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Athletics' Amazing Season
National championship, record GPA, and volunteerism among UMD's 2016-17 highlights.
It commenced with a 1-0 soccer triumph over the University of Wisconsin-Parkside on Sept. 1 and concluded with Emi Trost's conquest of a national outdoor track title Memorial Day weekend. In between, University of Minnesota Duluth athletics experienced a multitude of highlights -- including a few program firsts -- in each of the three C's (competition, classroom and community) during the course of the 2016-17 athletic season.
"The 2016-17 year was a special one," said UMD Athletic Director Josh Berlo. "The competitive success of our Bulldog programs, while concurrently setting academic and volunteerism records, is impressive. I could not be prouder of our exemplary student-athletes, coaches and staff for their achievements this past year."
Those noteworthy achievements included:
• UMD produced 16 All-Americans, including Trost, a junior who became UMD's seventh individual champion in any sport (and the fourth in women's track) when she placed first in the 1,500-meter run at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Bradenton, Fla. Voted the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Central Region Track Athlete of the Year for both the indoor and outdoor seasons, Trost accomplished the All-American trifecta -- cross country, indoor (second in the mile run and distance medley relay) and outdoor track -- as did her senior teammate, senior Breanna Colbenson (for the second straight year).
• Seven of 16 Bulldog teams qualified for NCAA II Tournament/National Championship play including women's cross country, football, men's hockey, women's hockey, women's indoor track and field, women's outdoor track and field, and volleyball.
• After dropping its football season opener, UMD proceeded to reel off 10 straight wins en route to claiming its ninth consecutive Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference North Division title and earn a NCAA II playoff berth for the eighth time in the last nine seasons. With record-breaking senior quarterback Drew Bauer at the controls, the high-octane UMD offensive averaged 45.1 points per game – their second highest single-season output ever – and rolled up more yards per game (536.7) than all but one club in the entire country. On the other side of the football, the Bulldogs sported the NSIC Defensive Player of the Year in senior Beau Bates, who had more quarterback sacks (14.0) than any NCAA II linebacker this fall. UMD occupied the No. 13 spot in the final American Football Coaches Association Poll.
• The volleyball Bulldogs raced out to their best start in program history, going 21-0 before suffering their first defeat nearly two months into the season. UMD, which was ranked first in the AVCA II poll for four straight weeks in 2016 (and held down the No. 7 spot in the last rankings of the season), also advanced to the NCAA II Tournament after a rare, one-year absence the previous fall. Six Bulldogs attained All-NSIC honors including senior Sydnie Mauch, UMD's all-time blocks leader, and setter Emily Torve, who was voted the NSIC Freshman of the Year.
• Emi Trost and Breanna Colbenson each turned in All-American performances for the third time in as many years at the NCAA II Cross Country Championships. UMD, which was making its fourth straight NCAA II meet appearance, was the lone team to place two runners among the top seven finishers as Trost took fourth – the best individual showing ever by a Bulldog – while Colbenson came in seventh in her collegiate cross country farewell. The Bulldog wound up 10th in the team competition for their fourth consecutive Top 10 finish.
• Although they came up just short of capturing their second-ever NCAA men's hockey crown, the Bulldogs still enjoyed what is arguably one of the most productive winters in its 73-year history. For openers, UMD spent a school-record 11 weeks occupying the No. 1 slot in the uscho.com poll during the course of the year and skated off with three tournament titles -- the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Frozen Faceoff (a program first), the North Star College Cup, and the NCAA West Regional. The Bulldogs went unbeaten in 19 of their final 21 games (with one of those losses coming in the NCAA Frozen Four championship -- a 3-2 setback to Denver) to finish with a 28-7-7 overall record. That .750 winning percentage was the second best mark ever posted by a UMD club. This year's NCAA Tournament berth was the 11th ever for the Bulldogs and marked the first time they made five national appearances in a seven-year stretch. Left winger Alex Iafallo, one of UMD's seven seniors, became the first Bulldog to reign as the NCHC scoring champion en route to landing American Hockey Coaches Association All-American first team honors.
• Following a six-year absence, UMD returned to the NCAA Women's Hockey Tournament and did so by hosting a quarterfinal showdown with arch-rival Minnesota. Maura Crowell, in her second season behind the UMD bench, was chosen the AHCA National Coach of the Year after her Bulldogs went 25-7-5 overall, racked up their most Western Collegiate Hockey Association wins (they were 19-5-4) since 2010-11, and advanced to the WCHA Final Faceoff title game for the first time in five seasons. Crowell also helped vault UMD back into the national rankings as the Bulldogs climbed as high as No. 2 in both the USCHO.com and USA TODAY/ USA Hockey Magazine national polls for six weeks before resting in fifth in each final poll. Lara Stalder put an exclamation point on a remarkable senior season by being chosen as a Top 3 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award (most outstanding player in women's college hockey). The Swiss Olympian's 2016-17 resume also included landing the WCHA Player of the Year award and being chosen a first team All-American.
• UMD advanced to the quarterfinals of the NSIC Women's Basketball Tournament -- something it hadn't done in seven years -- after disposing of visiting Minnesota State University-Mankato 83-73 in the tourney's opening round. That snapped the Bulldogs' seven-game losing skid in NSIC postseason play which dated back to the 2010-11 season.
• In the final 2016-17 USTFCCCA Program of the Year rankings for NCAA II women, the Bulldogs placed fourth (their highest finish ever and a three-spot improvement from a year ago). The rankings were based on an institution's finish at the NCAA II Championships in those three sports and under the direction of seventh-year head coach Joanna Warmington, the Bulldogs came in 10th in cross country, 15th in indoor track and a program-best 9th in outdoor track.
• Milestone career victories were registered by three Bulldog head coaches -- softball's Jen Walter (No. 500), vollleyball's Jim Boos (No. 400) and men's hockey's Scott Sandelin (No. 300). Both Boos and Sandelin have spent their entire collegiate tenures at UMD while Walter joined the Bulldogs in 2015-16 from nearby St. Scholastica.
• Sophomore goaltender Maddie Rooney was chosen to the 2017-18 U.S. Women's National Team -- the youngest of 23 players who will train together beginning in September and participate in various competitions in the build-up to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Rooney, a 2016-17 All-WCHA third team pick, played for the gold medal-winning Team USA at the 2017 World Championships in April.
• Of the 33 schools that sponsor both men's and women's Division I hockey, UMD had the highest combined ranking in the final uscho.com Polls -- men (No. 2) and women (No. 5).
• UMD's 402 student-athletes, which includes redshirted freshmen, posted an average GPA 3.21 -- an all-time high (bettering the previous mark of 3.181 set one year earlier) -- in 2016-17 and of that group, a record 123 achieved GPAs of 3.50 or above and 12 turned in perfect 4.00 marks. For the second year in a row, the volleyball Bulldogs registered the best collective GPA (3.68) of any UMD team during the academic year while cross country posted the highest GPA of all men's sports at 3.29. Bulldog student-athletes have now surpassed the 3.10 GPA marker in each of the last nine semesters.
• A total of 95 different UMD student-athletes qualified for a spot on the NSIC All-Academic Team at some point in 2016-17. In addition, 15 Bulldog men earned All-Academic Team status from the NCHC and 15 women did likewise from the WCHA. That included senior Lara Stalder, who collared the league's Scholar-Athlete of the Year honor.
• Three Bulldogs – Breanna Colbenson (cross country and track), Sam Hartmann (softball), and Matt Vogt (baseball) – were bestowed with a prestigious NSIC Myles Brand All-Academic Award for maintaining a 3.75 GPA or above during their college careers.
• Colbenson, who maintains a 3.88 cumulative grade point average as a public health/physical education major, was a College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-American first team selection (after attaining second team status in 2015-16) while junior Emi Trost was a second team honoree.
• Both sophomore pitcher Valerie Hohol (softball and junior distance runner Grant Pulver (cross country) were selected NSIC Elite 18 Award winners for their respective sports. The NSIC Elite 18 award is presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at the finals site for each of the NSIC's 18 Championships.
• Juniors Kyle Schalow and Jake Wilson and sophomore Jake Larkin all secured a spot on the National Association of Basketball Coaches Honors Court. For the third 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 (Colbenson, Emi Trost, freshman Sarah Harrison, sophomore Abby Moore and junior Amber Seidenkranz) while sophomore Isaac Overmyer and junior Cody Sedbrook attained the same honor on the men's side. In addition, for the 11th 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. Colbenson, Trost, sophomores Allie Stalboerger and Michaela Hesse and freshman Paige DuBois were USTFCCCA All-Academic Track and Field honorees as was Sedbrook. The Bulldog women and men also locked down a USTFCCCA All-Academic Track and Field Team citation as well.
• A school record-tying six seniors – offensive tackle Peter Bateman, linebacker Beau Bates, quarterback Drew Bauer, offensive lineman Cameron Hehn, placekicker Tyler McLaughlin and nose tackle Isaac Vesel -- earned National Football Foundation Honor Society distinction in recognition of their exemplary academic achievements.
• UMD was a recipient of an American Volleyball Coaches Association Team Academic Award for finishing with 3.30 and above GPA last season.
• For the first time ever, UMD student-athletes and staff eclipsed the 3,000-hour mark for volunteerism as 3,050 hours of community service were logged during the 2016-17 athletic season. Nearly 40 different organizations were beneficiaries of the Bulldogs' volunteering efforts this past year, including Duluth's Laura MacArthur Elementary School and Homecroft Elementary School, The Boys and Girls Clubs of the Northland, Make-A-Wish, Salvation Army, Udac, Mentor Duluth, the Lion's Cub, and the American Red Cross.
• Women's tennis topped all UMD teams in average volunteer hours (21.7 per player between September 1 and May 31) en route to claiming the inaugural UMD Team Impact Award while football (13.1 hours) and women's basketball (11.0 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 hockey defenseman Brenden Kotyk at UMD's Dinner With Champions banquet in April.
• Through sales of UMD camouflage hats and commemorative coins along with individual donations, UMD raised just over $8,000 for Operation One Voice as part of the Bulldogs' third annual Military Appreciation Night at James S. Malosky Stadium on Sept. 10. 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.
• Head football coach Curt Wiese was one of 10 individuals nominated (from all NCAA and NAIA schools) as an honorary coach for the 2016 Allstate Insurance and American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team. The coveted award recognizes a select group of college football players and coaches that have made a commitment to service and enriching the lives of others.
• UMD's average men's hockey home attendance of 5,973 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 (1,176) out of 36 NCAA programs. In women's NCAA II volleyball, the Bulldogs average attendance of 750 was bettered by just two schools in the country.
• Three incoming freshmen -- defensemen Dylan Samberg and Mikey Anderson and winger Nick Swaney -- were selected in the 2017 National Hockey League Draft. Samberg was taken in the second round (43rd overall) by the Winnipeg Jets while Anderson, whose older brother Joey was a 2016-17 NCHC All-Rookie Team honoree with the Bulldogs, went in the fourth round (103rd overall) to the Los Angeles Kings. Swaney was chosen in the 7th -- and final -- round by the Minnesota Wild (209th overall). The last time UMD had three or more of its players taken in the same NHL Draft was in 2010. The Bulldogs' all-time total of NHL draft selections now stands at 106.
• Four major athletic facility projects were started and/or completed during the past year and those renovations consisted of the James S. Malosky Stadium turf and track surface replacement (football, soccer, softball and men's and women's track and field), a new a 12' x 20' video board in Romano Gymnasium, the Seyfer Team Room and Video Training Suite in the basement of the Sports and Health Center, and the Erickson Athletics Reception Area.
• UMD received an "A" rating from the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport for its number of female head coaches (six) in relation to the number of women's sports it offers (eight).
• UMD athletic sponsorship and ticket revenue topped the $3 million mark for the second consecutive year. The Bulldogs now have approximately 125 sponsorship partners and one of the strongest season ticket holder groups in the conferences UMD participates in.
• On the fundraising front, more than $1.2 million was raised during the 2017 fiscal year, which ended on June 30. This marks the fourth 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.
• UMD was recognized for its innovative athletics marketing and fan-experience efforts this past June when it received three "Best of" Awards (all Gold citations) from the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators (NACMA).
• UMD athletics extended its partnership with Under Armour and Universal Athletic through 2023. The Baltimore-based global leader in performance footwear, apparel and equipment became the official outfitter of UMD on Aug. 22, 2013. As part of a five-year extension agreement, Under Armour will continue to provide on-field and training gear for its 16 varsity sports while helping UMD athletics drastically accelerate its uniform replacement schedule. In addition, Under Armour will outfit members of the athletic department, including coaches and staff. UMD is among a growing Under Armour roster of NCAA partners that includes UCLA, University of California-Berkeley, University of Wisconsin, University of Notre Dame, Naval Academy Athletic Association, University of Maryland, Texas Tech University, Northwestern University, University of Cincinnati, Boston College, University of Utah, University of South Carolina and Auburn University.
• The UMD Ticket Office transitioned to a new online ticketing platform, which allows fans to renew their season tickets online, donate tickets back, send tickets to friends via email and resell their tickets.
• A pair of old friends -- Midwest Communications and UMD Athletics -- were reunited in March as the two entitities agreed on a three-year partnership for the radio rights to UMD men's hockey and football beginning with the 2017-18 season. Those sports will air on KDAL 610 AM and 103.9 FM as part of the Bulldog Radio Network. KDAL has a long and rich history with UMD Athletics, having been the radio home of Bulldog men's hockey for 49 seasons (1960-2009). Besides carrying all Bulldog men's hockey and football home and away games, Midwest Communications plans to air a number of UMD coaches shows and weekly segments with Bulldog student-athletes. Midwest Communications will also make an annual effort to broadcast additional sports including, but not limited to, women's hockey and any potential Bulldog post-season contests.
• Stadium Journey, a monthly website magazine which focuses on rating stadium experiences from around the world, ranked AMSOIL Arena No. 1 overall on its 2017 list of the college hockey arena experiences. It marks the second year in a row the 6,756-seat downtown Duluth facility has been so honored. 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.
About the image above: The #1 flag on the right was a new addition to the UMD campus in 2016-17 and was flown whenever a Bulldog team was ranked first in a national weekly poll -- which was for about four months total this past year.