Fall sports rewind: top moments and season highlights
Fall sports highlights
TOP MOMENT: Nathan Douglas shatters school career goals record
Senior Nathan Douglas has been as dynamic as any Concordia athlete over the past four seasons. He’s spent a lot of that time wearing out opposing goalkeepers. The native of Winnipeg, Canada, recorded the school-record breaker – his 32nd career score – on Sept. 14 in a 3-0 win over Sterling College.
“It’s quite nice to have (the record),” Douglas said following the game. “A lot of people have been asking me about it. I’ve been trying not to think about it. At the same time, it’s kind of a little bit of weight off my shoulders. It’s nice, the monkey’s off the back now. It was always my goal to get a lot more than 32 anyways this season so I’m just going to keep pushing it forward.”
Douglas would go on to score 11 more goals to push his school record count to 43. His 14 goals for the season were also a career high. He tallied seven goals as a freshman, 11 as a sophomore, 11 as a junior and 14 as a senior.
Woods named GPAC Defensive Player of the Year
Senior safety Darnell Woods became the first Concordia football player to be named GPAC Defensive Player of the Year in the 14-year history of GPAC football. Woods, who hails from Phoenix, Ariz., won the award after leading a Concordia unit that topped the NAIA in pass defense, allowing only 134.7 points per game.
Individually, Woods made a career best 88 tackles (most among GPAC defensive backs) while also recording one interception, two pass break ups, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal on the season. Woods racked up 10 or more tackles five times, including a career best 17 versus then No. 1 Morningside, and led Concordia in tackles in five of 11 games.
Said head football coach Vance Winter: “Darnell is the most physical presence in the league from the secondary position. He’s highly regarded throughout the GPAC for his physicality and how hard he plays. When he tackled somebody, it was noticeable. He’s a physical, athletic safety who was one of the reasons why our defense was one of the best in the country.”
Football jumps out to 6-0 start, No. 14 national ranking
Behind school record-setting quarterback Von Thomas, head coach Vance Winter’s squad raced out to a 6-0 start and peaked at No. 14 in the national coaches’ top 25 poll. The national ranking that came following the 3-0 start was the first for the program since September of 2002. The six victories guaranteed Concordia’s first winning season since tying for the GPAC championship in 2001. The sixth win during that stretch – a 19-3 defensive domination of then No. 25 Nebraska Wesleyan – proved that the Bulldogs were for real. The six wins to begin the season also included triumphs over in-state GPAC rivals Hastings and Midland as well as a road win over NCAA Division II William Jewell.
“We’ve made huge strides this season,” Winter said after defeating Briar Cliff to end the season. “For us the win was great and to finish out the season was great. We’re taking this program in the right direction. The seniors have been a huge part of that. We’ve got a lot of young guys who are good football players and are going to get better this offseason. We’re just kind of disappointed that this is it.”
Bulldog women’s soccer wins shootout in GPAC quarterfinals
Ninety minutes of regulation and two 10-minute overtimes were not enough to break a scoreless tie in sixth-seeded Concordia’s GPAC quarterfinal at third-seeded Briar Cliff on Nov. 7. The Bulldogs would win in dramatic fashion by coming out of the penalty-kick shootout with a 3-1 advantage. During the shootout, freshman goalkeeper Chrissy Lind made two saves and Madison Hawkins, Rachel Mussell and Melissa Stine all knocked in their penalty kick tries to lift the Bulldogs to the semifinals. It was the second time in three seasons that Concordia advanced to the semifinals by winning a penalty-kick shootout in the quarterfinals.
“Our starting 11 went out and were warriors today,” said first-year head coach Greg Henson after the match while also adding, “If you make one save (in a shootout), you’re a hero. If you make two, you’re on top of the world. It was a big day for Chrissy.”
Concordia men’s cross country earns bid to nationals for 12th time in 13 years; Sievert runs to All-America honors
Under 22nd-year head coach Kregg Einspahr, Concordia cross country has become known as a program of national prominence. The Bulldog men’s team, ranked throughout the season among the nation’s top 20 squads, upheld that tradition by advancing to the national championships for the 12th time in the last 13 years. Despite finishing third in the GPAC, the Bulldogs received an at-large bid to go to nationals in Lawrence, Kan. Junior Ben Sievert shined on the big stage, racing to a 19th-place finish that automatically made him an All-American. As a team, Concordia placed 24th among the 32 squads at the championships.
“Clearly, we would have like to have finished a little bit better than that, but we’ll go home knowing we had a good season,” Einspahr said. “When you get to this level, different things can happen. We probably had some tactical errors during the race that we can learn from. Hopefully we can come back next year and improve on that team finish.”
Young pups lead volleyball to first winning season since 2007
Head coach Scott Mattera has Concordia volleyball headed in a clear upward trajectory, as evidenced by its 17-14 season in 2013. That record gave the program its first winning season since 2007. The Bulldogs piled up wins by taking care of business outside the conference and by holding serve against opponents they were expected to beat. Expectations will rise higher in 2014 as all of the team’s key players return, including the core of freshman outside hitter Paige Getz, freshman setter Alayna Kavanaugh, junior middle Mariah Schamp, junior defensive specialist Carli Smith and sophomore outside hitter Claire White.
Concordia hinted at its future promise in its four-set season-ending loss at No. 6 Midland in the GPAC tournament. “This was one of those matches where their fans, players and coaches make a point to tell us how much respect we earned,” Mattera said afterwards. “I'm very proud of this team and beyond excited for the future.”
Ahlers closes fall golf season in style
Freshman Amy Ahlers entered Concordia used to success after a standout career at Boone Central High School. The Albion, Neb., native got off to a slower start than she had hoped, but Ahlers elevated her play in time for the GPAC Qualifier No. 2 on Oct. 2. She shot a nine-over-par 80 to tie for first on the day and boost herself into the top 10 on the overall GPAC leaderboard. That performance should give Ahlers plenty of confidence heading into the spring season.
Said Ahlers in an interview a couple weeks after the event: “It felt really good. I didn’t think it was going to happen. I kind of messed up the last hole. I should have come in in the 70s and I wanted that really bad, but I was really excited with it overall. I’m excited that things kind of started turning around.”
Men’s and Women’s Cross Country
2013 men’s GPAC finish: 3rd
2013 men’s national championships finish: 24th
2013 women’s GPAC finish: 5th
Top performers: Junior Ben Sievert paced the Concordia men throughout the season. He went on to earn all-conference honors for the third-straight season and earned All-America recognition with his top-20 finish at the national championships. The native of Frankenmuth, Mich., finished the national championship race in 25:02, roughly 36 seconds faster than his time at nationals as a sophomore when the meet was held in Vancouver, Wash.
--On the women’s side, sophomore Kim Wood represented Concordia’s top finisher at the majority of the meets during the fall. She notched a 17th-place finish at the Mount Marty Invite (Oct. 26) with a time of 19:32 on the 5K course. At the GPAC championships, Renee Williams outran her Bulldog teams and grabbed her first all-conference honor with a 15th-place finish.
Season highlights: Concordia’s men ranked in the nation’s top 20 all season and took home the Mount Marty team title on Oct. 12 with three runners placing among the top 10 individuals, led by Sievert’s second-place time. Sievert and the Bulldogs were solid all year and earned their 12th bid to nationals in the past 13 years. Sievert’s All-America race proved to be the highlight of the national championships as Concordia ended up 24th as a team.
--On the women’s side, Concordia worked to develop a young squad that ended up fifth at the GPAC meet. Sophomore Kim Wood made significant strides and appears headed for big things in her final two seasons. Renee Williams’ 15th-place finish at the GPAC championships was a big confidence-builder for her.
GPAC all-conference: Beau Billings, Hayden Hohnholt, Jordan Potrzeba, Ben Sievert and Renee Williams.
NAIA All-America: Ben Sievert
Thoughts from Coach Einspahr: I though Ben Sievert had just a tremendous race (at the national championships). He had an excellent time on a tough, challenging course. He was running very well, got himself in great position. He got himself in the top twenty right off the bat in the first 800 meters and he ran from there for the entire race. He was anywhere from 10th to 35th through the whole race.
--Clearly, we would have like to have finished a little bit better than (24th at the national championships), but we’ll go home knowing we had a good season. When you get to this level, different things can happen. We probably had some tactical errors during the race that we can learn from. Hopefully we can come back next year and improve on that team finish.
--I thought we had some gals that had their best races of the season (at the GPAC championships). Erika (Schroeder), Jenean (Williams) and Renee (Williams) in particular had very good races. We just had a little bit of a mixed bag. Renee just had her best race of the season by far, I thought. We would like to finish better than fifth in the conference, but overall I thought we had a pretty good race.
2013 record: 7-4 overall; 5-4 GPAC (T-5th)
Top performers: Senior safety Darnell Woods elevated his play to an even higher level than he displayed as a junior when he earned first team all-conference honors. The Phoenix, Ariz., native became the first Bulldog to claim GPAC Defensive Player of the Year accolades this season. Woods, the leader of a pass defense that ranked No. 1 in the NAIA, came up with a career high 88 tackles. In addition, senior corner Derek Blessing shined as the league’s top return man again (679 total return yards), defensive lineman Dylan Heithoff put a career high 5.5 sacks and quarterback Von Thomas broke a school record for total offense with 2,508 yards.
Season highlights: The Bulldogs marched to a 6-0 record and No. 14 national ranking to begin the season. During that run Concordia defeated instate rivals Hastings, Midland and Nebraska Wesleyan. Concordia then finished the season strong with a 45-7 blowout of Briar Cliff for win No. 7, marking the 17th time in program history that the Bulldogs have reached seven or more wins. Coordinator Patrick Daberkow’s defensive unit was a constant throughout the season and finished with national rankings of No. 1 in pass defense (134.7) and fifth in both total defense (285.5) and scoring defense (17.0). That helped net Concordia three defensive players on first team all-conference and one on second team.
GPAC all-conference: Derek Blessing (first team – KR/PR), Dylan Heithoff (first team), Langston Jones (first team), Darnell Woods (first team), Adam Meirose (second team), Josh Powell (second team), Tait Sibbel (second team). Eleven players also earned honorable mention. View the complete list HERE.
Thoughts from Coach Winter: Everybody realizes how far we’ve come as a program. We’ve made huge strides this season. For us the win was great and to finish out the season with a win was great. We’re taking this program in the right direction. The seniors have been a huge part of that. We’ve got a lot of young guys who are good football players and are going to get better this offseason. We’re just kind of disappointed that was it. We were about six plays away from being a playoff team and that was a huge goal for us before the season started.
Looking ahead to 2014: We have a great group coming back. Offensively we return a lot of guys who have played a lot of football for us this season. Defensively we have to fill some major holes with some guys, but we’ve got a talented group. They have to buy into the work ethic that these seniors have set forth in their four years.
Men’s and Women’s Golf
Men’s GPAC standing: 9th (317-345–662)
Women’s GPAC standing: 5th (366-374–740)
Top performers: Freshman Amy Ahlers carded the lowest score among the Concordia women’s individuals at six of seven fall meets while posting an 85.29 average. Ahlers currently sits eighth in the GPAC with her two-round 89-80–169 at the first two league qualifiers. The Albion, Neb., native came on particularly strong in the final meet, setting a new career low with an 80 that helped her tie for first at the second GPAC qualifier and earn her conference golfer of the week honors.
--On the men’s side, 2012-13 all-conference performer Shawn Rodehorst (79.38 avg.) narrowly held off freshman Josh Hinrichs (79.75 avg.) for the team’s top fall average. Battling a hip injury, Rodehorst couldn’t quite find the groove he had back in the spring when he played his best golf on the collegiate circuit. Hinrichs, a Hastings, Neb., native, shot a sub-80 in five of the eight fall rounds and looks to have a very bright future ahead.
Fall highlights: While Rodehorst and Hinrichs carry the team’s top averages, freshman Jared Knoepfel currently holds the top positioning among Bulldogs on the GPAC leaderboard. Knoepfel has been steady all fall and produced a career low 78 at GPAC Qualifier No. 2 to put himself in a tie for 15th overall. Knoepfel’s strong play was part of a the youth movement that overtook Concordia golf as both teams have made big strides over last season with young golfers leading the way.
--This is just as evident on the women’s side where Ahlers and Kayla Krueger (Aberdeen, S.D.) starred as the team’s top two golfers all fall. Both shined at GPAC Qualifier No. 2 with career low scores to bump Concordia up to fifth place in the team standings. Their play provides plenty of optimism about the direction of the program. Both Concordia golf squads are on the rise.
Thoughts from Coach Muller on the men: The Men’s team is gaining experience with every tournament. During the fall season, six players played in their first collegiate tournament. The underclassmen continued to improve as the season went on. Freshman Josh Hinrichs finished in the top 10 three times (Doane Invite, GPAC Qualifier No. 1, Nebraska Intercollegiate). Freshman Jared Knoepfel saved his best round for the last event of the fall shooting 78 and finishing tied for fifth at GPAC No. 2. On the team side in the GPAC we are currently in ninth place of 11. We should be able to move up a couple more spots in the last two GPAC tournaments.
Thoughts from Coach Muller on the women: Both Amy Ahlers and Kayla Krueger made significant impacts on the team during the fall season. Both freshmen finished in the Top 10 twice and saved their best play for GPAC Qualifier No. 2. Amy finished tied for first and Kayla tied for seventh. Both Amy and Kayla have positioned themselves to finish the year as all-GPAC folfers. Melissa McIntosh is nine shots ahead of where she was last year through the first two GPAC qualifiers. At the halfway point the team is in fifth place of 11 – a monumental improvement from last year’s finish of 11th.
2013 record: 10-9 overall; 6-4 GPAC (5th)
Top performer: Senior forward Nathan Douglas earned all-conference accolades after putting up career highs in goals (14), assists (7) and points (35) in his final collegiate season. Douglas also became the school’s all-time leading goal scorer with 43 career goals. He completed an incredible career on the pitch with numerous additional honors. The Winnipeg, Canada, native received prestigious recognition being named to the 2013 Capital One Academic All-America® College Division Men’s Soccer first team. With Douglas leading the way, Concordia has won 10 or more games in three-straight seasons.
Season highlights: Concordia won four of its first five GPAC games on the way to a 6-4 conference mark that broke the school record for GPAC wins in a season. Junior midfielder Chris DeFeyter emerged as a compliment to Douglas, as he racked up a career high six goals in making the Bulldogs a more potent offensive force. While sixth-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad fell short in the GPAC quarterfinals, it is one of only four conference teams with double-digit win totals in three-straight seasons. The Bulldogs finished the season with a plus-eight goal differential (39 goals scored, 31 goals allowed).
GPAC all-conference: Nathan Douglas (first team), Chris DeFeyter (second team), Sean Doran (second team), Mark Campbell (honorable mention), Gideon Soeknsen (honorable mention)
Thoughts from Coach Weides: There are positives to take away from this season and many would consider our accomplishments this fall a success. However, our expectations and ambitions have grown in recent years which leaves us ruing missed opportunity. In a very tight and competitive conference this year, we were one of a few teams that realistically could have won a GPAC title. Unfortunately we fell short of that goal. Despite this disappointment, we will continue to set the bar high and strive to achieve new heights. With all but two players returning (in 2014) this team is hungry to begin laying the foundation for next year.
2013 record: 9-9-2 overall; 5-5 GPAC (7th)
Top performer: Jordan Donohoue completed a great career with a first team all-conference senior season. The native of Manhattan, Kan., filled several different roles while playing all over the field. Her move to the backline helped spur the head coach Greg Henson’s squad to an impressive late-season run. Donohoue, who started all 20 games, served as a big reason why Concordia set a school record for fewest goals allowed (27) in a season since the program began in 1996. Donohoue missed only one game in her four years as a Bulldog.
Season highlights: Henson’s team made itself comfortable down the stretch, winning three of its last four regular-season games before advancing to the GPAC semifinals. The sixth-seeded Bulldogs reached the semifinals by getting past third-seeded Briar Cliff in a penalty-kick shootout in the quarterfinals. It marked the second time in program history (and second time in three years) that Concordia women’s soccer made it that far. Junior Ashlie Sklenicka (Lincoln, Neb.) broke out with a career high seven goals and fellow junior Rachel Mussell (Buffalo, Minn.) led the team in goals for the second-straight year.
GPAC all-conference: Jordan Donohoue (first team), Ashlie Sklenicka (second team), Emily Fleming (honorable mention), Rachel Mussell (honorable mention), Melissa Stine (honorable mention).
Thoughts from Coach Henson: 2013 marked a new era for the Bulldog women's soccer program and this year's team set a new standard for how success will be measured in the future. I was extremely proud of the way this team continued to overcome adversity throughout the season, whether it was the season-ending injuries of three key players or rebounding from a tough midseason stretch to qualify and advance to the conference tournament semi-finals. We are forced to say goodbye to a talented senior class that will be missed but I'm optimistic about the 2014 season both with the emergence of our freshman class and the fact that we return our top-two goal scorers from the past year.
2013 record: 17-14 overall; 5-11 GPAC (8th)
Top performers: Head coach Scott Mattera saw several key performers emerge for his team in 2013. Junior Mariah Schamp (Arvada, Colo.), who led the team with 91 blocks and 42 aces, received the team’s highest honors with placement on the all-conference second team. Sophomore Claire White (Exeter, Neb.), a transfer from Washburn University, and Carli Smith (Temecula, Calif.) both garnered honorable mention all-conference accolades. White topped the team with 339 kills and Smith led Concordia with 491 digs. Freshmen Paige Getz (304 kills) and Alayna Kavanaugh (866 assists) also produced solid seasons.
Season highlights: The 2013 Bulldogs showed significant growth as they improved their win total by seven as compared to the 2012 season. Getz shined in the second half of the season and several other newcomers like White and Kavanaugh became fixtures. While Concordia was never able to pull off the momentum-building upset that it relentlessly sought, it gained plenty of respect with the way it pushed No. 6 Midland on the road in its season-ending loss in the GPAC tournament. Mattera and his young squad appear primed to take another step forward in 2014.
GPAC all-conference: Mariah Schamp (second team), Carli Smith (honorable mention), Claire White (honorable mention).
Thoughts from Coach Mattera: When you take a step back and look at the season as a whole, it was the perfect step forward in the building process. It’s easy to point to the close losses and the chances missed but going from 10 wins to 17 wins while having so many new players on the floor is a great accomplishment.
--It’s kind of funny that I’m happy that we aren’t happy. We had the most wins since 2007 and no one in our program feels like it was a great season. That just speaks volumes of how much we’ve changed the culture and the mindset about who we are and what we are capable of.
--We had to fight through a lot of adversity this year with so many changing roles and so many different personality types. I’m so proud of so many of our girls who were asked to make changes that weren’t always pleasant.
--We really did peak at the end of the year – we were playing GREAT volleyball against Midland and it might be the first time since I got here that you could feel the belief not just thinking and saying the right things but really believing. The loss was hard but it left us in the perfect place going into the offseason – confident but hungry.
25 November 2013
Senior Nathan Douglas did this 43 times in his Bulldog career - that is, score goals. His record-breaking performance is our choice for the top moment during the fall sports season.
Senior Darnell Woods became the first Concordia player to even earn GPAC Defensive Player of the Year recognition when the league made the announcement last week.
Junior Ben Sievert claimed All-America honors for a Bulldog cross country team that made its 12th national championships appearance in the past 13 years.
Senior Jordan Donohoue sparked Concordia women's soccer to an appearance in the GPAC semifinals.
Junior Mariah Schamp and the Bulldog volleyball team went 17-14 in 2013, marking the team's first winning season since 2007. The win total was also a seven-victory improvement over the 2012 record.
Freshman Amy Ahlers emerged as the top golfer for the Concordia women. She expects even bigger things in the spring.