Volleyball ascends to top spot with big weekend

A week after rolling through the West Florida Opening Weekend Tournament at 4-0, the UMD volleyball team did the same at the UW-Parkside Tournament in Somers, Wis., over the weekend to remain perfect in 2013. This is the fourth consecutive year the volleyball team has started 8-0. The Bulldogs are undefeated in their last eight non-conference tournaments and have won 28 of their last 31 non-conference matches.

“It’s hard to come into a tournament and play four good, quality opponents in such a short amount of time without much preparation,” head coach Jim Boos said. “We can only stress a few key points and not game plan like other sports. We have to control and maintain our play on our side of the net first and then adjust and limit what other teams are trying to do to us.”

The second-ranked Bulldogs cruised past No. 19 Indianapolis and Wayne State (Mich.) in four sets Friday, and then belted out straight set victories over Wisconsin-Parkside and Lewis Saturday.

UMD dropped the first set of Friday’s opener and trailed for the first time all year against Indianapolis. Despite hitting at a .184 clip in the first set, the Bulldogs finished the match at .318 and snatched the next three sets to down the Greyhounds in four.­

Friday’s second match featured another four-set contest against Wayne State. The Bulldogs pounced early, taking a two-set advantage after a commanding 25-7 second frame. The Warriors narrowly secured the third set before the Bulldogs dispatched them in the fourth.

UMD closed out the tournament with a pair of 3-0 wins Saturday, first discarding Wisconsin-Parkside and then defeating Lewis in the night cap.

“I learned a few things about our team,” Boos said. “When we are capable of playing our style of volleyball, we are extremely difficult to defend and defeat. Our ball control can be very good and we are a pretty strong defending team. We have a lot of weapons to work with on offense.”

That offense has senior outside hitter Kate Lange as the primary choice, with a number of other options, including Katie Ledwell, Maddy Siroin, Monica Turner, and Mariah Scharf.

Lange shined once again after claiming Player of the Week honors for both the NSIC and the AVCA last week. She launched a career-high 33 kills against the Greyhounds in the opener, topping her previous high, which was set Sept. 6 in West Florida (30, Wheeling Jesuit).

The Bulldogs overtook the top spot in the latest AVCA poll Monday following a loss by previous No. 1 Tampa. UMD earned 33 of the 48 first-place votes, with No. 2 Concordia-St. Paul tallying five votes.

The poll marks the 10th time in school history UMD has claimed the top spot in the nation. The Bulldogs last received the No. 1 ranking Oct. 31, 2011.

Boos said that while being ranked No. 1 is nice recognition for the program, his team has plenty of pressure from themselves and the community to perform well.

UMD was scheduled to plays its home opener Tuesday night against Michigan Tech. The NSIC portion of the schedule starts Thursday with the Bulldogs taking on Minnesota, Crookston at Romano Gym, and continues Saturday with a road assignment against Bemidji State.

The Bulldogs are 20-0 lifetime against the Golden Eagles and 86-3 against the Beavers. With a victory over Minnesota, Crookston, UMD will have won 21 straight conference openers.

BY EVAN SMEGAL smega001@d.umn.edu

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