College volleyball: Court is back in session at UMD – Duluth News Tribune

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Longtime Minnesota Duluth volleyball coach Jim Boos offered a little reflection outside Romano Gymnasium on Tuesday, talking about days gone by as he spoke to reporters as part of the day Bulldogs media.

“Yeah, good old…” Boos said, pausing before saying “days.”

No, the good old days at Romano weren’t very good at this time of year, when inside the building it was like a brick oven and the coaches and players were drenched in sweat, well before the facility has a new air conditioning system. put inside.

Boos and Co. decided to release it for much different reasons on Tuesday, as masks are required indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s comfortable in there, way more comfortable than where I’m standing right now,” Boos said, wearing a long-sleeved shirt on a 90-degree day, beads of sweat forming on his forehead. “We had tough pre-seasons at Romano over the years. It would have been a much different challenge if we had worn masks then. It’s great now comparatively.

And even better just to be on the pitch again after the 2020 season was canceled due to the pandemic.

Outside forward Kate Berg hits the ball during practice Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 at Romano Gymnasium on the University of Minnesota campus in Duluth. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Scan the Bulldogs’ roster and you’ll only see one senior — one — and that’s 5-foot-9 outside forward Kate Berg.

“Last year was really tough, especially training in the fall,” Berg said. “There was no end in sight.”

Berg graduated with honors last spring with a degree in marketing and graphic design and a minor in management. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Commerce.

Berg was one of three in her class to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility and return this season. She had already applied for her master’s program before COVID, and that made the decision to come back this fall a slam dunk, or, in this case, a thunderous peak.

“Honestly, it worked really well,” Berg said. “I’m getting my master’s degree and I can play volleyball as well.”

Berg returns after leading the 2019 Bulldogs to a 25-7, 16-4 record in NSIC play. She led a team to 472 eliminations, or 4.18 per set. While known as an avid traveler, Berg is also very good defensively as she ranked second with 342 digs, or 3.03 per set. She doesn’t often leave court.

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Head Coach Jim Boos talks to his team during practice Tuesday, August 17, 2021 at the Romano Gymnasium on the University of Minnesota campus in Duluth. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

While the UMD was very senior in 2019, it will be the opposite this fall since young people will be served among the 14 players on the roster. The Bulldogs were ranked No. 2 in the NSIC preseason poll behind rival Concordia-St. Paul.

“I definitely have the most experience on this team, so I have to be a leader,” said Berg, who captains redshirt sophomore setter Madison Gordon and junior defensive specialist Sydney Lanoue. “We have eight girls who have never seen a varsity game. There are going to be a lot of leadership responsibilities that I have to take on.

Bring it on.

Berg, of Medina, Minnesota, who played for nearby Wayzata High School, has the type of energy, the type of positive personality, that others gravitate towards.

“Obviously she has all the tools you need in volleyball to be successful, but I think the fact that she decided to come back, and that she wanted to focus on that says a lot about her desires and his passions for what we are trying to get done,” Boos said. “As important as his leadership is on the pitch, it will be just as important, if not more important, off the pitch.”

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Players gather during practice Tuesday, August 17, 2021 at Romano Gymnasium on the University of Minnesota campus in Duluth. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

If there was a silver lining in all this COVID madness for Berg, it’s that she had shoulder surgery in December and was recovering all spring. She called it an overuse injury, the product of countless spikes delivered by her right hand over the years.

“It got worse in the fall and I had the option of having surgery and not missing the season, so I did it,” she said. “It got to the point where it was almost unbearable.”

Now she’s back, and probably better than ever.

Berg called the timing of everything a blessing.

“Oh yes, of course,” she said. “I don’t think there are many college athletes who have been able to have surgery in the middle of their eligibility without missing a season, so it’s worked out really well.”

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