Bulldog weekend primer

Bulldog weekend primer

Concordia athletics heat up Saturday with two helpings of basketball at Walz Arena. Meanwhile, Head coach Dana Vote returns to his alma mater as the Bulldog grapplers compete in the Buena Vista Open. First team all-conference kicker Kenny Zoeller will then showcase his talents on Sunday at the National Bowl Game in Allentown, Pa. Here’s a detailed look at the weekend slate.

Wrestling: at Buena Vista University Open, 9 a.m., Storm Lake, Iowa

Format: The BVU Open is a bracket style tournament with no team scores. The tournament field includes representatives from NAIA No. 1 Grand View (Iowa), No. 6 Morningside, No. 16 Midland, No. 20 York, (RV) Northwestern, (RV) William Penn (Iowa), (RV) Central Baptist (Ark.), Briar Cliff and NCAA schools Augustana (S.D.), Northwest Missouri, Southwest Minnesota State, Wayne State and host Buena Vista.

Head coach Dana Vote returns to Buena Vista University where he was a two time letter winner and a 2008 graduate. The Bulldogs hope to improve upon their performance at the Simpson Invitational on Dec. 8 when they finished 10th as a team. Freshman Austin Starkey will look to continue his early season success at 157. The St. Paul, Neb., native jumped into the national rankings this week, garnering a spot as the 12th-ranked wrestler in the NAIA in his weight class. Starkey carries a record of 6-4 with two pins on the season. Heavyweight Frank Ayala became the first Concordia grappler this season to place at two tournaments when he took sixth place last Saturday. Ayala’s eight wins are the most on the team. Meanwhile, Seth Crane (184) tops the Bulldogs with four pins. Grand View features three of the NAIA’s top-ranked individuals (157, 197, Hwt.) while Morningside’s Brian Block is No. 1 at 184.

Women’s basketball: No. 1 Concordia (11-0, 5-0 GPAC) vs. Dakota Wesleyan (8-3, 2-2 GPAC), 2 p.m.

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Opponent: Dakota Wesleyan nearly vaulted into the top 25 after a 95-84 win over Dordt and a 75-53 domination of then No. 25 Hastings last week. Under third-year head coach Jason Christensen, the Tigers won eight of their first 10 games and have been an early season surprise after being picked to finish eighth in the GPAC by league coaches. Junior forward Kim Johnson, the GPAC Player of the Week in each of the past two weeks, leads the conference in scoring at 21.0 points per game. Behind junior guard Amanda Hart (35-for-89 from 3-point range) Dakota Wesleyan tops the conference in 3-point shooting percentage at 38.1. It also ranks No. 1 in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.29), a key stat against a Concordia squad that thrives on forcing turnovers. The Tigers, like the Bulldogs, have also played league heavyweights Briar Cliff and Morningside. Dakota Wesleyan lost both games by exactly 15 points.

Outlook: The Bulldogs are coming off perhaps their most daunting two-game stretch of the regular season after road wins over then No. 4 Morningside (80-76) and No. 5 Briar Cliff (72-65). At 11-0, Concordia is close to matching the 14-0 start of the 2004-05 Bulldog team that reached the national semifinals. Concordia swept three games from Dakota Wesleyan last season with an average victory margin of 20.7 points per game. Head coach Drew Olson’s squad has not been challenged yet at home this season while winning its first seven home games by an average of nearly 40 points per contest. The Bulldogs will put a solid Tiger offense to the test with intense pressure defense. Concordia players make up the top four individuals in the conference in steals per game – Bailey Morris (3.64); Katie Rich (3.4); Kristen Conahan (3.18); Tracy Peitz (2.6). Among all NAIA Division II teams, the Bulldogs rank first in both scoring margin (plus-32.5) and turnover margin (plus-13.1), second in steals per game (19.9), fourth in scoring offense (92.2 ppg) and fifth in 3-point field goals per game (9.4.).

Men’s basketball: Concordia (5-4, 2-3 GPAC) vs. Dakota Wesleyan (4-6, 1-3 GPAC), 4 p.m.

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Opponent: Dakota Wesleyan enters Saturday’s game with losses in three of its last four games after an 80-69 defeat versus Morningside on Wednesday. However, the Tigers have lost four games by five points or less this season, including a 98-94 loss to York – a team the Bulldogs beat 97-88 to open the season. Third-year head coach Shane Murphy’s Tigers were pegged by league coaches to finish eighth in the GPAC, just behind Concordia. Dakota Wesleyan ranks eighth in the conference in scoring offense (76.1 ppg) and seventh in defense (71.8 ppg). Sophomore post Jalen Voss is an imposing inside presence who leads the conference in rebounding (10.3 rpg) and is fourth in blocks (1.4 bpg). Voss also averages 13.9 points per contest on 60.4 percent shooting. The Tigers flashed their potential in an impressive 91-79 victory over Hastings (receiving votes in the national poll) on Dec 1.

Outlook: The Bulldogs have followed four-straight wins with three-consecutive losses. Concordia has found itself trailing by double digits in the first half of each of its last five games and hopes to get off to a much better start on Saturday. The battle down low between Voss and Bulldog senior post Porter Birtell should be an entertaining one. Birtell is Concordia’s leader in several major categories, including scoring (17.6 ppg), rebounding (6.7 rpg) and field goal percentage (63.5). Last season’s two meetings both went to Concordia by five points or less, with the game at Dakota Wesleyan going to overtime. The Bulldogs are 5-1 when they hold opponents to 47.2 percent shooting or less, but the key may be finding some more scoring punch. Concordia looks to improve upon its ranking of ninth in the conference in scoring (75.7 ppg) and 10th in 3-point field goal percentage (31.0). The Bulldogs are used to playing tight games with seven of their first nine contests decided by 10 points or less.

Kenny Zoeller in National Bowl Game: Kickoff at 12 p.m. (CT) on Sunday from J. Birney Crum Stadium in Allentown, Pa.

Kicker Kenny Zoeller will play in the third annual National Bowl Game on Sunday, an event that showcases talented collegiate seniors from colleges across the nation. Zoeller will wear his customary No. 86 as a member of the “Red Nation” team. Complete rosters for both Red Nation and Blue Nation can be viewed HERE.

Zoeller garnered first team all-conference recognition after a stellar senior season in 2012. He nailed 15 of 20 field goal attempts and 27 of 28 PATs for 72 total points. His 15 field goals were the second most in the NAIA and his 72 points were the 11th most in the nation among all kickers.

7 December 2012

Brent Houchin