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UND sweeps Idaho, advances to Big Sky Conference semifinals

UND volleyball players celebrate a point during their Big Sky Conference tournament opening game Thursday at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

The backslapping and celebration didn’t last long after UND handled Idaho in a business-like 3-0 fashion in the quarterfinals of the Big Sky Conference volleyball tournament at The Betty Thursday.

For one thing, the top-seeded Fighting Hawks cruised 25-18, 25-20 and 25-17 against an eighth-seed team that finished the season with a 11-18 record that includes two lopsided losses to UND.

Secondly, the Fighting Hawks know that no lead is safe against tonight’s semifinal opponent, Idaho State.

In the Hawks’ current 15-1 run, their lone loss came against Idaho State. And that loss happened despite UND winning the first two sets before dropping the last three. That was no blue-moon occurrence, as the Bengals did the same thing Thursday in dropping its first two sets, then sweeping the last three against higher-seeded Northern Colorado.

“I thought this was one of the sloppier matches over the last two weeks, because I think we were thinking a little ahead of us,” UND coach Mark Pryor said. “We played well enough to win today, but to make it to Saturday’s (championship) game, we’ll have to play better Friday than we did today.

“Idaho State is a very good team and they showed their grit again. To be down two sets and win in five sets shows a lot.”

The semifinal against fifth-seeded Idaho State will be held at 7 p.m. today, while the other semifinal pits No. 2-ranked Sacramento State against No. 3-seeded Northern Arizona at 4:30 p.m. The championship game -- with the winner advancing to the NCAA Division I tournament -- will be at 7 p.m. Saturday.

On the court, UND’s four all-Big Sky first-team selections -- announced Wednesday -- lived up to their accolades. Setter and Big Sky MVP Sydney Griffin had 27 assists and added five kills with a surprise, soft-touch maneuver she calls a “dump.”

UND’s other three first-team choices were hitters -- junior Faith Dooley with 11 kills, junior Tamara Merseli with seven and lone senior Chelsea Moser with six kills. Griffin (.500 hitting percentage) and Dooley (.474) both relied on change-of-pace kills.

“It was good for us to go 3-0 because some of the players are hurting a little bit,” Griffin said. “With the possibility of three matches in three days, getting a sweep of sets is good so we can get off the court and rest a little bit.”