SEWARD, Neb. – Visiting Grace University entered Tuesday’s tilt having already made one GPAC opponent a victim. The Concordia University volleyball team would not be another. The Bulldogs held the Royals to a .023 hitting percentage and walked away a winner in straight sets, 25-16, 25-20, 25-16, while competing inside Walz Arena.
Sixth-year head coach Scott Mattera’s squad has built some late-season momentum with four-straight wins, all at home. Concordia has moved to 9-16 overall. It went 6-5 against nonconference foes in 2017.
“We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish,” Mattera said. “We tried some new stuff. We put in a couple of wrinkles that we wanted to try. Put some kids in some different positions and got some kids some playing time. Credit Grace. They did some really good things. They played some good defense. Their serve receive was solid, which put them in system, and they were pretty crafty at the net.”
The dip outside of conference play allowed Mattera to spread opportunities around. Sophomore Alex La Plant set the tone early with some big swings from the outside. More impressively, Grace couldn’t gain any traction on the attack, posting seven errors to only four kills in the first set. The Royals (6-21) managed just 21 kills to Concordia’s 44.
No Bulldog player got more playing time than GPAC setter of the week Tara Callahan. She’s coming of age down the stretch for Concordia. Grace really had no answer for the 6-foot-1 product of Brady High School. She posted match highs of 33 assists and 11 kills (15 attempts) while backing up the conference weekly award she earned earlier in the day.
“It means a lot, especially as a freshman,” Callahan said. “I never expected that so that was really cool.”
Ten different Bulldogs had at least one dig and eight offered up at least one kill on the evening. From the middle, Emmie Noyd pasted eight kills while Jenna Habegger and La Plant added seven apiece. Sophomore Jenna Eller paced the team with 10 digs. Concordia owned a 9-3 advantage in blocks, thanks in large part to Anna Lund (four block assists, one solo block), Habegger (four block assists) and Noyd (four block assists).
Grace beat College of Saint Mary in four sets way back on Aug. 30. The Royals were led on Tuesday by five kills apiece from Aaliyah Dunbar, Kara Peters and Marissa Waddel.
The final two matches of the regular season will both come against GPAC opponents. Still hoping to lock down the No. 8 seed in the conference tournament, the Bulldogs will travel to Briar Cliff (16-7, 6-7 GPAC) for a 3 p.m. CT match on Saturday. In this season’s first meeting between the two sides, the Chargers topped Concordia in four sets in Seward.
In many ways, Tuesday night served as an appetizer for what’s to come over the next week-and-a-half. Said Mattera, “We’re hungry for a win. One of our goals in this ‘second season’ that we talked about is avenging losses. We have a chance to avenge a loss at Briar Cliff and really lock the door on getting into the tournament.”