Bulldogs control the net in NSIC final
Minnesota Duluth volleyball player Maddy Siroin just shook her head, with no explanation for what just happened at Romano Gym. The Bulldogs usually haven't dominated blocking teams this season, but they sure did in the NSIC tournament championshi...
Minnesota Duluth volleyball player Maddy Siroin just shook her head, with no explanation for what just happened at Romano Gym.
The Bulldogs usually haven’t dominated blocking teams this season, but they sure did in the NSIC tournament championship Saturday afternoon, making a great team look bad.
Siroin had 13 kills, 11 digs and three blocks as No. 2 UMD overpowered No. 7 Wayne (Neb.) State 25-21, 25-15, 25-10 to earn the conference’s automatic qualifier into the NCAA Division II tournament for the second straight year.
Off to their best start in school history, the Bulldogs (31-1) had no doubt they would make the playoffs and there was little doubt they should host this week’s Central Region tournament, even if they lost Saturday. The Bulldogs haven’t lost to a region opponent this season and have beaten all the top NSIC teams twice - every other region team has at least three in-region losses.
Still, UMD’s performance is a sign the Bulldogs could be peaking at the right time. Saturday marked their 25th straight victory, and if they play anything like that this upcoming week, they’ll be just fine.
“We were rolling, but you never know,” UMD coach Jim Boos said. “Volleyball is a quirky sport and every night it’s different. That same matchup two weeks ago, we were clinging on for dear life and barely squeaked out of there with a win.”
In that Halloween match in Duluth, UMD survived the five-set scare. The Bulldogs had only seven team blocks that time. They had 13 on Saturday, including nine alone in the second set.
Junior middle blocker Monica Turner led the way with 11 kills while having a hand in five blocks. At one point a UMD fan yelled out, “It’s a block party!”
“That was unreal. Just crazy,” Boos said. “Midway through that first set, the defensive light clicked, and we started making some plays. Then those blocks created so much momentum for us. When that started going, it was just like, ‘Wow!’ Monica got clicking and was all over everything, and then it was just contagious.”
Many observers had never seen a match where so many blocks went for points.
“Me either,” Wayne State coach Scott Kneifl, said, laughing.
At least Kneifl could keep a sense of humor about it.
At one point in the second set, UMD led 18-6, and five of Wayne’s six points were due to Bulldogs’ errors. The Wildcats finished the set with only five kills.
“When Duluth is in system, they are really, really good, and they were in system all night long,” Kneifl said. “They controlled the ball in every aspect. When they blocked us nine times for points in that second set, it really deflated us, but I really think the turning point was that first set. It was 20-20, back and forth, really good volleyball, and they went on a run to close it out. Right then, you could start to feel the air come out of our balloon.”
In fairness to the Wildcats (26-6), they were coming off a five-set semifinal win over Concordia-St. Paul, the seven-time defending national champions.
The four NSIC semifinal teams are ranked nationally in the top seven, so next week’s region tournament won’t look a whole lot different than the conference tournament. And what a region it is.
“Our region is like the NCAA Elite Eight,” Kneifl said. “It really is. It’s that good.”
Junior Ashley Hinsch had 42 set assists as UMD hit .366 as a team. Four players were in double digits in digs for the Bulldogs, led by seniors Julie Rainey (15) and Katie Ledwell (14).
Michaela Mestl had a team-high six kills and 11 digs to lead Wayne State.
Siroin, a senior from Washburn, was asked what the potential was for the Bulldogs.
“It’s good to look at the big picture, but you’ve got to focus on each match,” she said. “This region is so good, so it’s all about who plays better that night. But I will say this: I trust my team and I believe in them, so we’ll see what happens.”
r Siroin, Hinsch, Sydnie Mauch and Mariah Scharf were the Bulldogs’ selections to the all-tournament team.