President and First Lady sport dueling colors in show of support for current and former favorite universities
UND President Mark Kennedy and First Lady Debbie Kennedy had both sides of the aisle covered last week when their current University home, UND, played host to their former favorite university, George Washington University, in volleyball at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
The Kennedys quickly made their way from the UND Athletics Boosters Luncheon at the Alerus Center on Friday to catch the last two sets of the match between the Fighting Hawks and the Colonials. President Kennedy was a professor and director of the Graduate School of Political Management for four years at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., before being named UND’s 12th President in 2016.
President Kennedy showed for the UND-GW game appropriately attired in UND school colors, including a bright kelly green Fighting Hawks polo shirt. Debbie Kennedy, however, brought a bit of balance to the situation, sporting a blue and buff George Washington University Colonials jacket as a conciliatory gesture between their current and former allegiances.
After the match and a 3-0 sweep of GW by the UND Fighting Hawks, President Kennedy explained their dueling show of support.
“If you look closely, Debbie is wearing a UND green shirt under her GW jacket,” Kennedy remarked. “That’s because she wears her UND allegiance closest to her heart. We’re both just so thrilled to be able to witness two schools that have meant so much to us and been such a big part of our lives in such a wonderful display of competitive spirit.”
The Kennedys were able to show their appreciation to visiting GW even more by coordinating a photo opportunity with UND and GW coaches Mark Pryor and Sarah Bernson as well as player captains from both squads.
The match was the Fighting Hawks’ first of three in their own UND Classic Tournament, smack dab in the middle of Potato Bowl Week at the University and in Grand Forks, and amid what is shaping up to be a magical season, so far, for UND Volleyball.
Two nights earlier, UND Volleyball took care of its in-state rivals, North Dakota State (NDSU), 3-0 at The Betty before an announced attendance of 3,140 people – the largest attended volleyball match in North Dakota history.
At one point between sets, North Dakota Head Volleyball Coach Mark Pryor quipped to a TV interviewer that The Betty could be considered one of the larger cities in North Dakota with that kind of attendance.
“[That] was an experience, and it was one I know I won’t forget and I know the girls won’t forget either,” said Pryor about the historic UND-NDSU match. “We know how lucky we are to have this fan base and we will do everything we can as a program to never forget that, and to make them proud of how hard we play, and who we are as people.”
Jordan Vail, a junior middle blocker from San Antonio, Texas, is new to the UND-NDSU rivalry but she’s catching on quickly.
“It was very intense,” Vail said. “It was probably biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of in my entire volleyball career.”
Chain of wins
The victory over NDSU continued a huge chain of momentum for the Fighting Hawks extending back to Aug. 31 in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where UND beat home team New Mexico State 3-2. Since then, UND has rattled off nine straight wins to bring its overall record to 13-1 and garner a No. 13 ranking in the Volleyball Mag.com mid-major poll.
UND Volleyball also currently owns the most wins in the nation.
Potato Bowl blitz
The volleyball success of Potato Bowl Week also rubbed off on other UND Athletic programs, namely UND Football, which, on Saturday, avenged a 38-0 loss in 2014 by the Missouri State University Bears in Springfield, Mo., by whipping that same program into a submission with a 34-0 stomping in the 52nd Annual Potato Bowl at the Alerus Center.
The game followed the annual French Fry Feeding Frenzy and fireworks on Thursday at University Park, where another world record was set with more than two tons of French fries consumed; and Saturday’s Potato Bowl USA Parade down University Avenue, led by this year’s grand marshal, UND’s-own Peter Johnson, interim vice president of university & public affairs.
All the festivities and the lure of new tailgating features and a Top-11 UND Football team brought the fans out in droves on Saturday, as more than 12,000 people cheered the Fighting Hawks on to football victory, the biggest crowd at the Alerus Center in eight years.
Reflecting back on the game, Fighting Hawks Head Football Coach Kyle “Bubba” Schweigert cracked a proud smile as he led off his weekly press conference with a nod to the home crowd.
“We were pleased with our crowd,” Schweigert said. “It was a great college football atmosphere from the time we showed up in the parking lot to getting into the facility. It was great for our guys to play in front of the home crowd.”