A fan-tastic showing
Though it shares her surname, the Gangelhoff Center in St. Paul is the last place Katie Gangelhoff wants to see again this year. After an exhausting five-game victory Tuesday night over Concordia-St. Paul, the Minnesota Duluth junior probably wil...
Though it shares her surname, the Gangelhoff Center in St. Paul is the last place Katie Gangelhoff wants to see again this year.
After an exhausting five-game victory Tuesday night over Concordia-St. Paul, the Minnesota Duluth junior probably will get her wish.
UMD not only defeated its chief rival 30-19, 36-34, 22-30, 20-30, 16-14 in a match that had everything, including a record crowd of 2,312 at Romano Gym, but it also probably sealed the No. 1 seed in the upcoming North Central Regional playoffs Nov. 15-17.
"I don't want to go back there," Gangelhoff said of Concordia's home court. She credited the raucous fans for helping lift the Bulldogs to victory in that fifth game. "They helped us out a ton. We hope to get this every match, and that would be awesome. Home-court advantage is huge in these types of matches."
Fans dressed in Halloween costumes ranging from Winnie the Pooh to the Burger King came out on a free attendance night to support the team and set a school attendance mark -- breaking the old record of 1,267 set in 2005 against Concordia.
Even Golden Bears coach Brady Starkey was impressed.
"It was fantastic, awesome," he said. "This is what you'd like to play in front of all the time. Once people realize how incredibly fun volleyball is, hopefully we can get more crowds like this."
That might be soon. UMD (24-1), ranked second in Division II, is almost assured of earning home-court advantage for the region playoffs. Hosting the national tournament is not out of the question, if the Bulldogs advance.
"Ourselves and Concordia have been the two teams that have been competing for that No. 1 regional ranking," UMD athletic director Bob Nielson said before the match. "The last few years we have had to go to St. Paul -- and had some tremendous games against them -- so it should be nice to have home-court advantage for a regional."
That's something UMD coach Jim Boos is counting on. The sixth-year coach took over a respected, winning program, but quickly turned it into a national contender. Now Duluth is taking notice.
"It was huge the entire match," Boos said of the crowd. "It's almost a burden that you put on yourself: 'Look at all of these people who came to watch you play.'
"Just to have the student body and the Duluth community support us like this is tremendous. Both of these teams deserve that. You are looking at two of the best volleyball teams in the country, and I hope that the people who came enjoyed what they saw and will come back again. What a great Division II volleyball match."
The key might have been winning the second game, which went back and forth throughout before UMD pulled it out. Still, the Golden Bears proved they are every bit UMD's match by winning the next two games and leading 9-7 in the fifth when setter Maggie McNamara sprained her left ankle. Senior Kari Wolford ended the match with a big spike.
"We knew what we had to do to win that fifth game," Gangelhoff said. "We know what it's like to lose and have that feeling."
So does Concordia. And the carefree spirit the Golden Bears portrayed shows they aren't intimidated to come into Romano the next time around, when there's more at stake.
"If we're going to play somewhere [other than the Gangelhoff], we want to play here," Starkey said. "This is a home-away-from-home for us; we're here all the time. This is the perfect volleyball facility."
And one that likely will host a lot more high-level volleyball this fall.
RICK WEEGMAN can be reached at (218) 723-5302 or at email@example.com .