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The UMD volleyball team wound up in the peculiar situation of being ranked No. 5 in the country among Division II teams, but being excluded from the eight-team regional tournament in a selection process announced Monday night.
The Bulldogs had an eventful week and high hopes of making the regional. They hit the road for Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament, first taking the long busride to Wayne, Neb., to face the higher-seeded Wayne State last Wednesday.
An impressive victory over Wayne State lifted the Bulldogs to the semifinals, where perpetrators and survivors of quarterfinal upsets convened at Concordia of St. Paul. Concordia, the No. 1 seed, trailed No. 8 seed MSU-Mankato 2-1 in sets before winning to force the deciding fifth set. Concordia squeezed by, 15-13, to reach the semifinal. Sixth-seeded Winona State upset Northern State of Aberdeen, the No. 3 seed, in four sets to reach the semis, and No. 2 Southwest Minnesota State made it, but only after rallying from a 2-0 deficit in sets against No. 7 Augustana.
In the semifinals, Winona State kept its upset roll going, beating Southwest Minnesota in five sets. Concordia advanced to the final by beating UMD 3-2, but it was a tense and dramatic five-set battle.
“It was an incredibly good match,” said UMD coach Jim Boos. “The first game was close, but Concordia hit in the .400s and beat us. We had some errors in the second set and they beat us again. In the third, we were down 23-24 and we won the next three in a row. In the fourth set, we played as well as we’ve played all year and we won again.
“In the fifth set, we were up 9-8, and we lost a tough point to make it 9-9. That seemed to swing the momentum, and Concordia won eight of the last 10 points to beat us.”
Boos and his players were then in the odd situation of pulling for arch-rival Concordia to beat Winona State in the final. The Golden Bears came through, keeping UMD’s hopes alive. Had Winona won, they would have gotten the automatic berth as NSIC tournament champion, and high-ranking Concordia also would have gone, undoubtedly knocking UMD out of the picture. But with Concordia winning, it left a wide-open decision for the selection committee.
“As I see it,” said Boos, “there are six very worthy teams fighting for three spots in the eight-team regional. With Concordia, Southwest, Central Missouri and Central Oklahoma cemented in, we’re there with the rest waiting and hoping to get picked.”
The selection committee sent the tournament to Concordia, the No. 1 seed and the No. 1 team in the nation. The second seed is Central Missouri (rated No. 8 in the country), third seed is Southwest Minnesota State (No. 4 nationally), fourth seed is Central Oklahoma (No. 14), fifth seed is Nebraska-Kearney (No. 12), sixth seed is Washburn (No. 15), seventh seed is Wayne State (No. 11), and eighth seed is Southwest Oklahoma (unranked, but the automatic entry as Great American tournament champion).
UMD, not only ranked No. 5, but a winner on the road at Wayne State in the NSIC quarterfinals, and No. 6 Northern State were both excluded by the selection committee.
ST. Scholastica Falls
This wasn’t the year, after all. St. Scholastica won the UMAC football title, as usual, and made its bid in the Division III regional, as usual. But this, coach Kurt Ramler and the Saints hoped, might be the year the Saints could break through and win that regional opener for the first time.
It didn’t help that the Saints were off to Wisconsin-Oshkosh, the No. 3 ranked team in the nation. Sure enough, Oshkosh thumped the Saints 48-0.
Ramler, finishing his third year, nonetheless proclaimed this a year for his program taking another major step forward. “I’m really proud of our seniors, who have won a league championship every year they’ve been here,” said Ramler.
“We’re only in our eighth year of having football, and we may not be good enough to beat these other teams...yet. We knew if we played really well, we could have a chance, but we hung with ‘em early, then missed a big play. We lost one of our best players, in Mitch Ejnik, an outside linebacker and return guy and our special-teams player of the year, with an injury.
“We came out for the second half down three scores, and we went after them. But they converted a big play. But you know, I’m not the type to play it conservatively and try to stay close. I can see the logic in playing that way, but I believe in coaching to win, no matter what. Our seniors deserve that. It was really cool the way our guys stayed together. We have 17 seniors, and I was really proud of how hard they worked.
“And Oshkosh, let’s face it, is pretty darn good. They beat defending champion Whitewater, and I could see them possibly going all the way. I would be very surprised if they didn’t win at least another game or two and keep going. I knew we’d have to play our best to have a chance at them. We didn’t do it, but it will come.”
UMD Faces Harvard
It was a huge weekend for both the men’s and women’s goaltenders in UMD hockey. Kasimir Kaskisuo recorded two shutouts at Colorado College as UMD romped 5-0, 6-0, and the Bulldogs are now off this weekend.
The UMD women’s team had a tough task at North Dakota, with freshman Maddie Rooney losing 4-3 on a late rally by UND, but then coming back to record a huge 1-0 shutout in the second game, despite the fact North Dakota outshot UMD 32-22.
That sets the stage for this weekend, when the UMD women return home to AMSOIL Arena to take on Harvard, the team where new UMD coach Myrna Crowell was an assistant the last few years. The games are both afternoon games, Friday and Saturday.
Duluth East opens its hockey season against powerful Wayzata Saturday at Heritage Center, and that won’t be the only highlight at the West End arena this weekend.
Dr. V. George Nagobads, a Hall of Fame hockey doctor who tended the 1980 U.S. Olympic team among 15 men’s national teams -- as well as the Gophers, North Stars and Fighting Saints -- has written a book, “Gold, Silver, Bronze,” which is an autobiography of his career, and it will be sold at Heritage Sports Center this weekend.
The newly published book will be sold from 6-9 p.m. Friday and from 2-5 p.m. Saturday at Heritage, and Dr. Nagobads will be signing copies for $30 at the arena. Nagobads, who is from Latvia, was a close friend of the late John Mariucci and first worked with Mariucci’s Gophers in 1958-59. After tending 1968, 1972, 1980, 1984, and 1988 Olympic teams, he also served national teams for men and women, and also the U.S. Junior National teams, two Canada Cup teams, Under 17 Selects, Spengler Cup teams, and worked with the Fighting Saints (1973-76) and North Stars (1984-92). He became USA Hockey’s Chief Medical officer until 1992, when he retired.