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Hawks down Idaho, remain in the hunt for Big Sky title

It was Senior Night for the UND volleyball team Saturday, but lone Fighting Hawks senior Chelsea Moser wasn't the only recipient of a bouquet of flowers. UND coach Mark Pryor also presented Idaho's lone senior--defensive specialist Terra Varney--...

University of North Dakota's Ashley Brueggeman (18), fires a spike past Idaho's Sarah Sharp (20), left, and Torrin Crawford (7) during a match at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Arena in Grand Forks, ND on Saturday, November 5, 2016. (Joshua Komer / Grand Forks Herald)
University of North Dakota's Ashley Brueggeman (18), fires a spike past Idaho's Sarah Sharp (20), left, and Torrin Crawford (7) during a match at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Arena in Grand Forks, ND on Saturday, November 5, 2016. (Joshua Komer / Grand Forks Herald)

It was Senior Night for the UND volleyball team Saturday, but lone Fighting Hawks senior Chelsea Moser wasn't the only recipient of a bouquet of flowers. UND coach Mark Pryor also presented Idaho's lone senior-defensive specialist Terra Varney-with a bouquet.

But after the pregame festivities, Pryor and the Hawks were less hospitable to Varney and the other Vandals, rolling to a 25-18, 21-25, 25-14 and 25-19 win.

The win keeps UND in position to have the best Big Sky Conference record and thus play host to the league's tournament the following week. The Hawks have to win at Northern Arizona on Thursday and at home against Northern Colorado Saturday to guarantee the top seed and its accompanying perks.

"It's in our hands," Pryor said.

Saturday's win looked as if it could slip out of their hands in the fourth-and-deciding set. UND was leading 12-7 before the Vandals went on an 8-0 spurt, a rarity in the era of rally scoring. After Pryor loudly chewed out his players in the timeout huddle, the Hawks responded with a 9-1 run to finish the fourth and final set.

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"That comeback was big for our confidence," said UND junior Tamara Merseli, who filled the statistics sheet with team-highs for kills (21), digs (18) and blocks (three).

"We gave up a big spurt from a lack of concentration. Coach kind of woke us up. That's his job."

UND improved to 12-2 in the conference and 21-9 overall while the Vandals fell to 4-10 and 9-17.

"We're a young team and have to find a way to win," Idaho coach Debbie Buchanan said. "We just have to learn to finish. We made so many errors down the stretch. UND is consistent because they don't make a lot of errors."

Idaho's attack was dominated by Sarah Sharp (17 kills) and Kaela Straw (16). Behind Merseli, who never leaves the court and can attack from the back row, were Moser and Faith Dooley with nine kills each, Ashley Brueggeman with 8 and Sydney Griffin and Julia Kaczorowska with six each in UND's balanced attack.

It was UND's sixth consecutive win.

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