UND transitioned to the Summit League this fall, a little more than a year removed from the men's basketball, women's basketball and volleyball teams winning Big Sky Conference regular-season championships.
It was not any of those teams that had the smoothest transition to the Summit League, though.
That distinction belongs to the women's tennis team, which had its best Division I season to date, finishing in second place in the Summit and earning the No. 2 seed for this weekend's postseason tournament in Tulsa, Okla.
The Fighting Hawks will take on Omaha at noon today in the league's semifinals. Top-seeded Denver, a heavy favorite, takes on South Dakota in the other semifinal. The championship is Saturday.
This season was somewhat unexpected from UND, which finished in the bottom half of the Big Sky Conference last season. The Fighting Hawks were picked to finish fourth of six teams in the Summit.
But with an increase in scholarships and some timely performances from seniors Preethi Kasilingam, Masha Lobanova and Zahra Finnigan, UND went on a run at the end of the season to finish second.
It was highlighted by back-to-back wins over Omaha and South Dakota on the last weekend of the regular season.
"The preseason polls seemed fair," said UND assistant coach Kyle Anderson, who led the team alongside longtime head coach Tom Wynne. "You try not to have too many expectations. On paper, we knew Denver is a top-50 team in the nation and that South Dakota has built a perennially strong program. But we didn't think there was much separating the teams after Denver.
"As a team, I would say we didn't play our best tennis in the first half of the season. We maybe lost a few of our closer matches that were winnable. We hit our stride with consistency throughout our lineup right at about the start of conference play. Last weekend, we certainly were playing our best tennis."
Kasilingam, who became the program's first to reach 100 career wins, earned all-Summit honors alongside teammates Isa Sullivan and Kaede Amano at Thursday night's banquet. Sullivan, who has played No. 1 singles, is a sophomore. Amano is a junior.
But it was the trio of seniors who lifted UND late in the season.
They finished with UND's three best singles records in conference play, going a combined 10-3 overall. Kasilingam, Finnigan and Lobanova all won straight-set matches to push UND past South Dakota 4-3 in the regular-season finale and secure the No. 2 seed.
"They've had very strong careers, but they really made their mark by stepping up at the right time," Anderson said.
Kasilingam has been able to dictate play with her powerful forehand and competitiveness, while Anderson describes Finnigan as the team's "emotional heartbeat" and Lobanova as a doubles specialist, who has excelled at No. 6 singles this season.
"They've really played their best tennis within the conference," Anderson said. "I know it was a major goal for them to have a really strong conference season. Hopefully they can keep that going this weekend."