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There was one word that best summed up UMD’s 10-1 regular season record, after the Bulldogs managed to win 48-34 at St. Cloud State: “Resilient.” Coach Curt Wiese said the word, and he had to trot it out several times.
That remains the watchword for the Bulldogs as they head for Emporia, Kansas, to face Emporia State in a first-round NCAA Division II football playoff opener. The Bulldogs record looks fantastic, and it is, but winning 10 straight games after an opening game 42-38 loss at Southwest Minnesota State has never taken more excruciating work.
Next came nothing but victories, but not the usual blowouts UMD has grown to treat as traditional: 34-31 over Winona State, 52-49 at Concordia of St. Paul, 41-38 over Augustana, 42-34 over Moorhead, then finally 38-7 over Minot State, 39-19 over Northern State, 54-47 over Bemidji State, 54-23 at Crookston, and 75-14 over Mary.
In many of those games, the Bulldogs were down, but rallied back. Or they got ahead, then blew substantial leads and had to battle like crazy to steal a victory. After every one of those games,
At St. Cloud last Saturday, needing to win for the 10th straight time, the Bulldogs promptly watched St. Cloud State get the jump on them and roar away to a 14-0 lead and build it to 27-14 by halftime. UMD stalked back in the second half, catching the Huskies and continuing right past them, outscoring St. Cloud State 34-7 in the second half.
“Resilient,” smiled Wiese on Sunday afternoon, after he had returned home with his players from St. Cloud, and assembled them at Bohannon Hall for the live ESPN broadcast to spell out the pairings for the NCAA tournament. “We’ll take it.”
It’s been that kind of a year. Wiese has had much more control over the outcomes of most UMD games over the last few years, but this season, sometimes things got close, sometimes a little scary, and sometimes looked pretty hopeless. But in every case after that opening game, the Bulldogs got going and managed to outscore their foes enough – or just enough – to win.
UMD is seeded fifth in Super Region 3, where seven of the tournament’s 28 teams have been selected to play down to one winner. Northwest Missouri State (11-0) is No. 1 seed and gets a bye this weekend, while 5. UMD (10-1) plays at 4. Emporia State (10-1), with that winner sliding into the bracket spot opposite NW Missouri State next weekend. In the other half of the Region 3 bracket, Sioux Falls faces Azusa Pacific, and Harding plays Central Missouri State. Sioux Falls and Harding are both 11-0.
Typically, resilient or not, every team now has no choice but to live up to the old cliche about playing one game at a time.
“I don’t know much about Emporia,” Wiese said. “Our hopes were for a home playoff game to start with, but we’ve done well on the road. We’ll travel Friday, play Saturday, and see what happens.”
We do know that whether the game is close or one-sided, at some time the Bulldogs will have to get clicking and make a run. And there is no better team prepared to do just that, because nothing seems to discourage the Bulldogs. They have become, as the coach says, “Resilient.”
Volleyball Also In Tourney
The UMD volleyball team had to win two final matches last weekend to make sure to get home court advantage for Wednesday night’s NSIC tournament opener. The Bulldogs did exactly that, to earn the slot against Wayne State at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
The Northern Sun has been such a loaded conference all season, consider that UMD was No. 1 in the country for about a month, and now they are No. 3, tied with Augustana at 17-3, and just behind Concordia and Southwest Minnesota State, both of whom are 18-2.
UMD faced Wayne State, and the tournament format puts the semifinals and final at the site of the highest seed after the first round is completed. So for UMD to get home court, they’d have to beat Wayne State, while Concordia and Southwest Minnesota both get upset. Not very likely.
“But it’s not scary to go on the road for us,” coach Jim Boos said. Apparesntly not. The Bulldogs were on the road last weekend, and they swept Upper Iowa in three straight games, then headed for Winona where they also swept Winona State with a superb performance, hitting a phenomenal .480 to take command. Makenzie Morgen and Taylor Wissbroeck were the kill leaders both nights and appear in perfect position for a playoff surge.