UMD to host Regionals

For the second straight year, the No. 2 ranked Bulldogs earned home court advantage in the Central Region of the NCAA division II tournament after winning the NSIC tournament this week. Julie Rainey and her teammates got together at the school as they watched the news on the selection show.“We all got together at the school and catered in some food to watch the selection show,” Rainey wrote in an email. “It was great that we found out we are hosting the regional tourney.” The Bulldogs had already earned an automatic bid after winning the NSIC Tournament. Sioux Falls, Southwest Minnesota State and Wayne State were all defeated at the hands of the Bulldogs this week, but not without some tough matchups and challenges along the way. The Bulldogs met a tenacious Sioux Falls team who they beat in their two previous regular season matches. After the first two sets it appeared as if the Bulldogs would sweep them again, but Sioux Falls battled back to even the match at two sets each. It would simply not be enough though, as the Bulldogs took the final set. Rainey gives all the credit to Sioux Falls for battling back like they did. “I think Sioux Falls played great the (third) and (fourth) set, but when the (fifth) set came, we were really ready to perform and we were not going to lose,” Rainey wrote. Mariah Scharf saved her best performance for when they needed it most, finishing with 27 kills and a .581 hitting percentage. Katie Ledwell and Maddy Siroin aided Rainey to the digs department, each ending up in double digits. Ashley Hinsch finished with 68 assists, more assists than Sioux Fall’s final team total. Following their final set scare against Sioux Falls, the Bulldogs took on No. 5 Southwest Minnesota State, who had taken them to five sets just a week prior. This time the Bulldogs won in four sets and earned a second straight NSIC Championship berth. Their final test came from the only other team that had taken them to five sets during the regular season: No. 7 Wayne State. The Bulldogs proved the previous match to be a fluke in a straight set win. This decisive victory earned them their second straight NSIC Tournament title and an NCAA division II tournament berth. On Thursday, Nov. 20, fans can come see the Bulldogs take on Arkansas State at Romano Gym in their first NCAA tournament matchup. Arkansas State comes in as the heavy underdog, and are currently unranked in the national polls. Rainey is not concerned with the rankings as she expects a fight from every team they encounter. “I think everyone at this point is going to come out fighting,” Rainey wrote. “That is the fun thing about postseason — everyone plays hard and fights until the end.” If the Bulldogs move on in their first matchup, they will play the winner of NSIC rival Wayne State and Central Missouri. A matchup with seven-time reigning champion Concordia-St. Paul may be in the works if they were to win their first two games as well. Rainey cannot stress enough how important bringing a first ever NCAA division II championship home to Duluth would be. “It would be one of the best experiences to be a part of,” Rainey wrote. “I think we are ready and looking forward to the challenge.”


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