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Jeff Kolpack, Published September 26 2013

Winless Bison volleyball team about to enter Summit League play

FARGO – Perhaps no team in the Summit League is happier to see the conference season begin than North Dakota State, which is entering league play at a low point in program history in terms of win-loss record.

The Bison are 0-12, winning just two of 36 sets in that span. One of the toughest schedules in school history, of course, has done them no favors, either. At least a slate of major college opponents gives way to a more mid-major look starting Saturday at home against South Dakota State and Monday at the University of North Dakota.

“We value every time we step on the court because we need to put some W’s in the win column,” said NDSU head coach Kari Thompson. “The conference is a new season and that’s how we’re looking at it.”

NDSU started 0-14 in 2005 when the program was in the second year of a Division I reclassification. On the flipside, NDSU was a Division I independent and had no conference in sight in terms of recruiting. The non-transition low point for the first 12 matches of a season goes back to 1977 when the Bison started 2-10. The 1978 team went 5-7, and teams in 1985, 1986, 1994 and 2010 started 7-5.

This Bison are young with 11 of the 15 players new to the program. Six of the top seven statistical contributors are first-year players. It’s an apparent long way from the 2010 and 2011 Thompson-coached teams that won Summit League titles, reached the NCAA tournament and gave the University of Minnesota a legitimate threat in the first round.

The youth, said women’s athletic director Lynn Dorn, goes back to 2010 when head coach Erich Hinterstocker resigned during the season and an assistant coach left before that season.

“Early recruiting is at least a two-year cycle,” Dorn said, “so early signing in November of that fall was impacted as recruiting literally was on hold until after the NCAA regional. The impact …. accounts for the large number of freshmen.”

Dorn said she also agrees with the aggressive pre-conference schedule, saying that’s a philosophy adopted successfully by the softball and volleyball programs in previous years at NDSU.

“Softball has always tried to play up and volleyball has always tried to play up,” she said. “What one wants to do is focus on the scorecard, and you can’t do that all the time.”

Dorn said she’s not concerned with the morale of the program. Thompson said she’s “concerned” about it, but said growth and maturity of her players is more important.

“It is unusual for NDSU volleyball to be where we are at this time,” Dorn said. “A goal for volleyball this year, like every year, is to compete with a high level of skill, energy, effort and commitment. Good things will continue under Kari’s leadership, including success in the Summit League.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia