Sports

Students, alumni celebrate UMD Women's Hoops title game appearance

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The Bulldogs tip off against undefeated and top-seeded Ashland University of Ohio at 2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon. The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.
UMD Athletics

When the University of Minnesota Duluth women's basketball team takes the floor in Dallas for the NCAA Division II national championship game Saturday afternoon, UMD junior Izabella Zadra of Shakopee will be in the stands with about 40 other members of the school’s pep band, playing her tambourine, cheering on the Bulldogs.

“I am just so proud of all the women on the team, and I am just so excited and proud of myself that I get to be a part of it,” Zadra said. “Although I’m not out on the court, I’m still out there supporting my team.”

Zadra didn’t even care about the all-night bus ride she had to take to get to Dallas. She said she now understands why, growing up, she often heard adults speak with such pride of the college they attended years earlier.

“I am so proud to be a Bulldog, and I love seeing every aspect of our school succeeding.”

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For the first time this year the NCAA is holding a joint women's national championship. The Division I, II and III finals are all this weekend in Dallas to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark law that gave women the right to equal opportunity in college athletics.
UMD Athletics

Record-breaking year

Both current students and alumni are celebrating the record-breaking success of this year’s team, which finished with a 32-3 record and is playing in its first ever national title game.

It’s only the third time in UMD’s history that one of their Division II teams has competed for a national championship. The football program won titles in 2008 and 2010 (the men’s and women’s hockey teams have won multiple championships, but they compete in Division I).

Until last week the women’s basketball team had never advanced to the elite eight, much less the final. They're led by graduate senior Brooke Olson of Rice Lake, Wis., who was recently named national Division II player of the year.

And now they're just one win away from being crowned national champions.

“This is a huge deal,” said Laura Sylvester, who played for UMD from 2001 to 2006.

“Not only for alumni … but it’s also big for the whole community, the fans and the whole college. It’s something we all can get behind and really celebrate these young women.”

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Brooke Olson and Kaylee Nelson during the semifinal game they played on March 22.
UMD Athletics

Fans head to Dallas

Sylvester is one of many alumni who have made the trip to Dallas to support the team.

Ella Olson, who played for UMD from 2006 to 2011 and then worked as an assistant coach for two years, is staying in a house in Dallas with about ten other alumni.

“I’m just so excited, it's like alumni weekend feeling on steroids,” Olson said. “We’re just so proud of these kids. We understand how much work it’s taken for them to get to this point, those of us that have been in the workouts that start in August when you get back to school, and it’s just, every day, you’re in basketball season.”

Big crowds expected

For the first time this year the NCAA is holding a joint women's national championship. The Division I, II and III finals are all this weekend in Dallas to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark law that gave women the right to equal opportunity in college athletics.

Olson expects big crowds in Dallas.

"I think this year more than any year, I think people in this country are really truly starting to see what women’s basketball is all about, and how athletic and how determined that these young women are."

The Bulldogs tip off against undefeated and top-seeded Ashland University of Ohio at 2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon. The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.

Olson said all the excitement around the game has made her feel like a player again.

“I’m just so excited, I can’t wait for the game, but I also want to take it all in. There’s nothing more I can say, but ‘Go Dogs, and bring it home!’”

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