Unbeaten Bulldogs ready To finally play at home in volleyball
Minnesota Duluth volleyball coach Jim Boos was concerned when he addressed his team after Monday's practice. The team was understandably sluggish after arriving in town on Sunday night, fresh off its Florida fall trip. "That's what four matches i...
Minnesota Duluth volleyball coach Jim Boos was concerned when he addressed his team after Monday's practice.
The team was understandably sluggish after arriving in town on Sunday night, fresh off its Florida fall trip.
"That's what four matches in two days will do," said Boos, who was a finalist for the head coaching job at St. Cloud State this offseason but decided to stay at UMD. "So far, the thing that has defined this team is that they've been able to grit through the bad times. Once we get to playing a little better, I think we'll start rolling."
Boos hopes that starts today in UMD's home opener against Northern State. At 8-0, UMD is off to its best start in 23 years and has climbed to No. 4 in the NCAA Division II rankings,
Leading the way for the Bulldogs has been senior Alyssa Nelson, who has a team-high 77 kills and 27 blocks this season. Nelson, a 5-foot-11 senior from Hayfield, Minn., emerged last season after being moved to middle blocker.
"I found my home," Nelson said, one of six seniors on the team. "It's gone by so fast. I'm trying to be a more vocal leader on and off the court, and I'm trying to stay positive all the time. Coach kind of looks to me to be an energy light bulb, where the rest of the team can feed off me."
UMD lost standout Anna Zyvoloski, who transferred to St. Scholastica after a freshman year in which she was second for the Bulldogs in kills (322) and digs (219). However, the addition of 6-foot-1 freshman Kate Lange of Hibbing has helped fill the void at the outside hitter position. Lange is third on the team with 71 kills, with senior Katie Kuffel second with 72.
Junior Eleena Iisakka leads with 307 set assists, while junior defensive specialist Allison Fanta is tops with 108 digs.
UMD has the highest national ranking of any Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference team. The rest of the league isn't far behind, with Southwest Minnesota State No. 5, three-time defending national champion Concordia-St. Paul No. 6 and Wayne State No. 7. Northern State is having early success too with a 7-1 record. That means tonight's home opener should be a good test.
"It's going to be a great conference," Nelson said. "Any given night, you can expect to have great game, and I expect the same thing [tonight]. It's going to be great to be back on our home court."