Minnesota Duluth volleyball team was set to open the season last Friday at the Palm Beach Atlantic Tournament in West Palm Beach, Fla., but Hurricane Dorian had other ideas.
Palm Beach Atlantic erred on the side of caution and canceled the tournament on Monday, Sept. 2, sending the Bulldogs into a scramble.
“The next 24 to 36 hours were spent trying to figure out if we could get somebody else to host, and going somewhere else, and that ended up being what happened,” UMD coach Jim Boos said.
Have team, will travel
UMD wound up taking part in the newly formed Texan Invitational, hosted by Tarleton State in Stephenville, Texas. Two additional teams originally scheduled for the Florida tournament, Cal State-Los Angeles and Cal State-San Bernardino, made the Texan Invitational along with West Alabama and Rockhurst University. Starting last Thursday and going through Saturday, the sixth-ranked Bulldogs went 3-1. They swept all three of their wins but fell 3-1 in a closely contested match to second-ranked San Bernardino, which Boos said was one of the best NCAA Division II teams he has seen in years.
While all of this looks fine and dandy on paper, as smooth as silk in operation, it was a logistical nightmare to pull off.
“It was awful,” Boos said. “We had to try to figure out if we could afford to fly into Dallas. Were other teams able to get there? How many teams would be there? What hotel? It was just insanity. Then when we all got there, everyone kind of had the same comment, like it doesn’t even feel like we’ve practiced the last two days because all we’ve been doing is working on logistics. So teams weren’t necessarily as ready or sharp as we would have liked them to be.”
Boos credited UMD senior associate athletic director Karen Stromme with helping with travel arrangements, but he said dealing with all the logistics while still trying to coach and run a practice was “a nightmare and challenge.”
Boos admitted he came close to giving up on it but is glad the Bulldogs got the games in.
“Playing that level of competition really showed our strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “Practices don’t give you that same feedback and feel. Obviously, we had no preparation at all. We played them all blind and had to adjust on the fly, but ultimately, it was a lot of fun.”
UMD junior outside hitter Kate Berg is off to a torrid start, with 57 kills in the four matches. Senior middle blocker Abby Thor added 35 kills and junior Lexy Langenfeld had 20 kills while starting at the other middle blocker position. Sophomore Meredith Sutton of Grand Marais had 30 kills in her first stint replacing the graduated Makenzie Morgen on the outside.
Boos expects sophomore Summer Ballard to get more work in the middle this weekend when UMD plays in the St. Cloud State Invitational Thursday through Saturday in St. Cloud. Fortunately, there are no hurricanes in the forecast.
“It was a pretty crazy turnaround. Everything was up in the air,” Berg said. “We didn’t have much time to prepare for any of the teams, but it was great to see that kind of competition that early in the season. It was a good test, and we learned a lot about ourselves this past weekend.”
Moore notches win No. 400
Longtime St. Scholastica volleyball coach Dana Moore remembers wins 200 and 300, but win No. 400 will be tough to top because it came on Friday in a five-set thriller at rival Wisconsin-Superior.
“It was so not about the win, the number, the 400, it was about the way my women battled for the win,” said Moore, now 402-310 in 23 years leading the Saints. “I had to coach hard. I think I had 6,000 steps on my Fitbit.”
UWS downed CSS in five sets twice last year but wouldn’t be denied Friday as new athletic director Franco Bari, attending his first Saints sports event, watched in awe.
“I think there were some nerves,” Moore said. “My upperclassmen, specifically my seniors, haven’t had a lot of great wins. We’ve won the matches we should win, but now they’re learning how to win the tough matches like that, and that’s a really good thing.”
St. Scholastica are 5-1 going into the Knights Classic this weekend in Waverly, Iowa, and have a team that features senior leadership mixed with an influx of six talented freshmen.
The Saints has been led on the attack by senior Brooke Schermann (37 kills, 55 digs) and freshman Jessica Remer (36 kills, 31 digs). Senior Espi Austvold (64 set assists, 21 digs), freshman Katie Brostrom (61 set assists, 29 digs) and freshman Alcia Draper (58 digs) have also had nice seasons.
The Saints’ mantra is “love thy teammate,” but assistant coach and former CSS player Anna Tester asked all players and staff within the department to write a note with the message “love thy coach,” on blue and gold paper, strung on a ribbon.
“I went to hug Anna and she picked me up and twirled me around and didn’t let me down for a long time. It was really awesome,” Moore said. “Then the team surrounded me, and two of my children were there, and many of their friends were there, and some of our coaches were there. It was really special and very emotional, and a lot of people have reached out to me since then. It’s those people who helped me get all of those 400 wins.”
UWS bounces back from slow start
Wisconsin-Superior was picked to finish third in the UMAC preseason poll behind Northwestern and Minnesota-Morris. The Yellowjackets started 1-5 but are now 5-5.
Lynne Deadrick is in her 17th season and has a team with only two seniors in Brylee Colligan and A.J. Runck.
Returner Cami Sletta is off to a great start in her second year, with a team-leading 123 kills, while newcomers Cassy Teff and Gina Baertsch have already posted triple-doubles this season.