UND falls to Gophers in first round of NCAA Tournament
MINNEAPOLIS—UND knew it was up against one of the top college volleyball programs in the country in the Minnesota Gophers.
But the Fighting Hawks also knew they could compete against the Gophers.
UND did compete, but the Gophers remain one of the top teams in the country after Minnesota downed UND 25-20, 25-15, 25-21 on Friday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before 4,526 fans at Maturi Pavilion.
Minnesota, the No. 7 seed in the 64-team tournament, improved to 27-5 and will take on Northern Iowa today in a second-round game on the Gophers' campus. Northern Iowa swept Louisville in the first match.
UND's season ended at 30-8, a year that ended with a record-number of wins for the Fighting Hawks and a second-straight Big Sky Conference championship.
UND played Minnesota for the second straight season in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Minnesota also won 3-0 last year.
But UND's compete level this season was higher.
"We were back again to play Minnesota and I think that the vibe was different this time around as far as not just happy to be here, but let's compete," said UND coach Mark Pryor. "So we're trending in the right direction to be able to play against these teams.
"In the first and third sets, it was very close. We've just got to be able to do a little more once we get in that 19-20 range, where they were able to hold on a little bit and we, honestly at times, were kind of thinking, 'Wow, we can actually do this.'
"That's a great feeling but I think sometimes that emotion got away from us a little bit in those sets."
UND led 8-4 and 9-5 in the third set before the Gophers rallied for a 12-11 lead. UND's last lead was 13-12.
"We just kind of went back to who we are," said UND senior Faith Dooley. "We talked about what our standard is and who we're about. We're North Dakota and we have a set standard. We talk about the things that we live by, basically, in our gym, so we kind of just talked about some of those little things. Some of our energy, body language."
Jordan Vail led UND with nine kills while Ashley Brueggeman ended with eight.
Sydney Griffin paced UND with 26 assists.
Dooley, Griffin, Julia Kaczorowska, Tamara Merseli and Teodora Tepavac played their final match for UND.
That group helped UND to its best four-year record in school history (103-40), three Big Sky North division titles and two Big Sky tournament championships.
UND's 30 wins were the most in program history, breaking the season-win record by four victories.