NO. 6 UMD SHOOTS DOWN DEFENDING NATIONAL CHAMPS IN FOUR
Friday, September 28, 2012
The annual meetings between Concordia-St. Paul and the University of Minnesota Duluth have commanded a lot of attention in recent years, but a Bulldog victory on its home floor has not been in the cards. That all changed Friday night when sixth-ranked UMD outpaced the five time defending NCAA II champion Golden Bears 3-1 (25-20, 21-25, 25-22, 25-17) in front of 903 spectators at Romano Gymnasium.
"I'm pleased with the win. I was very happy with the way we played tonight," Bulldog head coach Jim Boos said of the victory, the 284th of his career. "We were very aggresive. We attacked. We played with a lot of confidence coming off a tough road loss."
Fans who have come to expect a heavyweight bout between the two perennial powerhouses were not let down in a contentious opening frame. The two teams -- which shared the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference crown in 2011 -- traded blows back and forth until the Bulldogs broke away from a tie score midway through the set. With the score tied at 9-9, a kill by freshman Mariah Scharf gave UMD the lead and sent the serve to the Bulldogs. UMD then rolled to a 9-1 run, which included six straight points off the serve of sophomore outside hitter Katie Ledwell. Concordia-St. Paul attempted to mount a late rally, but a Scharf swing from the right side found the floor and put the Bulldogs ahead 1-0.
The Golden Bears responded, clubbing 14 kills on an attack percentage of .333 (after hitting .242 in the first game) en route to winning the second set. UMD held with Concordia throughout the entire frame, and had a golden opportunity to take a commanding lead into the intermission with the set knotted at 21-21. Feeling the desperation of their situation, the Golden Bears took the next four points, sending the teams to the locker room all square.
Following the break, UMD cleaned up a few things offensively, allowing the Bulldogs to claim the final two sets. UMD stormed out to a 15-8 lead in the third, but found itself in a 19-19 deadlock after a couple miniature momentum swings in favor of the Golden Bears. The Bulldogs rallied in the clutch, breaking from a 21-21 tie and ultimately claiming the set on a finesse punch shot to the back-corner by freshman middle blocker Monica Turner, who finished with 10 kills. The fourth set looked to be another heated battle, with the teams pushing one another to a 7-7 score. UMD pulled away from there with a 7-2 run, which gave the Bulldogs a comfortable lead, one they would enjoy the rest of the way. Junior outside hitter Kate Lange sealed the victory with her match-high 25th kill, pounding a ball past Concordia setter Amanda Konetchy.
"Right off the get-go you could tell they were ready to play," said Boos, who had not defeated Concordia at home since 2007. "Any time you beat a team of that quality, at home or on the road, it feels good. Now we've got to get back on the horse tomorrow and play another great team in Mankato."
UMD (14-1 overall and 5-1 in the NSIC) racked up 66 combined kills on the legs of a .291 hitting percentage. Concordia (10-3; 4-2) hit .264 for the evening with 49 kills and six blocks.
Freshman setter Ashley Hinsch passed out 53 assists and added six digs. Sophomore right side hitter Maddy Siroin (11 kills) and Scharf (10 kills) joined Lange and Turner with double digit performances in the kill department. The Bulldogs collected a season-high eight service aces on the evening.
UMD returns to Romano Saturday afternoon to wrap up the weekend against another Top 10 opponent. The Bulldogs will take on No. 10 Minnesota State University-Mankato at 4:00 p.m.
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