Rewind: recapping the spring of 2014

Rewind: recapping the spring of 2014

2013-14 season recaps:

FALL | WINTER

TOP MOMENTS

Liz King destroys school javelin record, wins national title
Sophomore Liz King had a ridiculous outdoor season, tossing javelins preposterous distances. She broke the GPAC meet record by more than 16 feet with her mark of 157’ 8” on May 2. A week later she took it another level with an NAIA-leading toss of 166’ 11” at the Concordia Twilight. The next time out all she did was win the first national title by a Bulldog female athlete since Stephanie Beberniss captured two pole vault titles in 2003. King out-distanced the national championship field by more than 15 feet in another dominant effort.

“She dominated the event,” 22nd-year head coach Kregg Einspahr said. “National champ as a sophomore and win by 15 feet – how about that. She’s a great gal with a super personality. I’m really happy for her. She came into the day as a favorite and it was great to see her have that performance.”

Softball makes first ever national tournament appearance
One year after a 14-25 campaign, Concordia University softball rebounded in a big way under first-year head coach Todd LaVelle. The Bulldogs went 32-16 (fourth most wins in program history), finished runner up at the GPAC tournament and advanced to the national tournament for the first time in school history. The wild ride came to an end with losses to No. 6 St. Gregory’s (Okla.) and Bellevue at the NAIA opening round, but even in defeat Concordia acquitted itself well.

“I think it’s a combination of things but I’m going to give all the credit to the players and our five seniors,” LaVelle said after the team’s season-ending loss. “They worked and did everything we asked as a coaching staff. They believed. They showed heart. They showed character. They did everything we could possibly ask. When all that comes together and they play as one, good things happen.”

Amber Topil home run propels Bulldogs to national tournament
Senior catcher Amber Topil produced arguably the most memorably moment of the entire 2013-14 Concordia athletics season when she drilled a two-run, walk-off home run on May 2 to beat Midland and clinch a spot in the national tournament. That hit is quite likely the most significant one in the history of the program. It was an opportune time for the Seward native to strike for her first home run of the season.

“I got like 1,800 hugs,” Topil said not long after connecting on the homer. “I just didn’t even know what was going on. I don’t know how I didn’t cry. We have an unbelievably close group. This was an unreal team win. I couldn’t be prouder to be part of this team.”

Concordia men win first two GPAC track and field titles in school history
After several runner-up GPAC finishes in recent seasons, the Concordia track and field program got the monkey off its back in 2014 by winning not just the indoor title in early March, but also the outdoor championship in early May. What made the victories even sweeter was the fact that both meets took place at Doane, the school Concordia had been looking up to in the conference pecking order.

“Last year I promised prematurely that we were going to get the GPAC title, but I’m glad we could make up for it this year, especially at Doane’s home track,” senior John Cartier said after the indoor title on Feb. 23. “They ran a great meet here, but I’m just glad we did get the W. It’s been four years in the making. We’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs. I’m just so happy and thankful.”

Koll runs GPAC win streak to 10
Senior Katelyn Koll completed a stellar career for Bulldog tennis. At one point she pushed her conference winning streak to 10 when she topped Hastings’ Liz Harlow, 8-6, on April 23. The native of Wilber, Neb., completed the season at 10-4 overall and 5-1 in GPAC matches. Her lone conference loss came to GPAC player of the year, Frankie Eszes of Northwestern. Koll shined against other all-conference No. 1 singles players, earning wins over Morningside’s Katie Hanson and Nebraska Wesleyan’s Hannah Husmann. In her career, Koll went 36-21 over four seasons as a Bulldog. In her sophomore through senior seasons, the native of Wilber, Neb., went 20-4 in GPAC singles matches.

Ahlers wins GPAC Qualifier No. 3, leads turnaround for women’s golf
Freshman Amy Ahlers had little trouble adjusting to life as a collegiate golfer. The Boone Central High School product tied for fourth on the GPAC leaderboard with her four-round GPAC qualifier total of 89-80-80-83–332 in 2013-14. She led the team with an 84.6 average through 12 rounds. In a total of 10 meets, she placed in the top 20 on nine occasions. She took first place three times, shooting a career low 80 in each instance.

Gause/Yerrell enjoy hot streaks on way to second team all-conference honors
Center fielder Camaren Gause and third baseman/designated hitter Andrew Yerrell served as bright spots for Concordia baseball throughout the 2014 season. There may not have been a hitter in the nation hotter than Gause during a stretch that spanned from March 30 – April 18. During that time, Gause recorded at least one hit in 12-straight games and went 21-for-45 (.467) with five home runs, 15 RBIs and 45 total bases. Yerrell saved his best hitting for the final five games of the season when he went 11-for-16 (.688) with three triples, two doubles and a home run. Both represented Concordia with second-team all-conference laurels.

Bulldogs finish fourth in 2013-14 GPAC all-sport standings
In the 2013-14 GPAC all-sport standings released by the conference on May 6, Concordia finished fourth with 137 points. That total was just two points away from second place and allowed the Bulldogs to move up from their sixth-place standing in 2012-13. Concordia was fueled by league titles by men’s indoor and outdoor track and field and women’s basketball and runner-up finishes by women’s indoor and outdoor track and field and wrestling. View the complete standings HERE.

“We want to finish in the top four every year,” Director of Athletics Devin Smith said. “From a strategic standpoint we’ve made steps to improve our athletic programs across the board. Our goal in the coming years is to get back to No. 1 in the GPAC all-sport standings like we were in 2002-03 and 2004-05.”

Reckewey hired to lead men’s and women’s tennis programs
Concordia named a new head men’s and women’s tennis coach on April 23. Read more about Coach Joel Reckewey HERE.

SEASON SUMMARIES

Baseball
2014 record: 16-30 overall, 6-14 GPAC (T-9th)
Top performer: Third baseman/designated hitter Andrew Yerrell went 11-for-16 (.688) with three triples, two doubles and a home run over the final five games of the season to raise his team high average to .363 (11th in the GPAC). The native of Santa Fe, Texas, ended up ranking in the top 15 among GPAC players in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, runs, hits, RBIs, doubles, triples, total bases and stolen bases. Yerrell topped the Bulldogs with an impressive .991 OPS (.470 OBP / .521 SLG) out of the No. 3 spot in the batting order.
Season highlights:  After dropping its first four games of the Arizona spring break trip, Concordia got rolling with six-straight wins under the desert sun. The Bulldog bats exploded during that stretch by averaging nearly 11 runs per contest on the strength of a .383 (69-for-180) batting average. On March 30 Concordia came through with a thrilling come-from-behind victory when center fielder Camaren Gause drilled a walk-off, two-run homer for a 14-13 win over Dakota Wesleyan. The blast completed the rally after the Tigers led 13-5 after five innings. After sweeping the doubleheader from Dakota Wesleyan, Concordia lost 12 of its last 15 games and missed the GPAC tournament.
GPAC all-conference: Camaren Gause (second team); Andrew Yerrell (second team); Taylor Dudley (honorable mention); Will Holbrook (honorable mention); Jordan Stirtz (honorable mention); Daniel Wilkerson (honorable mention).
Thoughts from Coach Jeremy Geidel: The season showed a lot of promise in a lot of areas, and there is significant progress being made despite some disappointments in the final outcome of the season. Missing the conference tournament is not something that sits well with the players or coaches, and therefore is what will motivate the 2014-15 squad, which will be upperclassmen heavy. Fourteen seniors are returning with a determination to finish what they started. Regardless of their individual roles in the program, each will have an impact on the success of the 2014-15 campaign. In addition to the multiple returners who had significant contributions in this past season and the new recruits coming in, the 2015 spring will be exciting to watch. It’s not difficult to look at the 2014 season and know exactly what needs to be fixed and improved upon. Just as the 2014 season was improvement upon the 2013 season, I look for even greater improvements in 2015.

Golf
2013-14 men’s GPAC finish: 8th (317-345-326-325–1,313)
2013-14 women’s GPAC finish: 6th (366-374-383-359–1,482)
Top performers: Amy Ahlers put together one of the top seasons in the history of Concordia women’s golf as just a freshman. The native of Albion, Neb., tied for fourth in the conference (89-80-80-83–332) and placed first at two of the four GPAC qualifier meets. She led the team with an average of 84.6 and finished among the top 20 performers at nine of 10 meets. On the men’s side, junior Shawn Rodehorst again starred on the way to earning all-conference recognition for the second-straight year. After placing eighth in the conference as a sophomore, the Kearney, Neb., native wound up 16th (78-86-77-78–319) this time around. His mean score of 78.8 again paced the Bulldogs.
Season highlights: Both programs moved in the right direction in 2013-14, particularly the women who chopped 124 strokes off their GPAC qualifier total from the previous year. Led by Ahlers, Concordia moved from 11th in the GPAC in 2012-13 to sixth this past season. Ahlers won three meets and combined with fellow freshman Kayla Krueger to give the Bulldogs a solid 1-2 rookie punch at the top of the lineup. The team’s lowest 18-hole score came on April 15 at the Nebraska Wesleyan Invite where they carded a 358. The men also improved, rising from 10th last year to eighth this season. The veteran squad had plenty of varsity option as seven different players posted season averages below 85. The team’s season low score came at GPAC Qualifier No. 1 in the fall when it shot a 317.
GPAC all-conference: Amy Ahlers (finished 4th in GPAC); Kayla Krueger (honorable mention); Shawn Rodehorst (16th in the GPAC).
Thoughts from Coach Brett Muller:
-The men’s season was filled with many ups and downs. The team highlight for the year was placing sixth of 17 teams at the Wild West Shootout in Gothenburg. Shawn was selected as a GPAC All-Conference performer. Finishing tied for eighth in the GPAC was disappointing, as the team had higher goals. Going into next year we have some talented recruits and our goal will be to finish toward the top of the GPAC.
-The women’s team took a big step in the right direction this year. Moving up to sixth in the GPAC standings is just a glimpse of what this team can do. Freshmen Amy Ahlers and Kayla Krueger both made significant impacts as our Nos. 1 and 2 players. Amy picked up three tournament wins, two of those coming in the GPAC qualifiers. With our top six players returning and some solid recruits joining the team in fall, I expect practice to be competitive.

Softball
2014 record: 32-16 overall, 12-8 GPAC (T-3rd; tournament runner up)
Top performer: Senior Amanda Beeson gave Concordia a true ace it could lean upon all season. The workhorse pitcher became just the third hurler in school history to reach 200 innings. She also piled up the second highest strikeout total (189) and tied for second in wins (19) on the program’s all-time list.  She set a new career high for strikeouts in a game by fanning 14 hitters in a win over Sterling College on March 21. Beeson appeared in the circle in 37 of the team’s 48 games, earned all five wins at the GPAC tournament and received second team all-conference honors.
Season highlights: There may not have been a single moment in all of the 2013-14 Concordia athletic season that generated more excitement than Amber Topil’s walk-off home run at the GPAC tournament on May 2. The blast broke an 8-8 tie in the bottom of the eighth and clinched a spot for the Bulldogs in the 2014 NAIA Softball National Championships Opening Round. The clutch hit provided the biggest highlight of an exhilarating turnaround season that included a school record 9-0 start. Head coach Todd LaVelle’s Bulldogs won 32 games (fourth most in school history) and reached the national tournament for the first time ever. Throughout the season, Concordia defeated three teams that advanced to the national tournament: then No. 10 Olivet Nazarene (March 10), Bellevue (April 1) and Morningside (May 3).
GPAC all-conference: Amanda Beeson (second team); Molly Madsen (second team); Amber Topil (honorable mention).
Thoughts from Coach Todd LaVelle: I'm very proud to be such a small part of an outstanding softball team this past year. All the wins, records set and post season accomplishments were really great to see, but being able to watch these young ladies grow on their "softball" journey will always be the best memory of the 2014 Bulldog team.

Tennis
2014 men’s record: 9-8 overall, 3-2 GPAC (3rd)
2014 women’s record: 2-13 overall, 2-5 GPAC (6th)
Top performers: In a tough season as a team, senior Katelyn Koll continued to be a dominant force at the top of the Concordia singles lineup. Dating back to the previous season, Koll extended her winning streak to 10 matches against GPAC opponents. She went 10-4 overall and 5-1 in GPAC action in her final collegiate season.  In her career, Koll went 36-21 over four seasons as a Bulldog. In her sophomore through senior seasons, the native of Wilber, Neb., went 20-4 in GPAC singles matches. On the men’s side, freshman Javier Moreno had the top singles mark, going 9-8 at the No. 2 spot. He also teamed with fellow freshman Patricio Esquivel on an 8-7 record at No. 2 doubles.
Season highlights: Koll’s continued impressive play at No. 1 singles and the Concordia men’s 3-0 start to the GPAC season provided the biggest highlights for Bulldog tennis. The men opened the conference season by defeating Midland, Morningside and Doane as part of a rebound season following a 2013 campaign in which Concordia went 5-11 overall. The Bulldogs advanced to the semifinals of the GPAC tournament by eliminating Midland, 8-1, on May 2 prior to a 5-1 season-ending loss to Nebraska Wesleyan.
GPAC all-conference:
-WOMEN – Katelyn Koll (No. 1 singles)
-MEN – Patricio Esquivel (honorable mention doubles); Javier Moreno (honorable mention singles/doubles).
Program vision of newly hired head coach Joel Reckewey: Concordia University provides a positive and healthy environment that gives the student-athlete every opportunity to learn, grow in their faith and have important life experiences. As the head tennis coach it will be an absolute joy to work with every tennis player, and to strengthen and grow each individual relationship. My mission is to compel my players to always do their best and in the process help them to strengthen their character so they can be great tennis players and people.

Outdoor Track and Field
2014 men’s finishes: 1st in GPAC, 11th at national championships
2014 women’s finishes: 2nd in GPAC, 9th at national championships
Top performers: Sophomore Liz King shined in the javelin at every meet and ended up winning GPAC and national titles in dominant fashion. She broke the school record in the event with her toss of 166’ 11” at the Concordia Twilight meet. She took first place in the javelin in a total of seven meets. Five other Bulldog women captured All-America honors. On the men’s side, Ben Hinckfoot won the GPAC title in the 400 meter hurdles and then finished third in the event at the national championships. He was also an All-American in the 110 meter hurdles. A deep group of throwers was led throughout the season by Zach Lurz, who was the male GPAC performer of the conference meet and finished as an All-American in the discus.
Season highlights: The two GPAC men’s titles that came out of the 2014 season will not be soon forgotten. They were the first in the history of the program and broke the stranglehold formerly held by rival Doane. It was a season of impressive numbers in many ways as the Bulldogs had 52 all-conference honorees, 12 total All-America performances a national champion in Liz King and a national best scholar athlete tally for both men (18) and women (20). There were also school records set by the likes of Cody Boellstorff (hammer throw), Ben Hinckfoot (400 meter hurdles), King (javelin), Zach Lurz (shot put), Lydia Pomerenke (heptathlon), Kim Wood (800 meter run) and by the men’s 4x100 meter relay. In addition, the women were runner up in the GPAC and posted a top 10 national finish. The men were close with an 11th-place claim at the national championships.
NAIA All-Americans:
-Cody Boellstorff, hammer throw (4th, 195’ 8”)
-John Cartier, 400 meter dash (7th, 47.93)
-Stephanie Coley, shot put (4th, 47’ 1 ¾”)
-Jamie Crouse, hammer throw (8th, 171’ 1”)
-Carson Farr, pole vault (3rd, 16’ 8 ¾”)
-Ben Hinckfoot, 400 meter hurdles (3rd, 52.14); 110 meter hurdles (8th, 14.63)
-Liz King, javelin (1st, 164’ 8”)
-Zach Lurz, discus (6th, 161’ 5”)
-Lydia Pomerenke, heptathlon (5th, 4,671 points)
-Sara Simmons, heptathlon (6th, 4,621 points)
-Shelby Yelden, pole vault (3rd, 12’ 1 ½”)
Thoughts from Coach Kregg Einspahr:
On nationals: You have to go into a national championship meet thinking that a lot of things can happen. With championship track meets you realize that you can’t hold your breath. As soon as something disappointing happens, something great comes up. I thought we had a real good meet. I’m very proud of our teams. We really had some super efforts this weekend.
On men’s GPAC titles: We’ve been in the top three on an annual basis and knocking on the door (of a title). I don’t think we’ve ever been in a position to convincingly win the conference championship like we were this year. It really came together for us at the indoor conference meet. Those are milestones. It’s kind of a hump to get over.

28 May 2014

National champion Liz King

Senior Amber Topil delivered perhaps the biggest hit in Concordia softball history with a national tournament-clinching walk-off home run.

Concordia men's track and field won its first two GPAC titles in school history, completing the run with an outdoor title this spring.

Freshman Amy Ahlers shined in her first season as a collegiate golfer.

Senior Camaren Gause ended his career with second team all-conference honors.