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Athletics' Historic Year
National Championship, Record GPA, and volunteerism made 2017-18 an awesome year for UMD Athletics.
It commenced with a 3-0 home soccer triumph over the University of Wisconsin-Parkside on Aug. 31 and concluded with Danielle Kohlwey's All-American outdoor track performance on Memorial Day weekend. In between, University of Minnesota Duluth athletics experienced a multitude of highlights -- including some program firsts -- in each of the three C's (competition, classroom and community) during the course of the 2017-18 athletic season.
"Across the board this was one of the most successful years in the history of Bulldog athletics," said UMD Athletic Director Josh Berlo. " Our record-setting performances, competitively, academically and through community engagement were flat out impressive. On behalf of the Bulldogs, I would like to express our sincere appreciation to the fans, faculty, coaches and staff who help make these incredible achievements reality."
Those notable achievements included:
• The Bulldogs captured their second NCAA men's hockey championship by taking down Notre Dame 2-1 on April 7 at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center (the same venue of UMD's first national title conquest seven years earlier). This season's NCAA Tournament berth was the Bulldogs' 12th ever and marked the first time UMD had ever qualified for that event four years in a row. It was also the Bulldogs' second straight trip to the NCAA Frozen Four (they were runners-up in 2017), something that has happened only one other time in program history (1984 and 1985).
• UMD produced nine All-Americans, including Kohlwey, who received that citation in both indoor (4th place in the 60-meter hurdles) and outdoor (3rd place in the 100-meter hurdles) track and field. Another All-American, defenseman Scott Perunovich enjoyed a collegiate debut season for the ages as he was bestowed with College Hockey Commissioner's Tim Taylor Award as the most outstanding NCAA I first-year player. The Hibbing, Minn., product also became just the second Bulldog rookie to ever attain All-National Collegiate Hockey Conference/Western Collegiate Hockey Association first team honors (center Murray Keogan was the other -- in 1969-70 when the Bulldogs were aligned with the WCHA) as well as the second defenseman to ever lead UMD in scoring. He racked up 36 points (a record for a first-year UMD blueliner and the third most of any 2017-18 NCAA freshman) on 11 goals and a team-leading 25 assists in 42 games. Perunovich was one of a nation-leading five Bulldogs (joining Joey and Mikey Anderson, Dylan Samberg and Riley Tufte) to skate for the U.S. at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championships during the midway point of the season.
• Eight of 16 Bulldog teams qualified for NCAA II Tournament/National Championship play or a postseason bowl game -- men's and women's cross country, football, men's hockey, softball, women's indoor track and field, women's outdoor track and field, and volleyball.
• UMD's bid for an NCAA II Elite 8 volleyball appearance came up just short as the Bulldogs fell to arch-rival – and eventual national champion – Concordia University-St. Paul in the NCAA II Central Regional title match. Both junior right outside hitter Sarah Kelly (first team) and senior middle blocker Allison Olley (honorable mention) earned American Volleyball Coaches Association II All-American honors for the Bulldogs, who posted a 26-7 overall record and held down the No. 4 spot in the final 2017 AVCA II national poll.
• For the 10th time in as many years, the Bulldogs reigned as the NSIC North Division football champions. UMD, which finished the regular season on an eight-game winning streak, also made its 10th consecutive postseason appearance – at the Mineral Water Bowl in Excelsior Springs, Mo.
• The Bulldogs rolled up the second-most softball wins (44) in program history en route to advancing to their first NCAA II Super Regional. Along the way, UMD broke or equaled some 35 team and individual records and was slotted 25th (its highest ranking ever) in the final National Fastpitch Coaches Association national poll.
• For the first time in school history, the Bulldog men and women both qualified for the NCAA II Cross Country Championships in the same year. The 2017 event took place in Evansville, Ind., where Meg Borowski closed the books on her collegiate cross country career with an All-American run (24th place out of 247 runners). The Bulldog women have now appeared in the NCAA II national meet five consecutive years and eight of the past 10 seasons.
• The soccer Bulldogs, with three-time All-NSIC senior midfielder Skye Finley leading the way, eclipsed the double-digit victory mark (they were 10-5-4 overall) for the 14th time in the team's 24-year existence. Greg Cane, who has presided over the Bulldog program that entire time, became just the 10th NCAA II head coach to accumulate 250 or more wins at the same institution.
• UMD advanced to the quarterfinals of the NSIC Men's Basketball Tournament -- something it hadn't done in three years -- after disposing of host Winona State University 89-77 (in overtime) in the tourney's opening round.
• The Bulldogs secured a spot in the NSIC Tennis Tournament for the second straight spring and posted their best winning percentage (.642 winning off a 9-5 record) since 2007.
• In the final 2017-18 USTFCCCA Program of the Year rankings for NCAA II women, the Bulldogs checked in at No. 14. The rankings were based on an institution's finish at the NCAA II Championships in cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field.
• Scott Sandelin, who closed out his 18th season behind the Bulldog bench in April by hoisting the NCAA championship trophy, was chosen the USCHO.com NCAA I Coach of the Year. During his UMD career, Sandelin has accumulated a record of 17-6-0 in NCAA Tournament play (5-2 in the Frozen Four) and that .739 winning percentage is best among all active coaches and trails only the late Herb Brooks (.889 at Minnesota), Vic Heylinger (.800 at Michigan) and John "Gino" Gasparini (.789 at North Dakota) among all NCAA head coaches.
• Both redshirt junior goaltender Maddie Rooney and 2016-17 senior defenseman Sidney Morin struck women's hockey gold at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. Rooney backstopped the U.S. to its first gold medal since 1998 by making 29 saves and a couple of clutch shootout stops in a 3-2 victory over Canada. Rooney and Morin, who helped set up the first U.S. goal that night, joined Haley Irwin (Canada), Jocelyne Larocque (Canada), Caroline Ouellete (Canada) and Jenny Potter (U.S.) as Bulldog products with an Olympic gold medal to their credit.
• UMD's 378 student-athletes, which includes redshirted freshmen, collectively posted 3.25 grade point average -- an all-time high (bettering the previous mark of 3.21 set one year earlier) -- in 2016-17 and of that group, 132 achieved GPAs of 3.50 or above and 15 turned in perfect 4.00 marks. For the third year in a row, the volleyball Bulldogs registered the best GPA (3.84) of any UMD team during the academic year while cross country (3.16) held that honor for men's sports. Bulldog student-athletes have now surpassed the 3.10 GPA plateau in each of the last 11 semesters.
• A total of 94 different UMD student-athletes qualified for a spot on the NSIC All-Academic Team at some point in 2017-18. In addition, 14 Bulldog men earned All-Academic Team status from the NCHC and 12 women did likewise from the WCHA. That included senior Catherine Daoust, who collared the WCHA's Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award (the second straight Bulldog to be so honored).
• An all-time high eight Bulldogs were voted CoSIDA Academic All-Americans for the 2017-18 season (the previous mark of five was set in in 2010-11. That octet includes junior Jason Balts (football-first team), senior Michaela Hesse (women's track and field - second team), junior Valerie Hohol (softball-first team), junior Makenzie Morgen (volleyball second team), and seniors Grant Pulver (men's track and field - first team), Becky Smith (softball-third team), Nick Thorpe (football-first team) and Emi Trost (women's track and field-second team).
• A school record-tying eight UMD seniors -- Hesse, Hohol, Pulver, Trost, Emily Fleissner (soccer), Amanda Hunt (women's basketball) Anna Monke (women's basketball) and Mackenzie Sedlack (women's track and field) -- representing seven sports, earned a NSIC Myles Brand All-Academic with Distinction Award for 2017-18 for maintaining a 3.75 GPA or above during their college careers.
• UMD held the distinction of producing more NSIC Elite 18 Award recipients than any other league school as Balts (football), Hesse (indoor track and field), Hohol (softball), Morgen (volleyball), Pulver (men's cross country) and junior Kendall Hill (men's outdoor track and field) all were bestowed with that honor, which goes to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at the finals site for each of the NSIC's 18 Championships.
• Three Bulldogs -- senior Kyle Schalow and juniors Ryan Kaczynski and Trevor Entwisle -- secured a spot on the National Association of Basketball Coaches Honors Court. For the fourth straight year, the Bulldog men's basketball team received an NABC Academic Team of Excellence citation for collectively eclipsing the 3.0 cumulative grade point average plateau.
• USTFCCCA All-Academic Cross Country recognition was awarded to five women (Emi Trost, sophomores Melissa Drenckhahn and Sarah Harrison, junior Abby Moore and senior Amber Seidenkranz) while seniors Blake Anderson and Cody Sedbrook and juniors Luke Lahr and Isaac Overmyer attained the same honor on the men's side. In addition, for the 12th year in a row, the UMD men and women were both recognized as a USTFCCCA All-Academic Team for maintaining a cumulative grade point average of 3.00 or above. Sedbrook, Trost and seniors Logan Rubeck and Clint Treichel were USTFCCCA All-Academic Track and Field honorees and the both the Bulldog men and women also locked down a USTFCCCA All-Academic Track and Field Team citation as well..
• Eight football seniors (an all-time program high) –- Nick Thorpe, John Bednarczyk, James Conner, Kenny Kirkvold, Nick Larson, Tyler Morris, Ty Sullivan and Kegan Wirtz -- earned National Football Foundation Honor Society distinction in recognition of their exemplary academic achievements.
• UMD once again received an American Volleyball Coaches Association Team Academic Award for registering a 3.30 and above GPA last season and also made the AVCA Honor Roll for finishing among the top 25 NCAA II schools in GPA.
• For the first time ever, UMD student-athletes and staff eclipsed the 3,600-hour mark for volunteerism as 3,625 hours of community service were logged during the 2017-18 athletic season. Nearly 40 different organizations were beneficiaries of the Bulldogs' volunteering efforts this past year, including Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank, Duluth's Laura MacArthur Elementary School and Homecroft Elementary School, the Boys and Girls Club of the Northland, Safe Haven, Make-A-Wish, Salvation Army, Damiano Center, Udac, Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, Mentor Duluth, and the Duluth Lion's Cub.
• Women's tennis topped all UMD teams in average volunteer hours (25.0 hours per player) to claim the UMD Team Impact Award -- for the second time in its two-year existence -- while women's soccer (22.9 hours) and women's basketball (20.4 hours) were next.
• Five individuals were named finalists for the Shjon Podein Community Service Award, which has been presented annually since 2003 to a UMD student-athlete who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the field of play and has made noteworthy humanitarian contributions in the Duluth and University communities. That honor was given to senior women's basketball forward Amanda Hunt at UMD's Dinner With Champions banquet in April.
• UMD laid claim to the inaugural NSIC Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) Cup. Highlights of UMD's year included raising $3,379 for Make-A-Wish, participating in all three NSIC SAAC Initiatives and engaging their campus community in their regular SAAC meetings.
• Through sales of UMD camouflage hats and commemorative coins along with individual donations, UMD raised just over $5,000 for Operation One Voice as part of the Bulldogs' fourth annual Military Appreciation Night at James S. Malosky Stadium on Sept. 16. Operation One Voice is a program designed by police officers, firefighters and community leaders to generate funds to help support the immediate needs of children and families of wounded and fallen Special Operations Forces.
• UMD Athletics launched Romano Gymnasium 2020, a $12 million initiative to renovate Romano Gymnasium, the home for Bulldog women's volleyball, men's and women's basketball for more than six decades.The first of three phases was completed this past spring with the upgrading of men's and women's basketball locker rooms. Phase Two is currently underway and includes the addition of new NCAA competition grade wood flooring, enhanced lower level seating with backs support, aisle mounted hand rails and increased ADA capacity, new high-end floor mounted basketball standards, and a new climate control system– including air conditioning and humidity control that will improve playing, teaching and patron conditions. These projects will address important safety issues while concurrently improving the experience of the many facility users and fans that attend intercollegiate events. Funds are still being raised for Phase 3, and on that list are a club room as well as significant updates to the Romano lobby area and atrium outside the gymnasium, and renovation of the women's volleyball, women's soccer, and football locker rooms. Additional locker room renovations are planned for more Bulldog Division II programs in coming years. Fundraising opportunities also exist to support the Bulldog Athletics Training, Rehabilitation as well as the Strength and Conditioning facilities.
• UMD's average men's hockey home attendance of 5,812 this winter was the sixth-highest figure among the nation's 60 NCAA I hockey-playing institutions. Women's hockey posted the third-best attendance average (1,163) out of 40 NCAA programs. In women's NCAA II volleyball, the Bulldogs average attendance of 750 was bettered by just four schools in the country while women's soccer's average (300) ranked first in the NSIC and was 20th nationally.
• Scott Perunovich and incoming 2018-19 rookie forward Cole Koepke were both selected in the 2018 National Hockey League Draft, with Perunovich going in the second round (45th pick overall) to the St. Louis Blues and Koepke in the sixth (183rd overall selection) to the Tampa Lightning. A total of 109 Bulldogs have now been chosen in the NHL Draft going back to 1970 and seven of those are on the 2018-19 roster -- Perunovich, Koepke, junior forward Riley Tufte (1st round, 25th overall by Dallas in 2017), sophomore defensemen Mikey Anderson (4th round; 103rd overall by Los Angeles in 2017) and Dylan Samberg (2nd round; 43rd overall by Winnipeg in 2017), sophomore forward Nick Swaney (7th round, 209th overall by Minnesota in 2017) and freshman forward Noah Cates (fifth round; 137th overall by Philadelphia in 2017). Anderson, Samberg, Cates and sophomore defenseman Matt Anderson were all invited to compete in the 2018 World Junior Summer Showcase, which runs from July 28-Aug. 4 in Kamloops, British Columbia and features hopefuls from four nations – the U.S., Canada, Finland and Sweden – auditioning for a spot to represent their country in the 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship later this year. UMD head coach Scott Sandelin will serve as an assistant coach with the U.S. entry.
• Josh Berlo, who wrapped up his fifth year at UMD this past spring, was one of four NCAA Division II recipients of the Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year Award for 2017-18. The ADOY Award highlights the efforts of athletics directors at all levels for their commitment and positive contributions to student-athletes, campuses and their surrounding communities. Berlo and the other Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year winners were honored at the National Association of Collegiate Athletic Director of America's 53rd Annual Convention in June in Washington, D.C.
• While Maddie Rooney will retain her amateur status with UMD (see above), senior forwards Michelle Lowenhielm and Katerina Mråzova signed professional contracts with the Connecticut Whale of the National Women's Hockey League over the summer. The two become the fourth and fifth Bulldog alums to land in the five-team professional league that was established in 2015. UMD head coach Maura Crowell was named the Under-18 USA head coach for the 2018-19 season after serving as an associate coach in 2017-18 and an assistant coach in 2015-16. Crowell is already a two-time U-18 World Champion, having won gold medals in coaching roles in two of the past three championships.
• UMD athletic sponsorship and ticket revenue topped the $3 million mark for the third consecutive year. The Bulldogs have approximately 130 sponsorship partners and continue to sport one of the strongest hockey season ticket holders groups in the NCHC (men) and WCHA (women).
• UMD was recognized for its innovative athletics marketing and fan-experience efforts this past June when it received a "Best of" Awards (Gold citation) from the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators (NACMA).
• The Ice Breaker Tournament, college hockey's signature opening-weekend event, was hosted hosted by the University of Minnesota Duluth for the first time in its 21-year history and over 13,000 spectators packed AMSOIL Arena during the successful, two-day event in early October. The Bulldogs took down Minnesota 4-3 in overtime in the opening round for their program-record eighth straight victory over their longtime intrastate rivals.
• On the fundraising front, more than $1.9 million was raised during the 2018 fiscal year, which ended on June 30. This marks the fifth year in a row that athletic development generated over $1 million in gifts. These totals include current gifts and future pledges to the Bulldog Club Annual Fund as well as named scholarships, program support, capital projects, facility enhancements and various fundraising events. More details will be published later this month in the annual Bulldog Club report.
• KBJR 6/My 9 Sports, which had been the television home of University of Minnesota Duluth athletics for the past 10 years, will continue to carry the Bulldogs for at least another five seasons as part of a new agreement. It calls for the Duluth-based station to for to televise home UMD men's hockey and football games through the 2022-23 season and includes expanded coverage of home women's hockey, women's volleyball, as well as men's and women's basketball games. A number of men's hockey away games will also be televised as available.
• Stadium Journey, a monthly website magazine which focuses on rating stadium experiences from around the world, ranked AMSOIL Arena No. 5 overall on its 2018 list of the college hockey arena experiences. The home of Bulldog men's and women's hockey since the midpoint of the 2010-11 season, AMSOIL Arena received a perfect five stars from Stadium Journey for atmosphere, location, fans, access, and ticket prices (return on investment) and four stars for concessions and access.
• @umdbulldogs now has over 14,100 Twitter followers -- the third most of any NCAA II athletic department in the nation.