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UND volleyball's toughest road trip on tap this weekend

The UND volleyball team's impressive start to the season, which includes an NCAA-best 19 wins, will be put to the Big Sky Conference's most difficult test this weekend on the West Coast.

UND hitters Lydia Rutten (left) and Tamara Merseli (right) block a shot by Eastern Washington's Ashley Seiler last week in a Big Sky match at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. Nick Nelson / Forum News Service
UND hitters Lydia Rutten (left) and Tamara Merseli (right) block a shot by Eastern Washington's Ashley Seiler last week in a Big Sky match at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. Nick Nelson / Forum News Service

The UND volleyball team's impressive start to the season, which includes an NCAA-best 19 wins, will be put to the Big Sky Conference's most difficult test this weekend on the West Coast.

The Fighting Hawks, who have won six straight and are 4-0 in league play, will play at Sacramento State tonight and Portland State on Saturday.

Sacramento State, the league runner-up to UND last season, is off to a 4-0 start in league play and is the conference's only unbeaten team other than UND. Portland State is 3-1 in league play.

With an unbalanced schedule, UND only plays the two opponents once this year. Last year, UND nipped Sacramento State 15-13 in the fifth set in Grand Forks.

"They definitely were not pleased with that result," UND coach Mark Pryor said. "They're going to be looking to return the favor."

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Pryor also said this road swing is the Big Sky's most challenging regardless of opponent. UND will fly to Sacramento, then fly to Portland, then fly home.

"The kids know this will be a difficult weekend for us," Pryor said. "They're looking forward to the challenge."

Last weekend, UND swept Idaho and Eastern Washington at home-running a streak of 32 straight set wins at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. It also pushed UND's Big Sky win streak to 11.

"These next four on the road will really define where we end up in the league this year," Pryor said.

However, Pryor added that this weekend's matches aren't make or break.

"The kids have the attitude that if it's good enough, it's good enough," Pryor said. "If it's not, we'll them again in the conference tournament."

The Big Sky's postseason tournament is played at the league champion. UND hosted the tournament en route to the program's first NCAA appearance last season.

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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