With the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament coming up in less than two weeks, the Bulldogs looked to keep the pedal on the gas in their final three home games of the regular season. First was NSIC bottom-dweller St. Cloud State, whom the Bulldogs had defeated in straight sets earlier this season. Tuesday’s match would prove to be more of the same as the Bulldogs shut them out again, this time in Romano in front of the energetic UMD faithful.
Maddy Siroin put up a solid performance, finishing with 17 points, four aces, 12 kills and two blocks — leading the team in each category. From a match that would take just over an hour, the Bulldogs would face a larger challenge Friday night against Wayne State University in their longest match of the season.
Friday’s match was the first to reach the two-hour mark due to Wayne State pushing the Bulldogs to a fifth set. While it may be easy for players to run out of gas at this point in the game, Julie Rainey says that it’s quite the contrary for the Bulldogs.
“I think when it gets to that point everyone is focused, everyone’s ready to go,” Rainey said. “You don’t even realize you’ve been playing for that long.”
The Bulldogs needed every bit of that focus and determination to dispatch a hungry Wayne State team that had been riding a four-game winning streak coming into Friday night. What resulted was the match of the season in terms of excitement, with the momentum shifting back and forth to the very last point.
Mariah Scharf saved one of her best performances for Friday’s match, racking up a season-high 26 kills. With the team playing some of its best volleyball, five players would reach double-digit kills, something that Rainey appreciates.
“It’s always good to make plays like that because it can cause momentum changes,” Rainey said. “With everyone being part of that process on the court, it adds energy to the team.”
Following their game against Wayne State University, the Bulldogs had a much easier match against Augustana — taking only three sets for the victory. Scharf and Katie Ledwell would help lead the Bulldogs in kills with 16 and 10.
Before the Bulldogs begin their post-season campaign on Nov. 11, they have to face St. Paul-Concordia again on Tuesday in St. Paul. However, Rainey knows what it will take to beat them.
“We need to serve tough; they have two really good middles that we need to get out of system,” Rainey said. “When we play (St. Paul-Concordia), it always comes down to who comes to play that night.”
After the match against St. Paul-Concordia, the Bulldogs go back on the road Friday and Saturday to face Sioux Falls and Southwest Minnesota State to close out their regular season.
BY JAKE PRZYTARSKI