UND coach Mark Pryor. "Hopefully, it's prepared us for league play."

Minnesota's is ranked No. 2 in the country this week, and Hawks managed to give the Gophers a push last week, falling 3-1. UND also has played Ole Miss, Texas Tech, Clemson, UC Davis and Toledo. The Gophers, Ole Miss and Texas Tech all are within the top 60 in the latest RPI ratings, while UC Davis and South Dakota also are making considerable noise in Division I.

Despite the schedule, UND will take an 8-7 record into tonight's opener.

"It comes down to whether we can play efficiently for three straight days in the conference tournament," said Pryor. "There are five teams, I think, that can win the league this year and we're one of them."

The Hawks have three players with 100 or more kills-Chelsea Moser (129), Tamara Merseli (117) and Faith Dooley (115).

Sydney Griffin has 454 assists to lead the Hawks in that category.

"We're still a little bit of a work in progress," said Pryor. "We have to make sure we grow daily."

Southern Utah brings a 2-10 record into the league opener.

"We're all 0-0," said Pryor. "For us, we need to make sure we have good attention to detail with our game plan. And we have to be a low-error team. Sometimes, we press too much. We have to play a little smarter."