Sept. 25, 2010

Courtesy of UMD

DULUTH - MN In a battle between two of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference's better blocking teams, the University of Minnesota Duluth squeaked out a 3-2 (21-25, 25-20, 16-25, 25-21, 15-11) victory over No. 4 Southwest Minnesota State University Friday evening at Romano Gymnasium. The Victory, which came in the Bulldogs' first five-set match this fall, runs UMD's record to 13-0 overall, which is believed to be the second-best start to a season in school history.

The NSIC's most proficient blocking team at 2.48 blocks per set, UMD out-blocked the Mustangs -- the league's third best team in that department at 2.08 per game -- 15 to five. That proved to be the difference in the match, as SMSU held an advantage in kills (74 to the Bulldogs' 52) and digs (76 to 65).

The Mustangs' offense put UMD in an early 1-0 hole, but the Bulldogs picked up their blocking in the second set (after failing to record a block in the opening set) to even the score. SMSU then stalled the UMD offense, holding the Bulldogs to five kills as the Mustangs took the third set. UMD was able to regain its composure offensively in the final two sets and run SMSU down, improving to 5-0 in conference play.

The loss drops SMSU to 10-2 overall and 3-1 in the NSIC. The Mustangs are now 2-1 in five-set matches this fall. The Bulldogs are just one win away from matching the best start to a season in program history -- a 14-0 start in 1983.

Alyssa Nelson had a big night with 16 kills and eight total blocks. The Brownsdale Minn. native put up the bulk of those numbers in clutch situations with six kills and six total blocks during the final two sets. April Hansen, Katie Kuffel and Kate Lange collected nine kills each. Hansen hit at a .364 clip to lead UMD in efficiency. Lange added 15 digs and three ace serves.

Junior libero Allison Fanta dug 17 balls, the most of any Bulldog defender. UMD has held its opponents to a hitting percentage of .153 this season, good for second in the NSIC.

The Bulldogs will have their hands full again Saturday afternoon with a second consecutive ranked opponent in No. 12 Minnesota State University-Mankato. The Mavericks come in sporting an overall record of 10-2 and are 2-2 against NSIC competition. The two teams are set to square off at 4:00 p.m.