A FEW MINUTES WITH...JIM BOOS
Friday, August 24, 2012
For the past decade, the University of Minnesota Duluth has been able to rely on the same thing year-in and year-out under head coach Jim Boos: a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs, who have marched to a record of 269-52 in 10 seasons under Boos, opened preseason camp last week looking to stretch their streak of appearances in the NCAA II postseason field.
Last fall, Boos led the Bulldogs to a share of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference title and a quarterfinal victory in the NCAA Central Regional before UMD bowed out to eventual-champion Concordia-St. Paul. Seniors Kalli Lochner and Samantha Hertaus are back to lead the roster, but five seniors depart from a 2011 club that went 28-4, the Bulldogs have an unusually high number of questions surrounding their team heading into the opener.
Coach Boos sat down with UMDBulldogs.com to share his thoughts heading into his 11th season as UMD's bench boss.
Can you talk about what your general expectations are for your club heading into the 2012 season?
With five seniors graduating from last year’s team there’s certainly some unknowns. For the first time in a while, we have quite a few unknowns. We really only return a couple on-court, full-time starters in addition to our libero. I think that’s the biggest thing. Can some of those young players (who have been training in our program for a while now, and some of our newcomers that are coming in for the first time this preseason) can they get the job done and do what we need them to do? Again I think that’s the big thing, where we're going to be at with a little bit of a youth movement here.
When looking at the 2012 schedule, what jumps out at you?
I’m excited to open at home on a Tuesday night -- that’s the first day of school -- against Northern Michigan. They’re not necessarily a conference rival, but they’re certainly a regional rival. We went up to their place last year and we play them every spring. Our girls like playing against that team and that’s a good test right off the bat before our home tournament. After that, what stands out to me is just the grind of October. We take a trip to Bismarck and Minot (N.D.), followed by a trip to Sioux Falls (S.D.) and Wayne, Nebraska. We’re at home for a week and then we’re right back out to Moorhead and Aberdeen, South Dakota. Then we’re at home for a Thursday before we go right back out to Crookston. It’s a grind right there and I think regardless of opponent, any time you’re on the bus traveling that much it wears on you and kids have to learn how to respond to that and handle the travel. That’s going to be a true test. In our league the actual physical part -- the volleyball -- there’s a ton of tough matches to look at and highlight, but to me, the big question mark is: how does a young team handle the travel grind?
You graduated three attackers from a year ago. How will your team be able to replace that offensive production?
Kalli Lochner is maybe going to be able to step up and take her game even to another level. I think we saw a breakout season from her last year and now with a year under her belt I think we can even get a little more out of her. Mainly we’re going to need some of our young kids to come in -- whether it be Jessica Zieman or Monica Turner in the middle -- one of those two is going to have to step into Stephanie Brown’s role. Maddy Siroin is a good candidate to be out there on the right side and she has a heck of an arm, so we certainly hope to see her step up the plate and flourish like she could. And then we’re going to need one of our young outsides to be out there because your outside hitter is your outlet and your kind of last resort on bad scramble plays and out of system stuff. So whether it be Katie Ledwell, Alyssa Kujawa or incoming freshman Mariah Scharf, one of those three is going to have to pick up the slack. I don’t know if you really think about “how do we replace those kills?” so much as trying to keep ourselves in system so that our setter can make good choices and give our hitters good opportunities and try to create one-on-one matchups.
Concordia-St. Paul was picked as the league favorite once again. How do you see the rest of the NSIC shaking out?
I think Southwest Minnesota State is going to be real strong. They've got a couple of their injured kids back and I think Terry Culhane has done a great job of establishing that program as one of the top in the country. Perennial powers of Wayne State and Mankato will likely be right in there as well. The biggest thing about our league now is that next batch of teams, the teams that finish from sixth down to whatever it might be, those teams have all gotten much better. The league is so much more balanced. You just can’t go into any match taking anything for granted, you really need to come to play. And that’s a great lesson for a young team to learn. The good news about being young is we don’t know any different and we won’t know any better. So hopefully we’re just going to come out and fight hard without really worrying about who is on the other side of the net because this league is tough.
Who will take the reigns from departed All-American setter Eleena Iisakka and quarterback the offense?
That’s biggest question mark, because not only are we turning over the reigns for the first time in three seasons, but the person we turn it over to is going to be young. It’s either going to be our current sophomore setter Jaclyn Barrette, who got a little bit of playing time last year when Eleena Iisakka went down with her ankle and led us to three 3-0 match wins. She did a nice job setting for us this spring as a nice little athlete. Otherwise it’s going to be an incoming freshman. So either way there’s going to be a bit of a learning curve and there’s some things that have to be figured out over time. That’s what is going to make it fun. I think the coaching staff kind of gets reinvigorated when we have this new youth charge. We kind of have to get back to teaching again and making sure they all understand what we want them to do and what the system is all about and helping them take their game to the next level. Who that setter is and how they perform will certainly going to have a big influence as to how we do this year and you have to take some lumps along the way. You can’t expect a freshman or a sophomore who hasn't been out there that much to just jump right out there and do it perfectly. We’ll have our ups and downs but if we can get them playing well by the end of the year it’s going to be exciting.
Tell us about this year's crop of newcomers.
We’re very excited about out incoming class. Monica Turner is a 6-2 middle who played at Lakeville South and also plays for Northern Lights -- one of the high-profile Junior Olympic programs out of the Twin Cities. She’s a very skilled and talented kid. Her older sister played in our league, so she knows what it’s all about. I think she’s going to come in and make an impact right away, and she’s going to be battling for some opportunities right of the get-go. She’s got a rocket for an arm, and has some presence at the net with the ability to put up a nice size block. She’s going to be fun to have out there right away. Turner’s Junior Olympic teammate, Ashley Hinsch, is going to be coming in to compete for our setting position. She’s a 5-10, athletic kid. Multi-sport athlete -- tremendous basketball player actually -- hoppy, can do things with both hands and has been setting at a high level for quite some time with her Junior Olympic program. She’s going to be right in the mix and competing for an opportunity to be out there from a setting position right away, which is going to be fun to have some kids battling like that. Mariah Scharf from Orono, played for M1 Volleyball in the Twin Cities (another high-profile Junior Olympic squad). She’s a 5-10 outside hitter, again hoppy, with a really strong arm swing. I think Mariah is going to give some of our younger outsides in the program a run as well. All three of those kids are going to be pushing right away to see if they can get out on the floor. The final member of that class is Sydnie Mauch out of Brainerd, Minn. She’s a tall girl with long arms and she’s coming from a little bit more of a raw background. She’s physically gifted and if we can get her to do a few things a little bit more technically sound, she’s going to be a lot of fun to have out there as well.
Is anyone on the roster primed for a breakout season?
I think Maddy Sirioin has got a real good opportunity. She’s been busting her butt in the weight room and getting herself in the best physical condition she’s probably ever been in. She’s naturally skilled, she’s got a real powerful arm and she just has that competitive, blue-collar work ethic that is a lot of fun to be around. I think the girls love her. She’s a fun spirit and is fun to play with and I think our team is really going to enjoy competing with her. She’s got the potential to step out and maybe do some things for us.
The NSIC will feature a conference tournament for the first time in 2012. Your thoughts?
It’s going to be intense competition. For those teams that do make the regional playoff out of our league it will be good preparation against great competition going into the following two weekends. Is there a possibility some of those teams are going to have to play repeat opponents? That’s possible. Is that a good or bad thing? I don’t know. With the change in regions this year and our league being paired up with the MIAA, we’re going to be battling tooth-and-nail for those playoff spots that are available. So I think the better competition teams in our league get, the better it is for the NSIC. Ultimately, I think it’s a good thing, but I do think there’s going to be some knock-down, drag-out fist fights at the end of the year. It'll to be fun to watch.
Return to all news.