Freshmen star in second-straight GPAC win

By Jake Knabel on Oct. 20, 2017 in Volleyball

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University volleyball team is two-thirds of the way there in its mission to sweep all three of this week’s conference home matches. Two days after putting away College of Saint Mary in four sets, the Bulldogs took care of visiting Dakota Wesleyan in straight sets, 25-16, 26-17, 25-17, inside Walz Arena on Friday evening.

Two wins in a row have moved the records of sixth-year head coach Scott Mattera’s squad to 7-16 overall and to 2-11 in conference play. Concordia remains in the running for a top eight placement required to reach the GPAC tournament.

“That was the most consistent match we’ve played all year,” Mattera said. “And we did it in a variety of ways. Our blocking was good. Our defense was good. Our serve and serve receive was really good. We had them out of system all night. That’s the team we need to be. Forty-eight kills in three games. That’s pretty solid.”

At this point in the season, it’s time for the freshmen to no longer look like freshmen. The most eye-popping individual numbers of the night were turned in by rookies Tara Callahan and Marissa Hoerman. Callahan orchestrated the offense in symphonic fashion, lofting up 45 assists for an attack that pounded down 20 more kills than the visitors. Meanwhile, Hoerman didn’t show much regard for Tiger hitters, digging up a career high 23 attacks.

Sophomore middle Emmie Noyd also continued what’s been a monster week. She swatted 11 kills on 21 swings without a single error while also getting in on five of the team’s eight blocks. On the outsides, Alex La Plant turned in 14 kills and Jenna Habbegger pasted 12 kills. Both La Plant and Habegger hit exactly .303. That’ll do every time out.

“We started speeding up our offense, making the pin sets faster,” Callahan said. “That’s beating a lot of other peoples’ defenses.”

Concordia’s attack really got going after the opening set. The Bulldogs pummeled 20 kills and hit .347 in the second game. They also hit .361 in set No. 3 while snuffing out any hopes the Tigers (15-15, 2-10 GPAC) had of a rally. Dakota Wesleyan’s top hitter, Rebecca Frick (12 kills), was held to .163 hitting. As a team, the Tigers hit .083 while struggling to find any open space with Hoerman roaming in the back.

“Today we were actually working on two different defensive systems,” Hoerman said. “I had Coach in my ear the whole time making sure I was in the right spot. I think we actually let a lot of balls drop that we shouldn’t have. I think the key was staying disciplined in the system that we were running.”

Concordia and Dakota Wesleyan are neck-and-neck for the eighth and final spot in the conference tournament, magnifying the importance of Friday night’s matchup. The Bulldogs are not where they envisioned themselves being back in the preseason, but a postseason berth would provide a degree of salvation for the 2017 season.

“It would be the complete opposite feeling of what we were for the last month,” Hoerman said. “For me never having done that before, it would be really incredible. I’d love to see the team do something cool like that this year because we have the potential. We hang with the top teams. That’s been said a million times. I think the key lately is we’ve just been doing our jobs.”

The Bulldogs will continue their home stand on Saturday when they host Mount Marty (8-14, 1-11 GPAC) at 3 p.m. CT. It will be the first and only meeting of the season between the two sides. The lone Lancer win inside the conference came Sept. 22 when they topped College of Saint Mary in four sets. Concordia will honor its four seniors on Saturday.