Undefeated run carries through season's third week

By Jake Knabel on Sep. 8, 2018 in Volleyball

HASTINGS, Neb. – The confidence is growing by the minute for the Concordia University volleyball program. In a Saturday morning (Sept. 8) battle between two undefeated teams nicknamed the Bulldogs, the squad that calls Seward home got the upper hand over McPherson College (Kan.), 25-17, 25-23, 21-25, 25-19, in action that took place at the Five Points Bank Classic hosted by Hastings College. To cap the weekend, the Bulldogs then defeated Kansas Wesleyan University, 25-20, 21-25, 25-16, 25-23.

If outsiders were going to pinpoint the first potential loss for first-year head coach Ben Boldt’s squad, they may have singled out the McPherson match. McPherson entered the day 11-0 and situated just outside the top 25 in this week’s NAIA national poll. When the dust settled on Saturday, it was Concordia walking away with a sparkling 12-0 record on the season.

“They’re a really balanced team. They can hit the ball hard from all positions,” Boldt said. “It was a good test for our defense. We played very focused and a really good game. I was excited about that. We dropped a set that we probably shouldn’t have. We grinded through it and got it back. It was probably my favorite win of the year so far, just from an execution standpoint and a defensive standpoint.”

To put that victory into even greater perspective, McPherson (12-1) followed up its loss to Concordia by beating 11th-ranked Hastings in five sets in an afternoon clash on Saturday. The morning performance was the start of a good day for senior Jenna Habegger who swatted a match high 17 kills while helping sink McPherson. In the back row, sophomore Marissa Hoerman racked up 32 digs. Emmie Noyd had 13 kills and six blocks. The Bulldogs outhit McPherson, .224 to .164.

In the afternoon, Concordia met up with a Kansas Wesleyan squad that it had beaten in straight sets at home back on Aug. 29. This time around, the Coyotes (9-5) nearly pushed the Bulldogs to a fifth set. However, a kill by freshman Arleigh Costello put it on ice. Costello was one of three Concordia hitters with double-digit kills in the second match. Her 12 kills equaled Habegger and were three behind Emmie Noyd (15) for a match high.

So far this season, offensive efficiency has not been an issue. On this particular day, Boldt liked the steps his team took from a defensive perspective. The Bulldogs posted 15 blocks over the day’s eight sets.

“I thought our block was looking a lot better, especially against McPherson,” Boldt said. “That was fun to see. It just looked better. It looked cleaner. We’re going to keep working on that. Offensively, we’re doing a good job of managing. That’s a strength for us. We’re going to keep working on defense.”

Hoerman added 20 more digs in the second match. Jenna Eller and Tristin Mason both dropped in three aces versus Kansas Wesleyan. The setter combo of Tara Callahan and Kaci Hohenthaner produced a collective total of 103 assists on the day.

The Bulldogs will get back to conference action on Tuesday (Sept. 11) when eighth-ranked Midland (10-2, 2-0 GPAC) visits Walz Arena for a match set for a 7:30 p.m. CT first serve. The contest will be another barometer for how far Concordia has come. In two meetings last season, the Bulldogs fell in straight sets and in four sets while up against the perennial national tournament qualifying Warriors.