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Looking ahead becomes focus of UND volleyball team

UND has more volleyball wins than any Division I program in the country. UND's 15-2 record looks great on paper. But paper doesn't win championships. "Our first four weekends were great, but it's now useless and that's sad because they played so ...

UND has more volleyball wins than any Division I program in the country.

UND's 15-2 record looks great on paper. But paper doesn't win championships.

"Our first four weekends were great, but it's now useless and that's sad because they played so well," said UND coach Mark Pryor. "But it's 0-0 again."

That's because UND begins Big Sky Conference play today at Southern Utah before traveling to Northern Colorado on Saturday.

UND's volleyball success this season will be put to the test as six of the program's first eight matches in the Big Sky will be on the road.

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"Last time we were at Southern Utah, we survived 18-20 in the fifth set," said Pryor. "And we haven't won a set at Northern Colorado in four years. You could say that's a little daunting to start the conference season."

But UND's performance in nonconference play has been eye-opening. The Fighting Hawks now rank No. 11 in this week's Volleyball.Mag.com Mid-Major top 25 poll. The program's two losses have been against Georgia Tech of the ACC and Cal Poly, a mid-major program that sits just outside the Division I top 25 poll.

"Cal Poly beat us like we stole something from them," said Pryor of the Mustangs, who are No. 18 in this week's RPI. "But I like that the kids were ticked; they were upset. But they didn't question themselves. That's a big step. They came back out against Green Bay in their home opener and really controlled the match for the most part."

UND has received contributions from a number of players this season, led by Faith Dooley's 195 kills. In three tournaments so far, UND has had three tournament MVPs-Dooley, Sydney Griffin and Ashley Brueggeman.

Despite its strong start, only the Big Sky Conference champion will reach the NCAA Tournament. UND won the Big Sky last season and is the favorite to repeat.

"You're not going to be playing in December unless you win the Big Sky," said Pryor. "That's the brutal reality of it. Our RPI is great. We could run the table (in the Big Sky) and it will drop. We're a one-bid league; we have to embrace that and understand that.

"These next four weekends, this is where the rubber meets the road."

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 wnelson@gfherald.com.
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