UMD falls in national semifinal: NCAA Tournament
Spartans 3 Bulldogs 1 At the University of West Florida Fieldhouse Pensacola, Fla. Friday's Semifinals Tampa def. Minnesota Duluth 30-27, 30-17, 21-30, 30-24 North Alabama def. West Texas A&M 30-20, 30-19, 30-22 Today's Championship No. 1 Tam...
At the University of
West Florida Fieldhouse
Tampa def. Minnesota Duluth 30-27, 30-17, 21-30, 30-24
North Alabama def. West Texas A&M 30-20, 30-19, 30-22
No. 1 Tampa (34-1) vs. No. 6 North Alabama (35-5), 5 p.m.
Most teams playing the Minnesota Duluth volleyball team pay special attention to Vicky Braegelmann; for well, they should.
The 6-foot junior will likely earn American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American honors for the third straight season when the team is announced Tuesday.
But the top-ranked University of Tampa took a different approach when it met second-ranked UMD on Friday in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight semifinals in Pensacola, Fla. Rather than concentrate on the Bulldogs' middle, the Spartans put two blockers on the outside.
The strategy worked for a 30-27, 30-17, 21-30, 30-24 victory before 490 fans at the West Florida Fieldhouse despite Braegelmann's season-high 26 kills and .302 hitting percentage.
Tampa (34-1) advances to play sixth-ranked North Alabama (35-5) at 5 p.m. today in an attempt for its first national championship in three tries, while UMD finishes 31-4.
"Tampa definitely gambled. They took a risk, but it worked," said UMD coach Jim Boos. "They put those two blockers on the outside and basically said, 'You're not going to beat us.' And they ended up with 13 solo blocks, which is just an obscene number of solo blocks for a match."
Early on, it looked like UMD would be the team playing for its first national championship, jumping to a 9-2 lead in game one before Tampa rallied to tie it and then hold on for the 30-27 win.
The Spartans took control in game two with the 30-17 rout before UMD showed good resolve in bouncing back to win game three with relative ease. Boos said it had more to do with simply playing better than any strategic adjustments made on the coaches' part.
The fourth and final game seesawed before Tampa took control late with a 9-3 run to end it.
"Tampa steamrolled us in game two, so to come out and play like we did in game three, I'm very proud of our effort," Boos said. "Then in game four, we had it tied at 21-21, but then they made more plays than we did and that's why they won. I'm not taking anything away from Tampa. They played well and deserved it."
UMD's two seniors, Rachel Langseth and libero Chelsea Meierotto had 10 kills and 20 digs, respectively, while sophomore setter Katie Gangelhoff had 51 assists and 12 digs.
Tampa, which was playing without injured All-American Stephanie Rivera, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in regional play, got 18 kills and eight blocks from Katelen Dixon and 16 kills from Danielle MacDonald.
"For one of their best players to go down and to still find a way to win at this level says a lot about the team they have," Boos said.
While UMD understandably took the loss tough, the team's younger players are optimistic for the future. The team has advanced to the regional final three straight years and made it to the Division II semifinals in two of the past three.
With the nucleus of this year's team returning, Braegelmann said the Bulldogs would be looking to take it one more step next year.
"We worked really hard but just couldn't keep the momentum going," Braegelmann said. "It's a tough loss, but I think we ran into the better team. We had a great season, winning more than 30 matches and getting back to the Elite Eight, but we're already looking toward next year."