UMD well-rested for NCAA volleyball tourney

Minnesota Duluth volleyball coach Jim Boos laughed when asked if it felt like two months since the Bulldogs played their last match."It's been a bit," he said.Fourth-ranked UMD (25-4) opens play against No. 6 Winona State (26-5) in the NCAA Divis...

Minnesota Duluth volleyball coach Jim Boos laughed when asked if it felt like two months since the Bulldogs played their last match.
“It’s been a bit,” he said.
Fourth-ranked UMD (25-4) opens play against No. 6 Winona State (26-5) in the NCAA Division II Central Region Tournament at 5 p.m. today at Gangelhoff Center in St. Paul.
The Bulldogs were disappointed after getting knocked out in the opening round of the NSIC tournament 3-2 by Wayne State on Nov. 16 at Romano Gym. That loss, however, could prove to be a blessing as the Bulldogs have had more than two weeks to heal while fine-tuning their game, rather than constantly prepping for an upcoming opponent.
“Honestly, now I’m really excited about it,” Boos said. “We got additional time off to rest the legs. This is as fresh as we’ve looked since August, and you can just see a different pop in their step.”
UMD would like to follow Wayne State’s 2015 lead.
A year ago, the Wildcats were knocked out by the Bulldogs in the first round of the conference tournament only to get hot, win the region and advance to the national semifinals.
“We’re hoping to use that as our road map,” Boos said.
UMD had its streak of 13 straight NCAA tournament appearance snapped in 2015 despite going 23-8, being ranked No.10 in the final national poll and having a pair of wins over eventual national champion Wheeling Jesuit.
That’s because the Central Region is so elite. This year’s region tournament features seven of the top eight ranked teams in the country. While the region winner might not win the national title, one can easily argue the region tournament is better than the Elite Eight.
The UMD-Winona State winner advances to likely play No. 1 Concordia-St. Paul at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the semifinals. The championship is 7 p.m. Saturday, with all matches at Gangelhoff Center.
“If you play the No. 6 team in the country, nobody would even think looking past them,” Boos said. “But because of the Concordia-UMD rivalry, and that we’ve been fortunate to beat Winona in our two matchups so far (3-1 and 3-0), people start thinking ahead. Certainly, that isn’t what we’re talking about behind the scenes.”
Winona State is playing in its first NCAA Division II tournament.
“It’s going to be zero-zero when we start,” Boos said. “We don’t get any head start because of how the first two matches went and our girls understand that. We have to go out and perform like we did the first two times.”

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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