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UND athletes breathing sigh of relief after Kennedy's decision

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The UND women's soccer team finished practice a little after 5 p.m. Tuesday. That's when the team learned of President Mark Kennedy's declaration that the school wouldn't eliminate any current sports.

The announcement ended nearly three months of uncertainty within the program after the school considered cuts to the soccer, swimming, tennis, softball and golf teams.

"Relief more than anything," UND junior soccer player Liz McDowell said. "I'm super happy I get to play my senior year at UND."

Soccer coach Matt Kellogg echoed the player's feelings.

"There's clearly a sigh of relief," Kellogg said. "Personally, my livelihood was on the chopping block. I'm just really excited for the kids. They can put this behind them now and focus on being student-athletes again."

McDowell said the team heard they might be safe prior to Tuesday's practice but weren't sure until the practice was over.

McDowell, of Woodbury, Minn., said when she went to her phone after practice she had already been congratulated by both of her parents who had seen the news online.

"Word spread pretty fast," she said. "My parents said they were excited to get to watch me play one more year."

Kellogg said the process has been particularly wearing on his sophomore class. The upperclassmen were likely too deep into their careers to transfer, he said, and the freshmen were "still trying to figure out where everything was on campus."

"I know for a fact it really rattled our sophomore class during the whole season," Kellogg said. "We have three games left and hopefully we can see the team on the field playing without the pressure of feeling like they have to win every game to keep the program. Whether that was a reality or not, it was our reality because that's how the players felt."

McDowell said it was difficult to avoid thinking about the potential scenarios if UND was to cut her sport.

"It was weird knowing this could be your last year," she said. "You tried to always keep that out of your head. But in the back of your mind, you wondered what would happen if we weren't here next year. It was definitely talked about ... what it would be like without soccer here."

Kellogg said he didn't realize how much impact on the potential cut had on his team until the team heard the good news on Tuesday.

"Things came out (Tuesday) that I wasn't even aware of, with how much the players talked about it," Kellogg said.

Tom Miller
Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department for the past 10 years. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate. 
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