BY SAM GAZZOLA | The Statesman
UMD’s late-season success could not offset a mid-season slump, bringing the 2015 season to an end for the UMD volleyball team.
After being knocked out of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference playoff tournament by No. 1 ranked Concordia-St. Paul, No. 5 ranked UMD had to receive an at-large bid to get into the 64-team NCAA tournament. Despite being in the top five in the rankings, the Bulldogs were not chosen for the postseason tournament.
“I certainly hoped we had done enough with the run we made at the end, beating a couple of top ranked teams, but we went into that selection show really not knowing how it was going to go,” head coach Jim Boos said.
The Bulldogs finished this year’s campaign with a record of 23-8 overall, finishing fifth in the NSIC. Those eight losses were the most the program has seen since 2009, when they finished fourth in the NSIC with a record of 23-9.
“A successful disappointment is a great way to put it,” Boos said. “I was very happy with how our team responded to the injury and depth issues we had, and the run we went on at the end of the year… But certainly a disappointment in that we’re always expecting to make a longer run into the postseason.”
It was a disappointing finish to an up and down 2015 season, and a step backwards, considering the now-broken streak of 13 straight NCAA II Regional Tournament berths.
“Next year is going to be another challenge because you’re talking about turning over two players who have been four-year starters and another player who has been the focal point of our offense a couple years,” Boos said.
UMD will lose four seniors to graduation this year. Some of those players have had huge roles with the team over their careers here.
Senior setter Ashley Hinsch will arguably be the most difficult player to replace next season. In her collegiate career she earned four All-Conference selections and three All-American selections. At the end of the year she ranked second in the country individually with 12.69 assists per set. Hinsch led the Bulldogs to 14.06 assists per set, which leads the country.
“She’s a critical part of what we’ve done here for four years, and has grown so much not only as a player but as a person,” Boos said. “She’s such an off-court energy source for the team. We’ll certainly miss her from a volleyball perspective but that’s the type of person your program misses because of all the positivity and fun they bring to your group.”
Senior outside hitter Mariah Scharf had a career year offensively. She finished No. 5 in the nation with 533 kills, shattering her previous record of 459 in 2014. Scharf also finished No. 5 in the country with 4.72 kills per set, another personal best. Her performance in the NSIC playoffs earned her a spot on the all-tournament team.
“The performance Mariah put on for us at the end of the year was huge and one of the main reasons we started doing so well again,” Boos said.
Senior middle blocker Monica Turner has been a starter since 2012. She tied her career best in total blocks this year with 100. Turner will also leave UMD as the leader in total blocks (386) and, despite her defensive role, hitting percentage (.361).
“Monica got the job done from day one and continued to do it all the way to the end,” Boos said. “She’s gonna leave our program as the all-time block leader, but she’ll be the first to tell you that that’s not the strength of what she does. Offensively is where she’s helped us the most over the years.
Each of these three players played in all 113 sets the team played in this season.