Monthly Archives: September 2016

NSIC VOLLEYBALL: The Northern Sun shines bright in volleyball

MARSHALL – The latest Division II volleyball coaches’ poll came out on Monday and Southwest Minnesota State University was ranked fifth overall.

That marks the 41st consecutive poll that the Mustangs have been in the Top 10 and 137 straight polls dating back a full decade to 2006 with the program in the Top 25. Normally, that type of dominance would indicate the team has a firm hold on the top of the conference, but it is not the case in the gauntlet that is the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.

If you looked at the top of this week’s poll, you might think you were mistakenly looking at a list of NSIC power rankings. SMSU may be fifth in the poll, but it is still just fourth among NSIC schools – Concordia-St. Paul, Minnesota Duluth, and Wayne State are all ranked ahead of the Mustangs.

The NSIC dominance does not stop there, as Winona (No. 9), Northern State (No. 11) and Augustana (No. 14) all represent the conference in the Top 15. That list of seven ranked schools means almost half of the NSIC is among the best 15 schools in the nation.

Here’s where things get tricky.

Once we get to the postseason, these schools are jostling for a bid to represent the Central Region in the NCAA Tournament. The issue comes in the fact that only eight schools will represent the Central Region in the postseason.

If the NSIC were the only conference in the region, it might not be a problem. But that’s not the case. Also sharing a region with the Mustangs and the rest of the NSIC are the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) and the Great American Conference (GAC).

Each of the three conferences in the region get an auto-bid into the NCAA Tournament. That means no more than six NSIC schools will qualify. Last year, only three NSIC teams made it into the tournament.

As dominant as the NSIC is in the poll right now, the MIAA is not far behind. It has three teams ranked in the Top 10 and two more are in the Top 25. The GAC has zero teams currently ranked.

All told, there are 12 Central Region programs considered to be among the Top 25 in the nation. But only seven of them will qualify for the postseason field of 64.

Seems like a flaw in the system, no?

I understand that NCAA Division II uses a regional-based model to help cut down on travel budgets. But it’s unfortunate that it causes well-deserving programs to fall short of the postseason while programs in other regions of the country qualify with lesser resumes.

It places extreme importance on the NSIC Tournament, as Northern State experienced last season.

The Wolves entered the conference tournament ranked fourth nationally, but a sweep in the quarterfinals at the hands of Winona State found them out of the postseason altogether because they entered the match just eighth in the region – firmly on the bubble. From No. 4 in the country with a 25-4 record to not even qualifying for the NCAA Tournament, just like that.

Meanwhile, other programs qualified for the postseason like 18-12 Regis and 18-15 New Haven out of the South Central Region, just to name a few.

The extreme difficulty to qualify out of the NSIC makes the current run by Terry Culhane and Southwest Minnesota State even more impressive – 12 consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament and going for a 13th this season.

Don’t look at the Mustangs’ No. 5 ranking and assume that the streak will be extended another year, though. As Northern State coaches, players and fans can attest to, postseason qualification is not a given in the gauntlet that is the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and the Central Region.

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NEXT LEVEL: UMD’s Bofferding returns home in game vs. SMSU

MARSHALL – Not very often does a player get to open his senior season of college on the same field he played on in high school. That’s exactly the opportunity presented to University of Minnesota Duluth senior Beau Bofferding, who played his Marshall High School home games at Mattke Field.

That’s where UMD opens the 2016 season, as the Bulldogs will face the Southwest Minnesota State University Mustangs tonight at 7 p.m.

Bofferding graduated from MHS in 2012 after a senior season that included 1,423 rushing yards, 431 receiving yards and 37 total touchdowns for the 9-1 Tigers.

“It’s always fun to get a chance to go back home to where football started for me,” Bofferding said. “And to get a chance to play in front of some family and friends I don’t necessarily play in front of every Saturday it’s gonna be fun!”

Just as he showed his versatility on the field for Marshall, Bofferding brought that skill set to the Zenith City.

The senior plays both running back and wide receiver for the Bulldogs.

As a senior, he’s taken a bigger leadership role. That includes his role as a team captain; a position he’s really taken to.

“Being a senior captain, it’s been an absolute honor to be a part of the UMD football program for five years,” Bofferding said. “I just wanna go out and lead this team the best I can day in and day out and give my all both on and off the field. To be a senior captain of a college football team is something I’ve always dreamed about, to be honest. That time is finally here and I couldn’t be more excited about it.”

Entering the season, Bofferding has amassed career totals of 528 rushing yards on 67 carries, 73 receptions for 953 yards and 24 total touchdowns at UMD.

“He’s a natural tailback that worked his way into being a big-time wide receiver at the slot position,” UMD head coach Curt Wiese said. “He’s a versatile player, so we’re gonna find every way we can to try to put the ball in his hands.”

That includes on special teams, where Bofferding has worked as both a kick returner and punt returner for UMD.

Maybe his biggest play came in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Division II playoffs against Ouachita Baptist, when he returned a kickoff 96 yards. He was tackled on the 1-yard line on the play, but the play set a UMD record for longest kick return in program history.

Record books are not unfamiliar territory for Bofferding. He ended his Marshall High School career as the record-holder in rushing yards (3,141), rushing touchdowns (59), receptions (58) and total touchdowns (72), while also holding single-season marks in rushing yards (1,423), rushing scores (34) and total touchdowns (37).

Most of those records still stand today, but some may be in jeopardy soon thanks to the early success of Jefferson Lee V as a sophomore in 2015. Lee did already top the single-season rushing record with 1,474 yards. Lee’s 27 rushing touchdowns came in second to Bofferding’s 34 scores as a senior.

Bofferding isn’t concerned about his records.

“I’ve always thought growing up that records are meant to be broken,” Bofferding said. “That’s what they’re there for. For him to come close and chase (my records), I’m very excited for him.”

Tonight will be the first time Bofferding has played on Mattke Field since high school.

When UMD was last in town in 2012, it was the year he sat out as a redshirt.

“I understand everyone in Marshall is a Mustang fan, but it’ll be fun to have some family and friends cheer for me and the Bulldogs if they want,” Bofferding said. “That’s something I’m looking forward to.”