Fighting Hawks fly past Eagles in UND Classic opener

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (UND Athletics) – At the first UND Fan Luncheon of the season yesterday, Head Coach Mark Pryor was elated when talking about how happy he was about returning home to the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center, and his team did not disappoint the Thursday afternoon crowd with a 3-0 sweep (25-10, 25-20, 25-12) over Eastern Washington to open the UND Classic presented by Buffalo Wild Wings.

“This was a step,” said Pryor. “With our hitting efficiency in sets one and three, it shows we have the ability to play very clean and really apply pressure to opponents to simply match our efficiency; set two showed we also have some work to do to fully embrace how we want to play. If we can continue to take small but positive steps, we will be in great shape. Hopefully tomorrow can continue to show that progress.”

The Fighting Hawks (2-3) hit .263 overall, including a whopping .359 in the final set, to put away the Eagles (3-1) and record their second sweep of the season.

Jordan Vail blistered a career-high 16 kills on just 35 swings to post a .400 hitting percentage. Vail, who recorded the third-highest single-season hitting percentage in school history a year ago, has now recorded back-to-back games of a .400 clip or better. The senior also added a career-high eight block assists and a solo block to pace UND’s 12 on the day.

Kayla Williams also continues to impress in her inaugural campaign as a Fighting Hawk as the Staten Island native posted her fourth double-double in just five contests with 12 kills and 13 digs. Williams was also a force from behind the service line for UND, dropping in a trio of aces.

Ashley Brueggeman was also effective after battling back from an illness that plagued her in Texas last week, collecting seven kills on 11 attacks for a match-high .636 hitting percentage. The Summit League Player to Watch picked up five rejections, a dig, and an assist.

UND came out attacking in the opening set, forcing the Eagles to use both their timeouts early in the frame after building a 15-5 lead to force an EWU timeout. The hosts continued to put pressure on EWU throughout the first, doubling up the visitors, 10-5, following the timeout to collect a 25-10 victory.

After the Fighting Hawks jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the second, Eastern Washington climbed back into the stanza before eventually cutting the advantage down to just one, 15-14, at the media break. The teams continued to trade points until UND exploded on a 5-0 run thanks to a pair of blocks, Vail kills, and an attack error to grab a 23-17 stranglehold on the set. Vail and Williams polished off the frame with back-to-back kills to send the hosts into the locker room with a 2-0 set lead.

The third set followed a similar script to the first as UND built a 5-1 lead and a 10-5 lead before Eastern Washington began to mount another rally with back-to-back points to cut the deficit down to three. From there, the Fighting Hawks rattled off eight of the next ten points to force an Eastern Washington timeout. Out of the timeout, UND continued to roll and finished off the sweep with a 25-12 triumph.

UND won’t have to wait long to get back into action, battling Western Carolina (11:30 am) and Louisiana Tech (7 pm) tomorrow in the finale of the UND Classic.