BY ADAM WATTS
The MSUM volleyball team finished off a week of games featuring multiple highly-ranked conference opponents by getting swept by No. 1-ranked Minnesota Duluth 25-18, 25-19, 25-22 at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse on Saturday before a crowd of 433.
“They’re good,” head coach Tammy Blake said. “They’re not ranked number one in the nation for nothing.”
The loss moves the Dragons to a season record of 10-3 and 3-2 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. The record puts them in a three-way tie for sixth place in the conference. The Bulldogs are now 11-2 and 4-1 in NSIC. Duluth’s only conference loss was a sweep by 12-0 (4-0) Northern State who beat the Dragons in five sets Tuesday.
The Bulldogs controlled most of the game, answering Dragon rallies with runs of their own. The Dragons opened the second set 5-0 but were not able to hold on to the lead. The Bulldogs won four of the next five points. Later in the set, Duluth went on a 12-2 run to go up 23-16. The Dragons were able to score three more points in the set but were not able to come back for the win.
MSUM out-blocked Duluth 9-8. Junior middle blocker Kelsey Hartkopf led the Dragons with six total blocks.
“I thought we did really well with blocking them,” said Blake. “We had some good swings against them, I thought we played good defense. I thought we did some nice things as well.”
The Dragons had a chance to extend the game in the third set following a block by Kaitlin VanWinkle, who led the team with eight kills, and Abby Wolpern that put them up 21-20. They were not able to close out the set. With the set tied 22-22, Taylor Wissbroecker notched three consecutive points for the Bulldogs to seal the sweep 25-22.
The Bulldogs were the Dragon’s second nationally ranked opponent of the week following a game against No. 19 Northern State on Tuesday. The Dragons handed the Wolves their first and second lost sets of the season, having swept every other game they have played.
Sandwiched between the two MSUM losses was a sweep of St. Cloud State Friday. After a busy two-week stretch that saw the Dragons play five conference games, the team is looking forward to getting back into the gym for some practice.
“We haven’t had a lot of hard practices the last two weeks because we’ve had a lot of games,” said Blake. “I’m looking forward to getting back in the gym and just having some hard practices and working on things we struggled with the last couple of sets that we played.”
Senior Amber Krenske was recognized before the game for a successful career that has featured over 1,000 career digs and is closing in on the top-10 in school history. She led the team with 15 digs Saturday.
The Dragons will continue conference play next week with games at 6-7 (2-3) Minnesota-Crookston on Friday and at 4-9 (2-2) Bemidji State on Saturday.