Having won 21 consecutive home matches coming into Saturday, the UMD volleyball team looked primed for a typical weekend sweep at Romano Gym. That wasn’t the case.
Northern State came into Romano Saturday and shocked the second-ranked team in the nation quite handily in four sets.
“They played great defensively and found a way to win a lot of the long rallies,” said head coach Jim Boos. “Once they got things rolling offensively, they pressured us with their tempo. They have good athletic players who hit the ball hard.”
The Bulldogs, who slipped to fourth in this week’s AVCA poll, dropped their first set of the year at home after once holding a 21-18 advantage. The Wolves took command of the set by taking seven of the final nine points. They carried that momentum over to dominate the second set (25-15) and take a 2-0 lead going into the intermission.
UMD rebounded with a third set win, but it didn’t come easily. It took six set points for the Bulldogs to close out the frame. In the fourth set, the Wolves took an early 8-2 lead that proved too much for UMD to overcome.
“Northern did a great job of taking away some of the things we were used to, and we continued to try and do the same things,” Boos said. “It was as if we were hitting our heads into the brick wall instead of trying to figure out a different way to get around the wall. Northern came in with fire and energy and made life miserable for us.”
Home losses have been an unusual sight for UMD lately. The Wolves, who have won five in a row, collected their second win against the Bulldogs in 48 meetings all time. UMD’s only loss to Northern State before Saturday came in 2000. The last time UMD lost at home to an unranked opponent was Nov. 6, 2010, against Minnesota State-Moorhead.
UMD had looked more like its usual self Friday in a sweep of Minnesota State-Moorhead on the team’s annual “Dig for a Cure” game supporting the Essentia Health Foundation. In the highest-attended match of the year, UMD raised over $1,400 dollars from a silent auction and donations.
The Bulldogs (19-2, 9-2 NSIC) will attempt to rebound from their second loss of the year on the road. The trip starts with a match against St. Cloud State Tuesday, before out-of-state battles against Augustana Friday and No. 17 Wayne State Saturday.
“Hopefully our girls learned from watching the tape that we can’t always be reliant on (senior outside hitter Kate) Lange and (junior libero Julie) Rainey to get us out of tough situations,” Boos said. “This serves as a wakeup call because our schedule doesn’t get any easier from here on out. The talent is deep throughout our conference and the region as a whole. ”
BY EVAN SMEGAL firstname.lastname@example.org