GRAND FORKS, N.D.— North Dakota locked up the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Big Sky Conference Tournament with a 3-1 win over Northern Colorado in the home finale Saturday morning at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. The win also etched a new program record for wins in a season with 27 heading into the league tourney.
Senior setter Sydney Griffin returned to action after missing Thursday's victory over Northern Arizona and racked up 42 assists and 22 digs in her final home match. Sophomore Ashley Brueggeman had 13 kills and junior Jordan Vail added 12 to pace the Fighting Hawks' offense.
"Today was a good way to finish off the home schedule," UND head coach Mark Pryor said. "We dealt with some adversity this week and we were able to overcome it, we will play either Northern Colorado or Weber State in the first round and both present match up problems for us.
"We are now in survive and advance mode. We had a good regular season, and we are grateful for that. As of tomorrow, no one cares about 27-7. They are going to be looking to be 1-0 Thursday afternoon. Our goal is have a match scheduled for Friday."
UND hit .250 for the match and was above .267 in every set but the third, in which it lost, 25-23. The first set saw the Fighting Hawks generate 14 kills to hit .306 and jump out to a 25-19 win and a 1-0 lead.
The second was more of the same as Brueggeman led the way for UND, following up her five-kill first set with three more in the second (on only one error) to put UND up, 2-0, with another 25-19 win.
But, Northern Colorado would not go quietly. The Bears led for a great deal of the third frame until a 7-2 Hawks' run put UND up 21-19. From there, the Bears were able to finish out the stanza on a 6-2 spurt to force a fourth set.
UND wasted little time turning a 7-all tie into a 16-10 lead and never looked back to earn a third 25-19 victory and secure the match.
North Dakota will await its first round opponent in the league tournament, facing the seven seed in Sacramento, Calif. It will be the first match of the tournament and is slated to begin at 1:00 p.m. Central time.
Notes: North Dakota has now beat Northern Colorado three straight times for the first time in the series history ... North Dakota had never beaten the Bears twice in one season before Saturday ... UND is 7-36 all-time against the Bears ... UND finished atop the Big Sky North Division for the third time in the last four seasons ... Griffin now has 4,058 career assists to move into third place all-time at North Dakota, passing Julie Kerr (4,025 from 1985-88) ... UND head coach Mark Pryor won his 100th match at North Dakota with the win.