The Bulldogs volleyball team was crowned co-NSIC champion by picking up wins in their final two matches of the season. After losing a hard-fought non-conference match against Concordia-St. Paul earlier in the week, the Bulldogs picked up victories over Minot State and the University of Mary, both wins coming in straight sets.
On Friday night, UMD was the superior team against Minot State, winning in dominating fashion (25-15, 25-14, 25-16).
But Saturday afternoon marked an impressive day for the club. UMD allowed only three points in the first set, the fewest points ever allowed since the 25-point format began in 2008. Also, the 22-point win was the largest margin of victory for the Bulldogs since the 23-point (30-7) set win against Minnesota Morris in 2002.
In addition, the Bulldogs held their annual senior day to commemorate the collegiate careers of Samantha Hertaus and Kalli Lochner. With match point looming, head coach Jim Boos hesitated for a moment but decided to use his final substitutions on his seniors.
“I was glad I had the opportunity,” said Boos. “I was wavering for a second because of how close the match was. I only had two subs left at the time. They have been part of a lot of success here. I thought it was a pretty cool way to honor them and a great way for them to go out.”
As Hertaus and Lochner were leaving the floor, the crowd of 487 rose to their feet and gave them a standing ovation. The Bulldogs would secure the victory the next point. It was the first win for the Bulldogs on senior day since 2009.
“It was great day overall,” said Lochner. “In possibly my last game at Romano, we played extremely well and it was amazing to hear the fans when we walked off the court. It was a great feeling to have the support of our fans, friends and family.”
The Bulldogs captured a share of the title when Concordia upended Southwest Minnesota State on the final day of the season. UMD earned a three-way split for the crown with SMSU and Concordia.
UMD clinched a share of the title for the second consecutive time and the 22nd time in school history. Last year, UMD and Concordia were crowned champions with identical 18-2 records.
“We’re really excited about being named co-champions,” said Boos. “It was one of the goals we had at the beginning of the season and in a conference like ours that quite an accomplishment. I’m proud of the girls for doing it two years in a row.”
The Bulldogs are en route to their 11th consecutive NCAA tournament. But first they must head to the NSIC tourney.
“I think the tournament is an excellent way for us to prepare for regions,” said Hertaus. “It’s a good preview because we were used to playing Friday-Saturday but now it’s lose and go home or win and continue playing on.”
UMD will collide with Winona State in the first round of the NSIC tournament. If the Bulldogs are able to win the tournament, they might have the chance to host the region. This year UMD finished 15-0 at home.
“I think there is the possibly that whoever wins the conference championship might have a good shot at hosting the region,” said Boos. “I’m excited to play in the conference tournament for the first time and I’m sure the girls are excited too.”
BY EVAN SMEGAL email@example.com