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UND's Fraase shining after position change

When the Big Sky Conference awards were handed down earlier this week, UND cleaned house. The Fighting Hawks had four players on the first team, a first in Big Sky history. Coach Mark Pryor won coach of the year, Sydney Griffin was MVP and Tamara...

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When the Big Sky Conference awards were handed down earlier this week, UND cleaned house.

The Fighting Hawks had four players on the first team, a first in Big Sky history.

Coach Mark Pryor won coach of the year, Sydney Griffin was MVP and Tamara Merseli was Newcomer of the Year.

Still, Pryor thought there was a snub in there.

He nominated libero Alivia Fraase for Freshman of the Year.

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"I was frustrated with it," Pryor said. "Her exact words were, 'Coach, you can't win them all.' When she said that, I thought this kid gets it. She's all about team."

Fraase's unique transition from middle hitter to back row has keyed UND's nine-game winning streak that continued Thursday night with a 3-0 victory over Idaho in the quarterfinals of the Big Sky Conference tournament at Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.

Against the Vandals, Fraase had a team-high 21 digs. She also had the highlight of the match when she dove head first to save a long rally for the Fighting Hawks, who took a 22-17 lead in the second set as a result of the play.

UND went on to win the second set 25-20 en route to the sweep.

"It has been crazy adjusting," Fraase said. "There's an adjustment period and now I'm just trying to get better every day and read hitters better and get in the weight room and get stronger and faster."

Fraase was the 2014 North Dakota Senior Athlete of the Year at Fargo Shanley as a middle hitter. She led the Deacons to a 31-1 record and a state title that season.

She committed to UND as a sophomore in high school with visions of playing offense, to UND's previous coaching staff led by Ashley Hardee.

Pryor, however, had different ideas for the Fargo native's redshirt freshman season.

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"It was kind of a shock at first," Fraase said. "But as a redshirt, anyway I can get on the court and play I'm there. I'll even set as long as I can play."

Fraase had big shoes to fill as UND graduated libero McKenzie Hart, who led the nation in digs in 2015.

"Our back row is entirely different," Pryor said. "We didn't know when all the new pieces would mesh. We had a kid taking over at libero that was a middle in high school. That's a huge difference. She's done a great job. We knew she would get it.

"Alivia is a special kid. A lot of her production is ability but the rest is her mental availability and her willingness to do anything for the team."

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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