Sport-by-sport, we break down the top Concordia Bulldogs team moments of the 2017 calendar year.
BASEBALL: A GPAC regular-season title – the program’s first conference championship since 1986 – led into perhaps the most thrilling victory in program history. While making its first appearance on the national stage, Concordia put together a four-run eighth-inning on its way to an 8-7 win over Jamestown in the opening round of the national championships on May 15. Jake Adams delivered the big blow with a bullet of a three-run blast as part of the onslaught. The Bulldogs then held on in a tense ninth inning for a momentous victory in Hutchinson, Kan.
Next in 2018: Head coach Ryan Dupic’s program said goodbye to some of its top hitters, but Concordia will enter the spring as one of the league favorites behind a deep and talented pitching staff.
MEN’S BASKETBALL: A dangerous team down the stretch of the 2016-17 campaign, the Bulldogs won a classic affair at then seventh-ranked Dakota Wesleyan inside the Corn Palace on Feb. 12. All-American Chandler Folkerts tore apart the Tigers, going off for 37 points and 14 rebounds in a 109-106 overtime triumph. The victory kept hopes of a national tournament bid alive at the time.
Next in 2018: At 11-3 overall so far in the current campaign, head coach Ben Limback has positioned his team to exceed the preseason expectations of outsiders. Concordia hopes to make a push for its first national tournament appearance since 2005.
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: There have been many thrills in 2017. During the calendar year, the Bulldogs have posted a record of 34-2. Their 78-77 overtime win over Dakota Wesleyan in the GPAC tournament title game on Feb. 28 won’t soon be forgotten, but the victory that boosted Concordia to its third national semifinal appearance in six seasons gets the nod. Quinn Wragge (16 points and nine rebounds) powered the Bulldogs to a 74-59 quarterfinal victory over Jamestown in Sioux City, Iowa, on March 11.
Next in 2018: Considering its sparkling 15-0 record while up against the nation’s most challenging schedule, Concordia has high hopes for what’s to come in January, February and March. Head coach Drew Olson has put the pieces in place for another special season.
CROSS COUNTRY: With senior Emily Deschaine serving as the frontrunner, the Bulldog women’s team placed fifth at the GPAC championships in Sioux Center, Iowa, on Nov. 4. That placement marked a step up from the team’s sixth-place finish the previous year. Individually, Deschaine placed sixth in the conference and qualified for the national championships for the third year in a row.
Next in 2018: It will be Matt Beisel’s third year heading the cross country programs. The goal is for a return to glory at both the conference and national levels.
FOOTBALL: It was time. Not since 2005 had the football program defeated rival Doane. That changed on homecoming 2017 when a dominant defensive effort lifted the Bulldogs to a 29-18 win over a Tiger team that was ranked seventh nationally at the time. Linebacker Lane Napier made nine tackles, including one in the backfield, and safety D’Mauria Martin picked off a pair of passes. The victory marked the first in conference action for Patrick Daberkow in his new role as head coach.
Next in 2018: Daberkow is determined to get his alma mater back to the NAIA playoffs for the first time since 2001. Concordia will return 1,000-yard running back Ryan Durdon.
GOLF: May 2 went down as a historic day for Bulldog women’s golf. On that date, then senior Amy Ahlers rallied back to capture the first individual conference championship in program history. The top golfer ever at Concordia, Ahlers shot a four-round total of 83-76-77-83–319. The event concluded at Quail Run Golf Course in Columbus, Neb.
Next in 2018: Head coach Brett Muller’s squads will enter the spring seasons standing fourth on the men’s side and ninth on the women’s side in regards to the GPAC races. The men still have a shot at a conference championship. They are 14 strokes off the lead.
MEN’S SOCCER: One could make a case for the overtime win at Midland (Micah Lehenbauer golden goal) as the top moment of 2017. Lehenbauer’s strike pushed the Bulldogs over the threshold for a program record number of wins (finished at 16-3-1). But the 2-1 triumph at Northwestern on Nov. 4 proved more meaningful in that it extended the season and avenged one of only two defeats during the entire regular season. By claiming victory in Orange City, Iowa, head coach Jason Weides’ program advanced to the conference tournament title game for the third-consecutive year.
Next in 2018: Replacing the 2017 senior class will be no easy task, but Weides has a track record of turning over the roster and producing results.
WOMEN’S SOCCER: On Oct. 25, the 2017 women’s soccer team accomplished something no other squad in program history had ever done: clinch a conference regular-season title. On that memorable evening, Concordia made a 67th-minute goal from Kaitlyn Radebaugh stand up, allowing for a 1-0 home win over then 20th-ranked Hastings. GPAC Coach of the Year Greg Henson’s squad wrapped up an unbeaten conference regular-season run (9-0-1).
Next in 2018: Despite adding hardware this past fall, the Bulldogs missed out on the national tournament. That fact should motivate Maria Deeter and company heading into what looks to be another promising campaign.
SOFTBALL: In recent seasons, the conference title has typically gone through Morningside. It just so happens that the most thrilling of Concordia’s 34 wins in 2017 came over the then 10th-ranked Mustangs on April 6. Trailing 3-1 in the second game of the doubleheader, the Bulldogs scored twice in the bottom of the sixth to set the stage for the heroics of Leah Kalkwarf. After Megan Ruppert stole second with two outs, Kalkwarf lined a base hit to produce the walk-off RBI.
Next in 2018: Kalkwarf will be the leader of a team with question marks in the pitching circle, where Michaela Woodward starred for the past three seasons. Todd LaVelle has averaged more than 30 wins per year since becoming head coach prior to the 2014 season.
TENNIS: Headlined by then junior Annie Horn, the women’s team held off College of Saint Mary, 5-4, while advancing to the GPAC tournament semifinals on May 5. In the victory, Horn extended her personal singles match win streak to 13. It grew to 14 this past fall in a win over Kansas Wesleyan. Additionally, the men’s team also made its way to the conference semifinals back in May.
Next in 2018: Head coach Joel Reckewey is in his fourth season leading programs still hoping to break through and find their way to conference championship matches.
TRACK & FIELD: From a team perspective, the men’s performance at the 2017 indoor national championships in Johnson City, Tenn., March 2-4 stands above the rest. Three different Bulldogs – Cody Boellstorff (weight throw), Zach Lurz (shot put) and Lucas Wiechman (heptathlon) – claimed individual national titles while enabling a team national runner up finish. The class of senior men placed inside the top five at every national meet of their careers. It was an exceptional year for Wiechman, who also turned in an outdoor national title in the pole vault.
Next in 2018: The aforementioned national champions have all graduated. Concordia will have a different look in Beisel’s second season. The program welcomed in 74 newcomers this academic year.
VOLLEYBALL: The Boldts are coming home. On Dec. 19, Hickman, Neb., native Ben Boldt was named the program’s head coach. His staff will also include his wife Angie. Most recently an assistant coach at NCAA Division III Hendrix College in Arkansas, Ben Boldt possesses 14 years of coaching experience at the NCAA Division I level. He comes with high regard from John Cook, coach of national champion University of Nebraska, where Ben and Angie got their start as coaches.
Next in 2018: Ben Boldt will officially begin his tenure on Jan. 8. Undoubtedly, there will be changes coming for a program that returns many of its key players from the 2017 season.
WRESTLING: For the third season in a row, Bulldog wrestling reigned supreme amongst its GPAC competition. On Feb. 9, Concordia pounded Hastings, 28-6, clinching the outright conference dual title with a perfect 7-0 GPAC record. Head coach Andrew Nicola effectively kept the program humming in his first season in Seward. After a close call at Doane early in the season, a team led by seniors Ken Burkhardt Jr. (three-time All-American) and Ceron Francisco (2017 heavyweight national runner up) got back to its dominant ways.
Next in 2018: Nicola is still working on putting the pieces together after the impressive senior class moved on. The goal is maintain the perch atop the conference and to put more individuals on the All-America stand in March.