SEWARD, Neb. – Lots of wins. Lots of Jenna Habegger kills. The good times roll on in the early going of the 2018 campaign for the Concordia University volleyball team. For the fifth-straight outing, the Bulldogs took care of their opponent in swift fashion. On Wednesday night (Aug. 29), Concordia took out Kansas Wesleyan, 25-19, 25-19, 25-14. The Coyotes (3-3) received votes in the NAIA preseason national poll.
Head coach Ben Boldt’s squad is perfect so far, winning each of its 15 sets in 2018. The Bulldogs are 5-0 with two of those victories coming at home.
“We’ve actually been working on starting fast. We did that today,” Boldt said. “Now we have to work on re-focusing. There were different times in the match where we’re laser focused and then we lose our focus.
“Today our effort was there – the focus was a little bit off. We need to be able to control what we can control, namely our communication. There were a couple hesitation balls on serve receive. We won the blocking game tonight, but I still think our blocking can get better.”
If Boldt sounded like a perfectionist, it’s because he knows what’s coming down the pipe when GPAC competition eventually gets underway. That’s not to say there isn’t a confident and positive vibe within the program. That seemed evident when Concordia jetted out to an 8-1 lead in the opening set. The Coyotes nearly came all the way back, getting within 20-18 before Tara Callahan snuck in a setter attack for what may have been the biggest kill all night. Suddenly, the Bulldogs snapped back into a groove, going on a 5-1 run to end the opening set.
Habegger and freshman Arleigh Costello have been a fun attacking duo to watch on the pins. Habegger again paced the team, this time swatting 13 kills on 28 swings (two errors). Habegger smoldered in the second set when she pelted seven kills while the team hit .424 over that stretch. During that same set, Costello was a perfect 4-for-4 in landing her attacks. The rookie from Gothenburg, Neb., has already proven herself as a lethal weapon.
“The start we’ve had is really, really great,” Costello said. “I love everybody on the team. We’re meshing really well with Ben and Angie and the new staff, so it’s really exciting to see that we’ve do so well so far. Hopefully we can continue it this weekend and on into GPAC play.”
For the second match in row, the Boldts again used both Callahan and Kaci Hohenthaner as setters, though never on the court at the same time. They combined for 33 assists. Hohenthaner even accounted for three of the team’s nine aces. There were times when Concordia left Kansas Wesleyan with no chance to defend, like Marissa Hoerman’s ace that ended the match.
Hoerman’s eight digs were second to Jenna Eller (nine) for the team lead. Sticking with the defensive theme, the Bulldogs out-blocked Kansas Wesleyan, 8-5. Freshman Morgan Nibbe was in on five of those eight blocks.
Kansas Wesleyan is coming off a 26-10 overall mark in 2017. The Coyotes got a team high eight kills from Shaelyn Martin. They were outhit, .295 to .067, and out-killed, 39-26.
Costello and her teammates seem to be on the same page as the coaching staff in terms of what needs improvement before a busy weekend. Said Costello, “As a team, our mental aspect and keeping that focus throughout out the entire match from beginning to end (is what needs improvement). Personally for me, it’s my blocking.”
Concordia will now host the Bulldog Bash this Friday and Saturday. The event will feature a total of seven matches with the Bulldogs playing three times. The schedule can be viewed HERE.