After dropping their first game of the season, the UMD volleyball team came out firing on all cylinders, taking two important wins in compelling fashion and showcasing their dominance. The Bulldogs responded after coming off a rough defeat.
“It was a great response by them coming off a tough lost on the road,” said head coach Jim Boos. “We certainly didn’t play very well in the second half of that match. We had a great week of practice and we came out with the intensity we needed.”
In the opening set against the No. 4 Golden Bears, with the score tied at nine a piece, the Bulldogs pulled ahead on a 9-1 run and took control of the set. Concordia sparked a mini rally of their own, but it was too late. The Bulldogs won the first set 25-20, taking a 1-0 lead.
Then the Golden Bears made things interesting, squaring the match at one all after two.
Coming out of break, the Bulldogs took command in the third set. With Julie Rainey serving at 10-9, the Bulldogs opened a slight edge to lead by six points but Concordia would claw back and tie it at 19. After trading points, Rainey would soon serve again and get the Bulldogs to set point, where Monica Turner blasted a shot through Concordia defenders to end the set.
In the fourth set, the Bulldogs used the energy from the previous set to put the hammer down on Concordia. They jumped out to an early lead and never trailed. UMD won the final set 25-17 with 4-0 runs three separate times. They took the match 3-1.
“It’s an amazing feeling to come out and beat Concordia, especially after the loss on the road,” senior Kalli Lochner said. “That was probably the best game we have ever played against Concordia. They are a great team and we played an excellent game.”
UMD turned around the next day to beat No. 10 Minnesota State University, Mankato.
The Mavericks would give the Bulldogs problems. The Mavericks played nearly error-free ball, eliminating a seven-point lead and playing extra points. Despite the 10 Bulldogs errors, UMD won 26-24.
UMD trailed the first half of the second set before the serving game of the Bulldogs gave the Mavericks trouble. UMD used Katie Ledwell’s serve to go on a 6-0 run to take a slim 15-13 lead. The Bulldogs eventually won the second set as both teams traded points.
Finally, the Bulldogs awoke and stormed out of the final set. With Rainey behind the line serving, the Dogs went on runs of seven and nine to close out the Mavericks.
“We did a great job of serving this weekend,” said Lochner when asked about the job Rainey and others did from the serving line. “We were able to make it difficult for (our opponents) to execute their offense.”
With Southwest Minnesota State handing them their first loss of the season the previous week, the pair of home victories helped the Bulldogs rebound into the top five of the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Poll.
The AVCA released their latest poll slotting the Bulldogs at number three overall. Nebraska-Kearney, who is undefeated so far this season (15-0), holds the top spot receiving 31 out of 32 first-place votes.
The race for the NSIC title is in full swing with just over half the conference schedule remaining.
The Bulldogs are 6-1 in conference play and are currently in a three-way tie for second place with Southwest Minnesota State and Wayne State. Seven teams are all within two games of each other.
“We can’t get too carried away,” said Boos. “It is still very early in the season and in the next following weeks we have some long road trips. You can’t take anything for granted. We have to take the energy and apply it on the road.”
The captain of the Bulldogs also stressed how important it is to win games on the road.
“We would love to continue this kind of play and win the game we should and win the NSIC title and host regionals here,” said Lochner. “We need to go into these games with a lot of determination and energy and get the other team to play our game.”
The Bulldogs will travel to North Dakota to take on two NSIC opponents this weekend. They will face Minot State Friday night. It will be the first ever meeting between Minot and UMD. Then, they will turn around and battle the University of Mary on Saturday.
BY EVAN SMEGAL firstname.lastname@example.org