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Sioux top Bison in front of largest volleyball crowd in UND history

GRAND FORKS - University of North Dakota fans, which hadn't seen the North Dakota State rivalry in any sport in Grand Forks in eight years, made up for lost time Tuesday as 2,394 came to the Betty Englestad Sioux Center to see the Sioux face the ...

GRAND FORKS - University of North Dakota fans, which hadn't seen the North Dakota State rivalry in any sport in Grand Forks in eight years, made up for lost time Tuesday as 2,394 came to the Betty Englestad Sioux Center to see the Sioux face the Bison in volleyball.

Even NDSU coach Kari Thompson could feel the impact of what was easily the largest crowd in UND history.

"You felt like you were down even when you weren't down," Thompson said. "I had to look up at the score at one point to make sure we were up. We were up, but the crowd atmosphere didn't make it feel that way. That never allowed us to get into rhythm."

Aided by the home-court advantage, the Sioux took four games to knock off NDSU, something UND has done now just twice since 1976.

UND, which won 25-17,

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22-25, 25-19, 25-20, beat the Bison for the first time since 2002 and for just the fifth time in program history.

"The crowd was electric," said UND coach Ashley Hardee, whose team is 26-1 at home in his three-year tenure. "It's the most energetic crowd I've seen, and I've played in good matches in NCAA tournaments. They gave us the boost when we needed it. They kind of willed us through it."

The Sioux were swept by the Bison in Fargo last season, which continued NDSU's dominance in the rivalry. From 1976 to 2002, the Bison held a 62-match winning streak, a stretch in which NDSU won 173 of 180 sets.

But thanks to 13 kills apiece from Devin Trefz and Annika Smed, the Sioux have taken a step toward reversing the one-sided rivalry.

The Bison, who were picked to repeat as Summit League champions this season, advanced to the NCAA tournament last year. NDSU returned its top three hitters and top two setters from that squad.

NDSU, though, had an ominous start Tuesday. Before a point was recorded in the first game, starting hitter Megan Lambertson went down with a high ankle injury and wouldn't return.

"We needed someone to step up and that didn't happen," Thompson said.

After the Sioux picked up the win in Game 1, the Bison evened the match behind the play of Jennifer Lopez (seven kills, 30 assists, five digs) and Brynn Joki (11 kills).

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After the Sioux took the 2-1 lead with a win in Game 3, NDSU bolted out to a strong start in Game 4 - taking a 14-10 lead.

"We took a timeout at 14-10, and I challenged the girls," Hardee said. "We were able to get in a way of a lot of their balls. Our blocking numbers were great, and that's Fighting Sioux volleyball."

The Sioux were able to chip into the lead and tied the game at 19 with a kill by Smed.

"We didn't make plays," Thompson said. "They had the crowd advantage, and we didn't give ourselves an opportunity to score. We seemed to be waiting for them to fall apart, and they didn't. They're too good of a team for that."

The Sioux would rattle off six of the next seven points to win the match, capped by Tia Russell's smash off a Nikki Husfeldt pass.

Russell, a transfer from Marquette, aided Trefz and Smed with eight kills on only 14 attacks. Ronni Munkeby had eight kills, as well, while Lisa Parlich had six and Husfeldt had four. Parlich also had five blocks.

"I love where our program is at right now ... with the volleyball we're playing, the athletes we have and the game we're able to put on here," Hardee said. "I looked around at one point and saw people to the rafters on both sides. This is a special thing right now."

Said Trefz: "Unbelievable. I'm from a small town (Bagley, Minn.), and I've never played in front of a crowd like this. It's mind-boggling to me."

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NDSU: Lopez 7-1-2 (30 assists), Deyle 8-2-0, Knuth 4-3-0, Joki 11-1-0, Cammack 10-1-4, Nash 1-0-0, Henning 0-0-0 (15 digs), Whalen 4-0-0.

UND: Smed 13-2-1 (17 digs), Trefz 13-3-1, Russell 8-2-2, Husfeldt 4-1-1 (43 assists), Munkeby 8-5-0, Parlich 6-6-0, Turner 0-0-1, Robinson 1-0-0, Bohannon 0-0-1.

Miller writes for the Grand Forks Herald

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