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There was reason to celebrate last week when the first Division II college women’s volleyball ratings came out and UMD’s Bulldogs were ranked No. 3, behind only two Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference rivals.
But what a difference a week can make.
The Bulldogs are no longer No. 3. They went to St. Augustine, Fla., for an early tournament and after barely surviving their season opener 3-2 against Findley (Ohio), the Bulldogs hit their stride and romped past Flagler, Erskine and St. Leo to open with a 4-0 record.
That was only part of the big weekend for UMD. While the Bulldogs were showing off the amazing depth coach Jim Boos knew he had in uniform, No. 1 ranked Concordia of St. Paul, the defending NCAA D-II champion, was beaten by Ferris State. The Bulldogs were flying well under the radar at No. 21, but with their victory they surged all the way up to No. 4.
Meanwhile, No. 2 Southwest State of Minnesota lost twice in a 2-2 opening weekend.
That meant Concordia and Southwest both had to drop, and they did, and UMD rose from No. 3 to No. 1.
“I knew we’d be deeper, returning six of our top seven,” said coach Jim Boos. “But I also was pretty sure our starting lineup wouldn’t be static. We’ve got some real hitting strength, but we also made a lot of mistakes. I knew that if we made mistakes, I had players I could move in, and that’s what we did.”
With top guns Sarah Kelly and Morgen Makenzie on the outside, and Kate Berg another outside hitter coming off a great freshman season, Boos had a surplus of riches. But the first match of the season almost undid everything.
“Findlay was really strong, the strongest team we faced in Florida,” said Boos. “We started off playing very well and won the first two sets. But in the third set, we started making mistakes, and it turned into an error-train. We lost the third set, and the fourth, and we were behind 14-12 in the deciding fifth set.
“We were pretty fortunate to escape with a win, but Abby Thor came up with a big block, and Hanna Meyer got a couple of big swings, and we pulled it out, 18-16.”
Following up that 3-2 opening victory at St. Augustine, the Bulldogs dominated the next three foes, winning all three matches 3-0. But there’s no time to celebrate, or throw a party for the new No. 1 slot. The Bulldogs hit the road again, for the Upper Peninsula, and the Northern Michigan tournament in Marquette, Mich.
UMD will face Michigan Tech first, and Northern Michigan second on Friday, then come back and face Lake Superior State and Northwood on Saturday, before finally coming home for a match against Bemidji State on Sept. 6 at AMSOIL Arena.
Boos anticipates a similar tournament, with the opening match - against Tech - being the stiffest test.
The depth can lead to freedom to rotate if players aren’t having their best night, and the competition that arises from such an arrangement can only make the Bulldogs stronger in the long run.
“It’s true, we wanted to see how the first weekend played out,” said Boos. “We got a little error-prone, so we made some changes.
The plan led to junior Hanna Meyer playing more than might have been anticipated, and a pair of freshmen acquitted themselves well.
“Hanna Meyer had a nice weekend,” Boos said. “And Summer Ballard played so well as a freshman I started her in the thir and fourth matches, and she hit for a hit percentage. I also played Sydney Lanoue at libero, and she played well.”
When the four matches were over, UMD had five players all with more than 20 kills. Kelly had 48, Makenzie 40, Meyer 35, middle blocker Abby Thor 26, and Kate Berg 21.
The hitting percentages fluctuated, but Kelly led with a .390 percentage, followed by Thor, at .367, Meyer at .299, Makenzie at .213, and Berg at .093. Thor led the team in blocks with 19, followed by outside hitters Kelly with 7 and Berg with 6.
The UMD football team opens its season at Minot State Thursday, and the women’s soccer team is ready to start its season. So the Bulldogs volleyball team won’t be alone anymore after this weekend.
But as of now, they have set a No. 1 caliber standard for the rest of the school to try to attain.
East gracious host for girls soccer
The Duluth East Invitational girls soccer tournament is a good way of measuring how strong the Greyhounds are in any particular season. But this year, the answer was not good enough, as highly ranked Andover mopped up the field at Ordean-East Stadium.
East was beaten by Rosemount 3-0 in the semifinals, while Andover hammered Woodbury 6-0. Woodbury bounced back to whip East 6-0 in the third-place game. Then Andover took over the field and ran away with another 6-0 romp to beat Rosemount for the championship.
Andover won the Section 7AA championship last season, and took third in the state. The Huskies don’t appear to be slowing down much.
Emilee Roseland staked Andover to a 1-0 lead midway through the first half when she moved in and, when it appeared she would fire a crossing pass, she instead hooked her shot into the Rosemount goal. Rosemount goalkeeper Danielle Kniefel came up with some outstanding saves in the next few minutes, but Kelsey Kallio beat her with a deft shot from the right side before halftime.
Tight as the 2-0 first half was, Andover took complete charge in the second half, with four more goals, almost as if putting on a clinic for how good girls high school soccer can be.