Minnesota-Duluth sweeps Wayne State
Bulldogs snap two-game skid, advance to second round
Minnesota-Duluth's only losing streak of the season has ended.
The third-seed Bulldogs (28-3) appeared loose as a team, snapping a two-match losing streak in the opening round of the NCAA Division II Tournament with their 25-14, 25-23, 25-19 sweep of sixth-seed Wayne State Thursday afternoon.
"To think you have to have the seventh-ranked team playing the tenth-ranked team in the country right off that bat, it's disappointing one of these two teams won't be playing tomorrow," head coach Jim Boossaid. "From our standpoint, I'm certainly happy coming off of what was a rough home weekend for us last week. We had to come out and respond right away, and we set a good tone for ourselves."
UMD jumped out to a 6-1 start over the Wildcats, using two blocks and a kill from junior middle blocker Kalli Lochner, as well as two quick service aces from senior setter Eleena Iisakka. The Bulldogs forced Wayne State into tough shots throughout the match, forcing the Wildcats' hand into a .100 hitting percentage on just 29 kills.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs passed extremely well, opening up their offense from pin to pin and keeping the Wayne State block a step behind the UMD hitters. Sophomore outside hitter Kate Lange's 15 kills led the Bulldogs to 44 team kills, while senior right side hitter April Hansen's 12 kills and .556 hitting percentage paced the team to a .255 efficiency. The success UMD found at the net however, all started with the pass.
"It all boils down to who passes well," Boos said. "If you're not passing well, it limits what you can do, offensively."
Redshirt freshman libero Julie Rainey tied Lange with the team-lead in digs, putting up 13 for UMD to spark the transition offense.
"It was a big game for everybody, and I think everyone stepped up when they needed to," Rainey said. "It's nice to see confidence from certain players at times, and that momentum can keep building."
Hansen connected with Iisakka right away in the first set, pounding down five kills in six attempts
"Kudos to Eleena for finding those openings for us today," Hansen said. "That's a big job for a setter, and as a hitter you just have to go up and put that ball away when she gives it to us."
Lochner finished with four kills, but made her presence known at the net with seven blocks, three of them solo efforts, to lead UMD in a 10-7 blocking advantage.
"Kalli's one of those players you have fun rallying around," Hansen said. "She really loves the game, and she's a huge block. It's really nice to play next to her."