SEWARD, Neb. – Three more significant opportunities await the Concordia University volleyball team this week. Encouraged by the growth shown in last week’s four-set loss to soaring Northwestern, the Bulldogs have hopes of getting on the board with a conference victory. In this week’s action, head coach Scott Mattera’s squad will go up against three teams rated in the most recent NAIA coaches’ poll: No. 1 Hastings, No. 5 Dordt and No. 24 Morningside (a new poll will be released on Tuesday, Sept. 19).
This week’s schedule
Wednesday, Sept. 20 vs. (1) Hastings, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 22 at (5) Dordt, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 23 at (24) Morningside, 3 p.m.
Concordia (5-8, 0-3 GPAC) has been a work in progress while featuring many new faces and returners with increased roles. There have been flashes of brilliance, such as the third set last week at Doane and then the opening set this past weekend versus a hot Northwestern squad that is primed to make a move upward from 14th in the national rankings. The Bulldogs hit .387 while taking the first set, 25-16, from the Red Raiders. Freshman Tara Callahan showed off her diverse skill set, going for double figure totals in assists (33), kills (12) and digs (11) in the matchup with Northwestern.
The trick is for Concordia to get each of its key players to perform at a high level at the same time. Senior Jocelyn Garcia, who recently surpassed 1,500 career digs, has been reliable in the back row while sophomore Alex La Plant (139 kills) and junior Kelsey Baarck (116 kills) have been the team’s primary weapons on the outsides. Emmie Noyd (.281 hitting percentage) returned in the middle last week. She put down nine kills versus Northwestern. Senior middle Annie Friesen needs one more kill for 500 in her career.
The Bulldogs could make a big splash this homecoming week by stunning undefeated defending national champion Hastings (11-0, 3-0 GPAC) inside Walz Arena on Wednesday. The Broncos, coached by Matt Buttermore, are a well-rounded team that sports national rankings of first in blocks per game (3.0), second in kills per game (14.6) and eighth in hitting percentage (.266). National runner up to Hastings last season, Dordt (14-3, 2-1 GPAC) has also built a reputation as a powerful attacking program. The Defenders’ Ema Altena ranks fifth in the NAIA in kills per set (4.47). The final opponent of the week, Morningside (9-7, 1-2 GPAC), picked up its biggest win of the season when it toppled No. 20 Bellevue University in four sets on Sept. 2.
Following this week’s action, Concordia will be at College of Saint Mary (7-5, 0-2 GPAC) on Sept. 27 before returning home to host Briar Cliff (11-0, 2-0 GPAC) on Sept. 30.
Official GPAC poll (Sept. 18)
1. Hastings (11-0, 3-0 GPAC)
2. Dordt (14-3, 2-1 GPAC)
3. Midland (10-3, 3-0 GPAC)
3. Northwestern (15-1, 2-0 GPAC)
5. Doane (9-5, 1-2 GPAC)
6. Morningside (9-7, 1-2 GPAC)
7. Concordia (5-8, 0-3 GPAC)
8. Briar Cliff (11-0, 2-0 GPAC)
9. Dakota Wesleyan (12-6, 1-2 GPAC)
10. College of Saint Mary (7-5, 0-2 GPAC)
11. Mount Marty (6-5, 0-3 GPAC)