The final chapters in the books of senior captains Sammie Hertaus and Kalli Lochner’s volleyball collegiate careers are about to be complete. As the season draws to the end, the seniors are hoping to write a magical ending. Hertaus, a native from New Prague, Minn., played as a setter and outside hitter at New Prague High School and participated in the Northern Lights Volleyball Club for five years. Hertaus joined the Bulldogs two years ago after transferring from Bemidji State. Hertaus originally started her collegiate career at Marquette University.
“UMD was my original choice but I got the chance to play DI volleyball so I went to Marquette,” said Hertaus. “Midway through the season our coach got fired and things weren’t going well. Plus it was far away from home. I left and finally ended up here. I couldn’t be any happier to play here.”
With nearly a full roster, head coach Jim Boos took the chance and added Hertaus to the roster.
“I’m glad we bought Sammie in,” said Boos, stating the difficult decision that was made to add Hertaus. “If you look now, she is one of our best servers and certainly one of our best ball controller kids we have had. She passes so efficiently for us and she has been a rock at right back. I think she’s one of the unsung heroes on this team. The stats might not show it but she has made an impact for us. She definitely deserves her moment in the limelight.”
For her career at UMD, the defensive specialist has posted 418 digs, 85 assists, 58 service aces and held a .961 passing percentage. Hertaus was also named to the 2011 and 2012 NSIC All-Academic Teams.
Lochner hails from Cross Plains, Wis., and has been a member of the squad for all four years at UMD. Lochner was the starting middle blocker for Wisconsin Heights High School when her team won the Division III state championship and also played five years for the Wisconsin Select Volleyball Club.
“I wasn’t really sure where I was going to school,” said Lochner. “I wanted volleyball to be part of my life and Boos gave me the opportunity to play. I have been a part of this team for four years now and I couldn’t ask for anything else.”
UMD is fortunate to have Lochner. According to Boos, the senior has played a big role on and off the court.
“We knew Lochner was going to be an impact player for the program when she first came in,” said Boos. “Ironically, her strength was blocking and her offense wasn’t very effective at first. You look now and she’s third in our league in attacking percentage and she is a main attacker for us and has been nominated for many awards in the process. Along with that, she has been the team leader, a mother hen for us. She keeps our group in line and focused in what we’re doing.”
Lochner registered 563 kills with an attack percentage of .319 and 168 total blocks in 73 games for her four-year career. Lochner has many awards in her honor. She was named to the NSIC All-Academic team three times, the All-NSIC first team twice and multiple all-tournament teams.
Together, Lochner and Hertaus have had a pretty successful run as members of the University of Minnesota Duluth volleyball team.
Since being thrown into rotation, the seniors have racked up an amazing 56-8 record. During the two-year stretch, the record has compiled a .857 winning percentage, 13th best in nation out of 261 Division II teams. To no surprise, six of those losses came at the expense of Concordia and Southwest Minnesota State, both of which are ahead of the Bulldogs in that category.
That remarkable record was filled with uncertainty to start the season. The team had gaping holes to fill after losing four starters. That meant the Bulldogs had very little collegiate experience coming into the season, with a combined 11 freshmen and sophomores on the roster. Kate Lange needed an opposite hitter to balance the attack and they were throwing in a brand-new setter.
It didn’t hinder the Bulldogs.
The team got off to a hot start going 13-0. UMD clinched a share of the NSIC title and finished the season perfect at home (15-0) for the eighth time in program history.
UMD made their first ever appearance in the NSIC Tournament. The tournament made a comeback with the conference expansion to 16 teams. Hoping to claim another accolade, the seniors and the Bulldogs were knocked out by eventual champions Southwest Minnesota State.
“I think the (NSIC) Tournament was an excellent way to prepare,” said Hertaus. “It’s just like the NCAA Tournament and we are likely to play those teams in the region. It’s the same format, lose and go home or win and continue playing. Everything is on the line.”
The loss might have stung but it provided a good warm-up as the Bulldogs (28-4 overall) were rewarded with a berth as the fifth seed into the Central Region of the NCAA Tournament. This year marked the 15th time in school history and the 11th straight appearance.
The only thing left for the seniors is the NCAA Tournament. With only a limited amount of pages left, it’s only a matter of time before Hertaus and Lochner write a new book in their series.
After their playing careers, Lochner will head back to the Madison area and look for a job while tying the knot and continue playing or coaching volleyball for fun. Hertaus is planning to go to vet school and is currently waiting to hear back from the University of Minnesota. Her other options are to attend grad school and possibly go out and travel the world.
But the two senior captains still have one thing on their mind: bring home UMD’s first national championship in volleyball. The first step in their quest is a date with Central Missouri Thursday.
“The ultimate goal is to win the championship,” said Lochner. “We weren’t happy with the way we played in the NSIC Tournament. All week in practice, our goal was to improve and work on the little things. But we are in for a battle; (the Jennies) are very similar to us.”
BY EVAN SMEGAL firstname.lastname@example.org