SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University volleyball team appears to be creeping closer, but it’s possible we may have to wait until 2018 to see the fruits of its labor. In another tussle with a ranked opponent, the Bulldogs played at home for the final time and fell at the hands of No. 11 Midland, 25-19, 25-23, 26-28, 25-20, on Wednesday evening.
Concordia could take some reward in knowing it edged the nationally respected Warriors program in kills (55-52). Sixth-year head coach Scott Mattera’s squad ended the regular season at 9-18 overall and at 3-13 in conference play.
“We played well in the third set. We just battled,” Mattera said. “It wasn’t pretty but we just fought. We’re right there. That fourth game was pretty disappointing. We made a lot of unforced errors. We won the third set and realized it’s possible to win and we got scared.”
Despite the struggles in the won-lost column this season, the Dawgs showed they still have fight left in them during a second set that saw them fall behind 19-11. With sophomore Alex La Plant bombing away on the outside, Concordia nearly came all the way back, getting within 24-23 before arch villain Priscilla O’Dowd pulverized set point.
The third set could have also gone either way. If you ask any member of the Bulldogs, it was about time something went there way. Concordia responded, even in the face of two match point opportunities for the Warriors, and even after O’Dowd threatened to make it an early night. Trailing 26-25, the Bulldogs used an Emmie Noyd kill, Midland attack error and a La Plant kill to remain alive.
One of the best players in the nation, O’Dowd just wasn’t interested in letting the Bulldogs have nice things. In a not so atypical outing, the Omaha native swatted 20 kills and blocked seven attacks. The Warriors owned an 11-6 advantage in blocks and a .182 to .135 edge in hitting percentage.
The closest thing Concordia had to O’Dowd was Noyd, who finished with a team high 12 kills and hit .364. Jenna Habegger (10 kills) and La Plant (10 kills) also reached double figures in kills. Meanwhile, Jenna Eller (14 digs) and Marissa Hoerman (13 digs) led the defensive effort.
One wrinkle the Bulldogs did implement was a strategy to make use of Eller’s diverse abilities in the back row. She attacked 10 times and dropped in three kills. Concordia had attack opportunities (171-154) than did the visitors from Fremont.
Midland (18-8, 11-5 GPAC) got 27 digs from Jessica Nekl. Setter Jessica Peters equaled the 41 assists posted by Bulldog setter Tara Callahan.
Concordia will make its way into the GPAC tournament thanks to a recent run that included consecutive GPAC home wins over College of Saint Mary, Dakota Wesleyan and Mount Marty. The victory over Dakota Wesleyan gave the Bulldogs the tiebreaker for the conference’s No. 8 seed.
That leaves Concordia with the task of needing to pull an upset at top-seeded and third-ranked Hastings (22-2, 14-2 GPAC) in order to keep its season going beyond this weekend. Saturday’s match at Hastings will feature a 5 p.m. CT first serve. The winner will advance to the semifinals next Wednesday (Nov. 8).