Beavers take on Minnesota, Crookston in home opener
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Beavers take on Minnesota, Crookston in home opener

Tuesday night will mark Bemidji State’s first home match of the season after the team began 2012 with nine straight matches away from home--six at neutral sites and three on the road. Both BSU and Minnesota, Crookston began conference play last weekend. The Beavers went 1-1 and are now 3-6 on the year, while the Golden Eagles went 2-0 against the same teams and improved to 6-3 overall. Both squads also competed at the UMD Volleyball Classic on Sept. 7-8, though they did not play each other. Both teams lost 3-1 to then-No. 19 Ferris State on the first day. UMC then swept Shippensburg (Pa.) 3-0 and came up empty in a 3-0 loss to Minnesota Duluth on Saturday, while the Beavers beat Erskine (S.C) in five sets before losing 3-0 to the Raiders later in the day.

Last Time Out
Last weekend, Bemidji State played the last two matches of a nine-match stretch of road games to open its 2012 slate. On Friday, the Beavers trekked to Minot, N.D. to play Minot State in MSU’s first conference match as a member of the NSIC. Playing at the high-capacity MSU Dome, BSU cruised to a 3-0 (25-17, 25-19, 25-20) win. Bemidji State won the hitting percentage battle .226 to .034 as senior captain  Bethany Thompson led the way with 15 kills. Setter Courtney Volkmann had 30 assists in her fourth consecutive game with 30 or more and libero Elissa Christensen posted 13 digs.

In their second match of the weekend against U-Mary, the Beavers started strong out of the gate, taking the first two sets by scores of 25-18 and 25-14. Thompson racked up seven kills in the first set and Courtney Fox had six digs in the first set, while Kelly Niles and Kelsi Crawford each put down six kills in the second set. The Marauders began to rally in the third game by jumping out to a 10-3 lead en route to 25-16 win before knotting the match with a 25-17 victory in the second set. In Game 5, the teams went back and forth and BSU emerged with a 13-10 lead, but a 6-1 U-Mary run sealed the Marauders’ first win of the season. Thompson and Volkmann each finished with a double-double (fourth of the season for each) and Volkmann set a new career mark with 45 assists.

The loss denied BSU its first 2-0 start in conference play in a decade and marked the team’s second five-set match of the season after the Beavers pulled out a 3-2 win against Erskine (S.C.) on Sept. 8. Friday’s win improved Bemidji State’s record against Minot to 6-0 all-time, dating back to 1977.

After the weekend trip, the Beavers will only leave Minnesota two more times in the 2012 regular season after playing six of their eight out-of-state matches in the first three weeks, including a long trip to Pittsburg, Kan., where the team went 1-3 in a four-game tournament to begin the year.

About the Golden Eagles (6-3, 2-0 NSIC)...
Off to a 6-3 start following a 12-18 campaign last season, Minnesota, Crookston is 2-0 in NSIC and sits in a four-way tie for first place. Last weekend, Golden Eagles cruised past U-Mary 3-0 (25-15, 25-23, 25-17) in their first match and handed Minot State its second setback of the season with a 3-1 (25-22, 20-25, 25-22, 25-23) win. Sophomore Brittany Looker leads UMC with 83 kills and leads the NSIC in aces per game at 0.72 (21 total). Both Lindsey Rees (137) and Paige Mitchell (121) have over 100 assists. Defensively, Chelsea Weisner is seventh in the conference in digs per game with 4.32 (134 total) and Morgan VanGerpen leads the Golden Eagles with 24 total blocks (six solo).

Bemidji State vs. Minnesota, Crookston...
Dating back to 1994, Bemidji State holds the all-time advantage against Minnesota, Crookston at 20-10 after the teams split in two meetings last year, both won by the home team. The home team has had an edge of late, winning five out of the last six matches. The Beavers travel to UMC on Oct. 16.

NSIC Action
Last weekend, Bemidji State opened its conference schedule with a win at Minot State and a loss at U-Mary. BSU won its NSIC opener for the third time in 10 years and second time in three years under head coach Wayne Chadwick. The Beavers improved to 6-0 all-time against MSU and played their second five-set match of the year against U-Mary after playing just one in 2011.

Nonconference Play
The Beavers wrapped up nonconference play at the UMD Volleyball Classic on Sept. 7-8, beating Erskine and falling to Ferris State and Shippensburg. BSU finished non-NSIC play with a 2-5 record, bringing Wayne Chadwick’s nonconference record with the school to 11-12.

NSIC Leaders
Senior Bethany Thompson and sophomore setter Courtney Volkmann have landed themselves among the statistical leaders of the NSIC. Thompson is ranked second in kills per game at 4.03 (129 total) and second in points per game with 4.41 (141 total). Volkmann is third in service aces per game at 0.50 (16 total).

A Career Weekend
In three matches at the UMD Volleyball Classic two weeks ago, senior outside hitter Bethany Thompson beat or tied personal career bests in kills (24), digs (21), aces (4), blocks (3), and assists (3). Her performance, which saw her collect a double-double in all three games, earned her a spot on the UMD Classic all-tournament team as well as Beaver Pride Athlete of the Week honors (third of her career).

Tough Schedule
According the Week 2 AVCA’s current Division II volleyball rankings, the Beavers will face seven ranked teams. In addition to playing 19th-ranked Ferris State last Friday, BSU faces six top 25-ranked NSIC opponents, including three teams currently ranked in the top four.

Out and About
Bemidji State’s 2012 schedule doesn’t feature much travel and the Beavers have already taken care of most of it. BSU made its longest trip of the season to Pittsburg, Kan. and played four of its eight out-of-state matches. After two matches in North Dakota last weekend, the Beavers will now only leave Minnesota to play at Upper Iowa and Northern State.

A Young Squad...
The Beavers entered the season with only two upperclassmen: Bethany Thompson, the lone senior and team captain, and Halee Staskivige, who sat out last season. The rest of the 14-player roster, which lost six letterwinners, includes six freshmen and six sophomores.

...But an Experienced Squad
Though the team only has one senior and one junior, the Beavers have brought back several players who played key roles on the team in 2011. Six members of the current team started at least one of last season’s 28 matches: Bethany Thompson (28), Rachel Craig (28), Kelsi Crawford (17), Kelly Niles (17), Courtney Volkmann (11), and Elissa Christensen (1). Thus far in the season, each of freshman has seen playing time in at least four of the nine matches. Overall, the team returned eight letterwinners.

Trying Something New
Former Ball State (Division I) captain and Northwerstern State graduate assistant Elaina Kakatolis is joins the team as the program’s first full-time assistant coach. Graduate assistant coach and former Beaver Nicole Solum returns for a second season.