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Langseth keys Fighting Sioux's success

Photo courtesy of University of North Dakota Former Cardinal Megan Langseth finished her career with the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux volleyball team with several honors, including Great West Female Athlete of the Month.

Megan Langseth never imagined her career as a volleyball player at the University of North Dakota (UND) in Grand Forks would have turned out like this.

The former All-Central Lakes Conference player led Alexandria in kills as a right-side hitter her senior year in high school. This past fall she ended her athletic career at UND fourth on the school's all-time assists list.

Langseth came to the Fighting Sioux expecting to help out as a defensive specialist in the back row as a freshman. Her setting duties in high school had been secondary to her importance as an outside hitter. That was likely going to be the case at UND, where she was expected to help out a little bit as a backup setter.

As things changed within the team, so did her role. Langseth became more comfortable in that role as she began to get more reps.

"There is some uncertainty of your skills," she said. "But then through practice, you become more confident and you just get better. I just worked hard every day in practice at becoming better. I wanted to become a better volleyball player, helping out and doing as much as I could for the team."

She became a key component to all of the Fighting Sioux's success when she became a full-time starter. Langseth started 27 of the team's 32 matches her junior season. She finished that year with 1,134 assists. She became just the fourth player in UND history to record 1,000 assists in back-to-back years with 1,023 helpers this past season.

Those numbers take on added significance because of the opponents they came against. Langseth was a part of the first team to go through the transition phase after UND made the decision to move from Division II to Division I athletics.

UND announced the decision in June of 2006 because the university felt it needed to align itself more closely, academically and athletically, to schools of the similar size. It was a change that affected athletes all across the board who had signed on to play Division II sports.

"I was a little nervous at first," Langseth said. "I signed up to play Division II and was comfortable with that. It is less dedication, less of a commitment. But after our team talked about it, we became more comfortable with it.

"It's kind of cool to say I played Division I volleyball. At the beginning, I was kind of nervous, but to be able to play at that level was great."

Perhaps the biggest negative of the transition is that teams are not allowed to compete in national competitions. UND will become eligible for Division I championship play in the 2012-13 season.

Langseth and her teammates did not dwell on it. They went out and produced great seasons in the past two years, despite the upgrade in the level of competition. The Sioux finished 46-14 during Langseth's junior and senior seasons. She ended her career with 2,952 assists. It is the kind of number she never thought possible four years ago.

"I didn't imagine that I would actually be able to do that," Langseth said. "I couldn't have done it without my teammates. Without my defensive specialists getting the ball up to me, and the hitters who killed it and without the coaches who taught me. I think I'm still kind of shocked about having it happen. I'm just really thankful. I'm kind of at a loss of words."

Langseth's head coach is not nearly as surprised. Ashley Hardee took over the UND program in January of 2009 after coming from New Mexico State University. From the first time he saw his team practice, he knew they had potential to have a special year. A lot of that confidence came from what he saw in Langseth.

"As soon as I saw how athletic she was, I was absolutely thrilled," Hardee said. "She was the best athlete on our team. Not necessarily in stature, but pound for pound, she was the best athlete on our team. To have that at that setter position, where you have to be moving all over and thinking on the fly, it was great."

Langseth was the catalyst of a team that became one of the best in UND history this past year. The Fighting Sioux finished 22-6 and won the Great West Tournament title in four sets over Utah Valley in Houston. Langseth was named the most valuable player of the tournament after earning the Setter of the Year Award during the regular season, an honor voted on by coaches in the Great West Conference.

"She was the glue for us that held everything together," Hardee said. "You can go up and down the roster and find great players but what she does for us, you can easily say she was the most important piece - being the setter of the year in the conference and the conference tournament MVP. She was absolutely deserving of it, 100 percent."

The accolades did not end there. Langseth was recently named the Great West Female Athlete of the Month for her play in the conference tournament. She came into the program expecting to be a defensive specialist her first year. Now she will leave as one of the top five setters in UND history.

"It couldn't have ended any better," she said. "I couldn't have asked for anything more in my last season."