Fall sports wrap: top moments in Bulldog fall athletics

Fall sports wrap: top moments in Bulldog fall athletics


1. Men’s cross country captures second GPAC title in four years / Sarah Kortze earns All-America status for second straight year

Head coach Kregg Einspahr’s Bulldog men’s cross country squad put together its best overall performance at precisely the right time. Senior Colin Morrissey battled through nagging tendonitis to win the individual GPAC crown (25:08 in the 8K) and power Concordia to its second conference title in four years. Morrissey was backed by teammates Hayden Hohnholt (third place) and Ben Sievert (sixth place) as the Bulldogs edged out second place Morningside 48-55 in team scoring. “It was outstanding,” Einspahr said following the race. “I’m very proud of them. They stuck with it. It was their best team race of the season. Colin did really well for coming off an injury, and it really reveals his competitive drive. He’s just a tremendous competitor. He’s not at his peak fitness, but he runs with his guts.”

On the women’s side, senior Sarah Kortze won the GPAC individual title and then took 14th place at nationals with a time of 18:19 in the 5K. That time allowed Kortze to earn All-America honors for the second year in a row following a 13th place finish at last year’s championships. “I’m very happy for Sarah Kortze,” Einspahr said after the race. “She is a two time All-American, and that’s a very difficult thing to do two years in a row. She got out and got good position. She’s been very consistent all season. It was just a great season for her – a great way to finish her career.”

2. Football upsets No. 11 Northwestern

The Bulldogs raised plenty of eyebrows across the NAIA football world when they pulled off the biggest stunner of the GPAC football season on Oct. 13. Concordia shocked then No. 11 Northwestern by a score of 17-16 in front of the homecoming crowd at Bulldog Stadium. Northwestern entered the game with a record of 5-1 and had beaten the Bulldogs nine-straight times. Head coach Vance Winter’s squad held the perennial GPAC power to 86 total yards of offense in the second half and survived a missed 25-yard Red Raider field goal attempt in the final minute. The emotional win sparked a spirited locker room celebration.

Said junior cornerback Derek Blessing after the victory: “It’s big. We’ve been working on this for the last three years – even more than that. We put in our hard work and it just comes down to this. We played our hearts out.” Blessing had perhaps the biggest play of the game when he returned a punt 50 yards for a touchdown to get Concordia within 16-14 midway through the fourth quarter. “Derek Blessing in the punt return was just huge, and we could feel it then,” Winter said after the game. Senior kicker Kenny Zoeller provided the game’s final score with a 24-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter.

3. Rachel Mussell breaks out

The sophomore forward came out of nowhere to become one of the top strikers in the GPAC in 2012. She burst onto the scene early with a hat trick in the team’s second game of the season. She went on to be a model of consistency all season with at least one goal in 10 of Concordia’s 16 games. She also had a stretch of five-consecutive games with a goal and recorded three multiple goal games. Her 14 goals on the season were 12 more than she had her entire freshman campaign and placed her second on the GPAC goals leaderboard. The native of Buffalo, Minn., became the first Bulldog women’s soccer player to be named first team all-conference since 2009. A standout in the classroom, Mussell also earned Capital One Academic All-District 6 honors as part of the College Division.

Said head coach Lisa White of Mussell: “She has the unique ability to remain composed in high pressure situations and executes very well in those environments. She is a product of her family, our family and her faith.”

4. Amanda Kisker eclipses 1,000 kills

With her third kill of the Oct. 16 home match versus Dakota Wesleyan, senior Amanda Kisker reached the 1,000 career kills mark as several students at Walz Arena waved signs to celebrate the moment. The feat was tangible proof of a remarkable collegiate career for Kisker, who played her freshman season at the now closed Dana College. The Lincoln native made an immediate impact upon her arrival on the collegiate volleyball circuit. She rarely came off the court throughout her four years and finished her career with 1,111 kills and 784 digs in 131 matches. “It took a lot of teamwork, and I honestly didn’t even know it was coming,” Kisker said following the Dakota Wesleyan match. “I didn’t really think much of it. They made signs, so that was a neat moment. It’s cool, but it’s a team sport.” Added head coach Scott Mattera, “People talk about 1,000 points in basketball or 1,000 kills in volleyball. Obviously that’s 250 a year, which is a huge number. She’s been a horse. We just keep going to her and going to her and she just keeps delivering.” Kisker was rewarded with a first team all-conference honor.

5. Men’s soccer extends home win streak to 10 straight

With wins in their first two home games to begin the 2012 season, the Bulldogs pushed their home win streak to 10 in a row. Head coach Jason Weides’ squad topped both William Woods (2-1) and York (3-1) at Bulldog Stadium this season on the heels of an 8-0 home mark in 2011. The streak began on Aug. 27, 2011, with a 5-0 victory over William Penn and ended this past Sept. 26 in an excruciating 2-1 overtime loss to GPAC powerhouse Hastings. Concordia exhibited complete domination during the 10-game run, out-scoring its opponents 32-4. The streak became a huge source of pride for junior Nathan Douglas and the Bulldogs. Said Douglas following the 10th-straight home win, “We’re going to keep it going, because we don’t lose on this turf.” Concordia is now 12-4 at Bulldog stadium over the past 16 home games. The Bulldogs, who surprisingly lost four GPAC home games in 2012, hope to reassert their home excellence in 2013 following their incredible run from 2011 to early 2012.

BONUS: Senior forward Aaron Skipworth tied the school’s all-time goals record of 31 when he scored his second goal of the season on Oct. 9 at Midland. Skipworth finished with two goals and five assists in his final season at Concordia.



Men’s Cross Country
GPAC finish: 1st
NAIA National Championships finish: 21st
Top performer: Senior Colin Morrissey and sophomore Ben Sievert provided the GPAC champion Bulldogs with a pair of great front runners. Morrissey saved his best for the conference meet as he took first place with a time of 25:08 on the 8K course in McCook Lake, S.D., and earned GPAC Runner of the Year honors. Meanwhile, Sievert twice won the GPAC Runner of the Week award and was Concordia’s top finisher at nationals with a time of 25:38 on the way to a 51st place finish.
Season highlights: The Bulldogs, ranked No. 13 entering the national championships, reasserted control of the GPAC by winning the conference meet on Nov. 3, seven points ahead of second place Morningside. Concordia consistently ran well against conference and top NAIA competition as it recorded a third place finish at the Briar Cliff Invite and took second at the Mount Marty Invite. The Bulldogs then finished in 21st at nationals, marking the 14th time the men’s program has recorded a top 25 national finish during coach Kregg Einspahr’s tenure.
GPAC all-conference: Kregg Einspahr (Coach of the Year); Colin Morrissey (GPAC Runner of the Year); Hayden Hohnholt; Ben Sievert
Thoughts from Coach Kregg Einspahr: We feel like if we can finish in the top 25 at the national meet it’s been a good year. Ben Sievert ran well at nationals. I think his finish in around 50th place gives you an idea of how important experience at the national championships is. Overall Colin Morrissey had a great season to come back from his injury and lead us to the national championships and be the conference Runner of the Year. We had a fair number of sophomores and freshmen running in our top 10 and they did a great job. They were very coachable. The men will return nine of the top 10 runners in 2013. We’ll lose Colin and you don’t just replace the conference champion, but we have a very good group of returners so I think we’ll again be a conference contender. With the experience we had this year, I think we’ll be a considerably stronger team.

Women’s Cross Country
GPAC finish: T-2nd
NAIA National Championships finish: NA
Top performer: Senior Sarah Kortze paced the nationally-ranked Bulldogs at every meet this season while winning both the conference title and the Mount Marty Invite. She then claimed All-America honors for the second year in a row with a 14th place finish at the national championships with a time of 18:19 on the 5K course. She was named GPAC Runner of the Year and also collected GPAC Runner of the Week honors on three separate occasions and was a one-time NAIA National Runner of the Week.
Season highlights: While Concordia fell short of qualifying the entire team for the national championships, Kortze and fellow senior Jena Schwalenberg earned berths at nationals with outstanding performances at the GPAC championships as the duo went 1-2 at the top of the conference. The women closed the season with team finishes of fourth (Briar Cliff Invite), third (Mount Marty Invite) and tied for second (GPAC Championships). Kortze finished no worse than 14th place individually in any of her six races on the season.
GPAC all-conference: Sarah Kortze (GPAC Runner of the Year); Jena Schwalenberg
Thoughts from Coach Kregg Einspahr: Sarah just had a great season. She stayed injury free and was the conference Runner of the Year. She was very consistent all season and had her best races at the end of the season. Jena also ran very well at the national championships, just outside of All-American honors. She got caught a little bit back in the pack in the middle of the race. She probably moved up 30-40 places in the last mile and a half. As a whole, I was extremely happy with how the team came along. Our women’s team was very inexperienced. I was very pleased with the way our younger runners continued to improve the whole season and had very good attitudes. It’s going to be a wide open ballgame (next year). I think some of our returners are going to improve a great deal. I would expect Erika Schroeder and Kim Wood will be very improved. If we can get Megan Burma and Michaela Curran together with those two it will be a very strong four.

2012 Record: 5-6 overall; 4-5 GPAC (7th)
Top performer: Junior Derek Blessing made the transition from running back in 2011 to cornerback/returner in 2012 and became one of the GPAC’s most dynamic playmakers. He led the NAIA with 388 punt return yards and three punt return touchdowns and topped Concordia in tackles (75), pass breakups (6) and forced fumbles (3). He was twice named the GPAC Special Teams Player of the Week and earned GPAC first team all-conference honors.
Season highlights: After beginning the season 0-3, with all three losses by eight points or less, the Bulldogs regrouped to win the next four and five out of six. Included during that stretch was a 17-16 stunner over then No. 11 Northwestern on Oct. 13 (see moment No. 2 above). That win signified the marked improvements made from the previous year. In part due to the exceptional individual efforts of players like Blessing, quarterback Von Thomas and safety Darnell Woods, the Bulldog offense went from an average of 16.7 points per game and 249.5 yards per game last season to 24.0 points and 306.5 yards per contest this season. Defensively, Concordia shaved their points allowed per game from 24.1 in 2011 to 22.6 in 2012.
GPAC all-conference: Derek Blessing (first team PR/honorable mention KR); Darnell Woods (first team); Kenny Zoeller (first team); Adam Faulstich (second team); Dylan Heithoff (second team); Colten Quinabo (second team); Michael Voelker (second team); Langston Jones (honorable mention); Dylan Klassen (honorable mention); Kyle Little (honorable mention); Tom Malander (honorable mention); Josh Powell (honorable mention); Tait Sibbel (honorable mention); Von Thomas (honorable mention)
Thoughts from Coach Vance Winter: It was a fun group to coach. I thought our guys came out every week with a real good attitude and went out to work in practice. I felt like we got better all year. We’re disappointed we didn’t reach all the goals we set at the beginning of the year, but also excited about the improvements we made from last year to this year. We feel like we’ve got a nice foundation coming back next year. Obviously we will have to replace some very good seniors – guys who provided a ton of good things on and off the field. The Northwestern win was huge because we hadn’t done that in a while, beating a high, high quality opponent. That was a game where our character showed all the way throughout. We battled through adversity and kept fighting and that was why this team was so fun to coach. We are excited about the nucleus we have coming back. I was really excited about how our safety play improved throughout the year with Darnell and Tait Sibbel.

Men’s Golf
GPAC standing: T-10th (338-335–673 at fall GPAC qualifiers)
Top performer: Sophomore Shawn Rodehorst was the Bulldogs’ top finisher in each of the Bulldogs’ five meets and eight rounds of golf during the fall. His 18-hole average of 77.25 topped Concordia. The native of Kearney, Neb., enjoyed his best performance at the Doane Invite when he tied for third place overall after shooting a personal best of 74 on day two of the event. Rodehorst sits in 30th place (82-78–160) after two GPAC qualifiers.
Fall highlights: Led by Rodehorst’s second round 74, the Bulldogs posted their highest finish of the fall season – seventh place at the Sept. 17-18 Doane Invite. Concordia carded a two day total of 344-322–666. With Rodehorst as one of the team’s few returners from the previous season, the Bulldogs were breaking in several freshmen, including Grand Island, Neb., native Garrett Suchanek, who was Concordia’s No. 2 golfer over the final two fall events.
Thoughts from Coach Brett Muller: I feared that this season might be a little rough after only returning Shawn from our top eight from last year’s team. Shawn played his best golf at Wilderness Ridge (Sept. 17-18) finishing with a two day total of 152 (78-74) and tied for third place. Garrett Suchanek came on late in the year averaging 81 his last three tournaments. Seven different guys played on varsity. We need a few guys to step up and separate themselves from the pack. I look for us to be better during the second semester.

Women’s Golf
GPAC standing: 11th (415-392–807 at fall GPAC qualifiers)
Top performer: Senior Makenzie Deutschman concluded her Concordia career as the team’s top golfer throughout the fall season. She averaged an 88.43 over seven rounds of golf and had her best showing at the Doane Invite with an 82 on the event’s second day. Deutschman concluded the first two GPAC qualifier meets in a tie for 27th with teammate Chelsea Peck, who both totaled 191 after 36 holes.
Fall highlights: The Bulldogs’ best performance came at the Nebraska Wesleyan Invite Sept. 16-17 when they shot 365-377–742 over the two-day meet. Duetschman carded an 84 on both days as Concordia went on to an eighth place finish. The duo of Deutschman (88) and Peck (89) finished tied for fifth and seventh, respectively, at the Midland Invite to open the season on Aug. 31.
Thoughts from Coach Brett Muller: The first half of the women’s season didn’t go as well as we planned. With us having everyone back from a year ago I expected to be more consistent than we were. Makenzie and Chelsea both medaled in the first meet of the year at Midland. Chelsea showed the type of player she can be after shooting a 42 on the back nine at GPAC No. 2. Wilderness Ridge is the toughest course our women’s team will play. With Mackenzie not returning for the second semester (student teaching), we need people to step up.

Men’s Soccer
2012 Record: 11-8 overall; 4-6 GPAC (8th)
Top performer: Junior Nathan Douglas scored 11 goals for the second straight season to lead the Bulldogs on the attack. The native of Winnipeg, Canada, earned first team all-GPAC and CoSIDA Capital One Academic All-District 6 accolades after ranking fourth in the conference in goals. His 23 points led Concordia. Douglas also posted three multi-goal games and now has 29 goals in his career, just two short of the school record.
Season highlights: Senior forward Aaron Skipworth tied former Bulldog Bernie Ochoa for a school record of 31 career goals. With their second home win of the season, Concordia extended its home win streak to 10 games as part of a second-straight 11-win season overall. The 11 wins were one shy of a school mark set by the 2001 team that featured current head coach Jason Weides as a player. The Bulldogs now own a record of 22-11-3 over the past two seasons. Hastings (39), Midland (23) and Northwestern (23) are the only GPAC squads with more wins during that time. In addition, a bevy of freshmen saw lots of action, including second team all-conference selection Sean Doran, who put up five goals this season.
GPAC all-conference: Nathan Douglas (first team); Sean Doran (second team); Aaron Skipworth (honorable mention)
Thoughts from Coach Jason Weides: 2012 was filled with triumph and tribulation. Despite once again winning 10-plus games this season, we fell short of our high expectations of winning a conference championship. Our upperclassmen worked incredibly hard this offseason and deserve praise for leading our young team dominated by freshman and sophomores. This team had the talent and opportunity to win every game we played so it's disappointing knowing that we were capable of more success.  We are excited about next season with returning a young but experienced squad. In 2012, many freshmen and sophomores played significant roles and quality minutes. The experience they gained this fall will be of great benefit as we prepare this offseason. They now better understand the rigors of a college season and the preparation it takes to succeed. We expect to take another step forward and win a conference championship.

Women’s Soccer
2012 Record: 6-9-1 overall; 4-5-1 GPAC (8th)
Top performer: The play of sophomore Rachel Mussell became one of the top stories during the fall sports season. The native of Buffalo, Minn., soared from two goals as a freshman last season to 14 as part of a first team all-GPAC sophomore campaign. The consistently potent Mussell notched at least one goal in 10 of the team’s 16 games. Her hat trick in Concordia’s second game of the season signaled the start of a brilliant season.
Season highlights: The emergence of players like Mussell allowed head coach Lisa White’s squad to remain competitive in a tough GPAC despite the loss of several experienced veterans following the 2011 season. The Bulldogs had two separate three-game stretches in which they went unbeaten. Concordia went 2-0-1 between Oct. 13-20 when it had league victories over Morningside and Briar Cliff, teams that both finished .500 or better in conference play. Mussell was joined on the all-conference team by junior Emily Fleming, who had a team high six assists (third in the GPAC).
GPAC all-conference: Rachel Mussell (first team); Emily Fleming (second team); Jordan Donohoue (honorable mention)
Thoughts from Coach Lisa White: Overall I am pleased with how our program recovered with the challenges that come from graduating such a large class the previous year. In regards to conference play, we were only two games off our record last year which is really incredible considering the youth of our squad this past season. It was really enjoyable to watch the rise of our junior class as the season progressed as it transitioned into leadership roles on and off the field. I cannot help but to be incredibly excited about our 2013 campaign, especially as I reflect on the recruits that we have been able to connect with and the experience of our freshmen and sophomore class. I am particularly grateful to our seniors this year as they lived out and passed on our core values as Bulldogs – Family, Relentless, Integrity and Commitment.

2012 Record: 10-21 overall; 4-12 GPAC (9th)
Top performer: Senior Amanda Kisker floored a career best 378 kills in 2012 on the way to becoming the first Bulldog to receive first team all-conference honors since 2007. The Lincoln native also added 312 digs to finish her career at 1,111 kills and 784 digs in 131 matches. This season she posted double digit kill numbers in 22 of the team’s 31 matches and put down 15 or more kills on 10 occasions.
Season highlights: The Bulldogs got hot in the middle of the season with wins in four out of six conference matches and victories in five out of seven overall. That stretch from Sept. 18 to Oct. 6 included a quality road win over rival Nebraska Wesleyan as well as a triumph over GPAC postseason semifinalist Briar Cliff. For much of the season Concordia fought valiantly against one of the NAIA’s toughest schedules that included 10 matches against nationally-ranked opponents. The Bulldogs nearly defeated GPAC postseason champion and then No. 19 Doane on Oct. 24 when the Tigers needed five sets to finally put Concordia away. The outstanding play of Kisker and several sophomores such as Carli Smith highlighted head coach Scott Mattera’s first season as a Bulldog.
GPAC all-conference: Amanda Kisker (first team); Carli Smith (second team); Amanda Abbott (honorable mention); Mariah Schamp (honorable mention)
Thoughts from Coach Scott Mattera: The success of the 2012 season won’t really be understood for a few years. We had some very nice wins and pushed some very highly ranked teams to the limit, but what we are most proud of is the level of improvement we gained not only skill wise but in our understanding of systems and in our athletic abilities as well. This foundation has not only prepared our current players going forward but it has also set the stage for a fantastic recruiting class that will join them in the fall. We know that things are looking very good for Bulldog volleyball and I think that people outside are noticing. We placed a player on first team all-conference for the first time in many years, landed our libero on second team and are getting looks from high level recruits. The energy around the program couldn’t be better right now and I’m looking forward to starting up training again after the holidays.

19 November 2012

Moment No. 1: The Concordia men's GPAC cross country crown tops the list of moments for fall Bulldogs athletics.

Moment No. 2: Bulldog football upsets No. 11 Northwestern.

Moment No. 3: Mussell busts loose with 14 goals during her sophomore season.

Moment No. 4: Amanda Kisker went over the 1,000 career kills mark during a first team all-conference senior season.

Moment No. 5: Concordia men's soccer wins 10th straight game at Bulldog Stadium.