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Bemidji State had rallied from two sets down to beat St. Cloud State 3-2 to set up the Beavers invasion of Romano Gym in UMD’s home opening volleyball match last Saturday. A pretty good Bemidji State player slammed the ball over the net, where it was blocked in the back row and relayed toward No. 4, in the middle of the front row, and she immediately relayed a soft-touch pass to her right, where Sydnie Mauch slammed it for a point.
In last week’s long-awaited home opener for the UMD volleyball team, some of the faces were different, but the system, the style, and the results were remarkably the same as usual. For four years, the ball went to No. 8, Ashley Hinsch, snd she was the one who sent the perfect set-ups to the outside or middle hitters. Hinsch graduated, along with hitters Monica Turner and Mariah Scharf, and it seemed that they might be very difficult to replace.
But No. 4 is Emily Torve, a redshirt freshman from Loretto, and the home opener was the perfect setting, so to speak, for her to show what she’d learned through UMD’s first nine matches – all on the road, and all UMD victories. UMD coach Jim Boos likes to get a top-notch setter as a freshman, then he can go four years before he has to worry about a replacement. It happened with Hinsch, and Torve appears to have all the tools to be next.
Bemidji had little chance in that Saturday match against the Bulldogs, who won 25-7, 25-17 and 25-9, forcing a pretty good opponent into looking uncompetitive.
Mauch returns as new-look heavy-hitter, and she’s joined by fellow-seniors Taylor Wissbroecker and Teal Tomaszewski, and while they may lead the way as veterans, Boos has assembled an impressive array of balanced hitters who seem destined to rise up and challenge perennial favorite Concordia of St. Paul for UMAC and NCAA Division II honors.
The sweep over Bemidji State made UMD 10-0 for the season, and the Bulldogs rose to No. 2 in the country, behind only Concordia, as they headed for St. Cloud State Tuesday. The Bulldogs come home this weekend to face Upper Iowa Friday at 7 p.m., and Winona State Saturday at 4.
Routine as the sweep over Bemidji seemed, there’s no such thing in Boos’s world. It was suggested to him that an inexperienced freshman like Torve seemed able to make the sets over and over to the point they almost appeared to be instant replays.
“Emily is very smooth, and you can see her ability,” said Boos. “She was setting well for Syd and Sarah Kelly, and when it gets so we’re replicating our success, that’s a good thing. She’s ahead of the curve because, as a redshirt, she was able to watch Ashley all through her senior year, and she’s already a lot more consistent since the start of the season.”
Torve’s choices for set-ups seem never-ending. She recorded 39 assists out of 43 total team assists against Bemidji. Mauch pounded 11 kills for the three sets, while Sarah Kelly and Morgen Makenzie had 9 each, Taylor Wissbroecker 8 and Allison Olley 5. Torve added 2, along with her set-ups.
Mauch’s dominant play seemed familiar, even though she looked different -- sleeker and more athletic.
“Sydney dedicated herself over the summer to get in top condition for her senior year,” Boos said. “She is quicker, jumps higher and is more agile. She had a strong match against Bemidji, getting 11 kills off just 16 swings. She was 14th in the nation last year, but she got off to a slow start this year. When we started out 9-0 on the road, she was fifth out of our five attackers.”
Maybe that just gives further indication of how much balance and skill the Bulldogs have.
Upper Iowa will be tough enough, and Winona State provides a stiff test this weekend. But already, volleyball fans might circle two dates – September 30, when UMD plays at Concordia, and November 4, when Concordia visits Romano Gym for the rematch. That is not to overlook any of the matches in the absurdly competitive Northern Sun Conference, but it is possible Concordia and UMD will be ranked 1 and 2 – in whatever order – when they play.