Photos by Hillary Ehlen and Russell Hons
Fergus Falls native Bailey Strand is excited for the Summit League challenges.
Usually, it is challenging for an athletic department to transition to a new conference. Different travel schedules, different competition, it can prove to be taxing on coaches, athletes and administration. However, for the University of North Dakota, the move to the Summit League may prove to be as smooth a transition as any in collegiate athletics. With the familiarity in competition, reduction in travel times, it’s proved to be a win for the school. It also allows student-athletes that chance to compete against familiar teams and in some cases, former teammates.
Fergus Falls, Minnesota, native Bailey Strand grew up around what was formerly the North Central Conference and the teams within it. North Dakota, South Dakota, South Dakota State and North Dakota State are immediately identified when the NCC is brought up. Oddly enough, all of those teams now reside in the Summit League. For a local talent like Strand and a host of other UND athletes, it’s exciting to play those teams and treat them as conference rivals. Especially for Strand and the other five UND seniors.
“It’s definitely awesome especially since I’m pretty close to the game, so my family will be able to come to a lot more games. That will be cool my senior year,” Strand said. “The rivalries that it brings back will be awesome and just pack the Betty and there will be a lot of people at all the games which will be awesome.”
Bailey Strand At A Glance
- Has not missed a game since the 2016-17 season.
- Was an all-state performer in basketball three times in high school.
- Holds the school record for single-season points at Kennedy Secondary School.
- Three-time member of the All-Big Sky Academic Team.
- Her high-point game in 2017-18 was 15 points (scored in double figures four times)
Early in her UND career, Strand battled injury. She played in 27 games in her true freshman season before being ruled out for the season due to injury. That injury forced her to take a redshirt her sophomore season. However, since then, Strand has remained healthy and has been a steady contributor for North Dakota. Each of the last two seasons, Strand has averaged five points per game while shooting 33 percent from the field. Perhaps most importantly she has not missed a game, playing in 61 straight contests for the Fighting Hawks.
Going into what is her fifth year at UND, Strand has played her entire career with the other seniors around her. She sees that as a huge advantage for the Fighting Hawks on the hardwood. “It’s very important especially knowing that you have five people that are all on the same page as you and we all want the same thing,” she said. “We have gone through a lot together so we know some of the bad and some of the good, we’ve all been through it so we kind of know what we want.”
Strand knows she fits into an already busy leadership dynamic on this Fighting Hawks team. While others may be more vocal leaders or lead by example-type players, Strand describes herself a little differently. “I always try to be more of the positive, upbeat one, just try to bring a lot of energy to practice and stuff,” she said. “Obviously, hold people accountable if need be, but always do it with a smile or with energy.”
Regardless of the outcome on the court, this North Dakota team has no shortage of leaders and personalities. Each of the six seniors is unique in their own way, both on the floor and off, that is what makes the group so special. Strand may lead differently, but her style of leadership and style of play fits in perfectly to this Fighting Hawks team. That is why she is successful; North Dakota needs her. Just like North Dakota needs each player on its roster, senior or otherwise.
Never the less, the Fighting Hawks are excited for their journey into the Summit League. It is sure to be a move that works out for the better in the long run. Just like the old North Central Conference rivalries in the Division II days, those same heated match-ups will surely be rekindled. This senior class for North Dakota will be the first to reignite the flame with North Dakota State, South Dakota State and every other old rival they had in the NCC.
Bailey Strand and the Fighting Hawks will be the first in a new generation of rivalries. They are the ones that will set the pace for this program moving forward in the Summit League. While that has plenty of implications attached to it, at the end of the day, Strand and the entire team just want to play some basketball and have fun doing it.