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After tough nonconference season, UND looks forward to Summit League women's basketball season

The return over 5-11 forward Juliet Gordon has helped the Hawks

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Fighting Hawks women's basketball interim head coach Mallory Bernhard (second from left) talks to her players during a timeout in the second quarter of Sunday's home season-opener against the Marquette Golden Eagles. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
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UND’s Juliet Gordon was hoping for a breakout 2019-20 season. Her work ethic and development prior to last season had impressed the team’s coaching staff and a productive year from the 5-foot-11 forward from Australia was expected.

What wasn’t expected was an injury. Gordon suffered a season-ending injury in a practice prior to the season. She missed the entire year.

But Gordon, now a redshirt sophomore, has returned to the Fighting Hawks’ lineup and she’s made an impact, averaging 10.8 points and 6.0 rebounds in five games this season.

The setback didn’t discourage her. And that could serve as somewhat of a motivation for her teammates as UND is looking to shake off a winless nonconference season and make some noise in the Summit League season, which opens Saturday at home against Kansas City.

Gordon’s perseverance is a reminder to UND (0-6) that the season is far from over despite the winless start. Gordon, who has started one game this season, said her recovery was a long process but one in which she kept her faith.


What was the key to her return?

“I would definitely say my support system,” said Gordon. “Being surrounded by good teammates and a good coaching staff, I could never drop my head. I could never have a day off. I wanted to keep grinding and putting in the hard work so I could get back on the court for them.”

UND coach Mallory Bernhard said Gordon’s return has helped.

“There is no doubt that having Juliet back in the lineup for us has been huge,” said Bernhard. “I said it two years ago that she had one of the best spring development sessions we’ve had in a long time. She improved dramatically. Then, unfortunately, she had the injury.

“But there is no doubt that her work ethic has put her back in the position she is in. I don’t think I was surprised how she started. I think others outside the program might have been surprised but there is no doubt she’s capable of doing what she has shown so far.”

As it has been for many programs, UND faced a challenging nonconference schedule due to the pandemic. The Hawks had one home game -- against Marquette (6-1) of the Big East. UND racked up 5,200 bus miles during the nonconference season.

Now, however, the normalcy of conference play begins.

“The nonconference season brought some very unique things,” said Barnhard. “We played six games but prepped for eight. We told our team two days before that we’re playing Wisconsin. There were some situations that no one will ever have in another year. The conference does bring a little bit of normalcy.”


UND has never faced Kansas City, a former league member. The Roos spent the past seven seasons in the Western Athletic Conference before rejoining the Summit this season.

Kansas City is 3-3. It’s lone Division I win came against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.

UND is led by 6-2 senior Julia Fleecs, who averages 16.0 points and 8.2 rebounds. Sophomore Maggie Manson, who has become UND’s top 3-point threat, averages 9.2 points and is averaging 37 percent on 3-point attempts.

The Hawks, like past seasons, remain a physical team and are averaging 41 rebounds per game.

Despite looking for its first win, UND’s attitude has remained positive.

“I think we’ve walked away from every game saying we had a chance if we do this or do that better,” said Bernhard. “Of course, 0-and-6 is not the record any of us dreamed of going into the Christmas break.

“But we know that we have a clean slate here. The goals we have are still out in front of us. We weren’t going to raise any banners or lift any trophies in the nonconference schedule. That’s the reality of it. All of it is to get ready for conference play.”


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UND forward Jaclyn Jarnot (1) pushes past Marquette's Chloe Marotta for a jumper in the third quarter of Sunday's Fighting Hawks women's basketball 2020-2021 season-opener at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Wayne Nelson is the sports editor at the Herald.

He has been with the Grand Forks Herald since 1995, serving as the UND football and basketball beat writer as well as serving as the sports editor.

He is a UND graduate and has been writing sports since the late 1970s.

Follow him on Twitter @waynenelsongf. You can reach him at (701) 780-1268 or
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