Winter sports rewind

Concordia moves up to second in GPAC all-sport standings
An impressive winter season for Concordia athletics has vaulted it up to second in the GPAC all-sport standings. Schools are awarded points based on where their teams finish in the league standings. Concordia’s 80.5 points are second to Morningside’s 91 points.

The Bulldogs vaulted to second on the strength of GPAC titles in men’s indoor track and field and women’s basketball. In addition, Concordia had second-place finishes in both wrestling and women’s indoor track and field. All four programs improved their standing within the conference in relation to last year.

TOP MOMENTS

Men’s track and field wins first GPAC title in school history
The Concordia women’s track and field program won a conference title as recently 2010, but the men had yet to break the stranglehold that Doane and Nebraska Wesleyan held on the top spot going back to the days of the Nebraska-Iowa Athletic Conference. That changed on Feb. 22 when 22nd-year head coach Kregg Einspahr’s men dethroned Doane and hoisted the GPAC indoor championship trophy. The Bulldogs got first-place finishes from their men’s 4x400 meter relay, John Cartier (400 meter dash), Noah Smith (60 meter dash) and Jaap Van Gaalen (600 meter run).

Cartier: “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,” Cartier said. “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.”

Women’s basketball overcomes injury to tie for GPAC title
Jericca Pearson went down with a torn ACL on Dec. 30 and Kristen Conahan suffered a knee injury on Jan. 8 – the same game in which Bailey Morris also left the contest early. It took a stretch of just over a week for the 2013-14 season to go from promising to bleak. Improbably, eighth-year head coach Drew Olson led his team on a late-season eight-game win streak without the services of Conahan and Pearson. Morris returned from the injury scare on Jan. 8 and emerged as one of the top players in the nation. With her leading the charge, the Bulldogs tied for their second GPAC regular-season title in three years.

While Concordia suffered a first-round national tournament loss, it still had plenty to feel good about following the ninth 25-win season in the past 13 years. “I had a great time with this team. That’s what hurts so bad,” Olson said. “What they did second semester – they have a lot to be proud of. That’s why I felt like this team deserved to continue on. Without Conahan and Pearson, a lot people didn’t think we would get to the national tournament.”

Wrestling experiences dramatic turnaround
There may not have been another wrestling program in the NAIA that experienced a bigger turnaround from 2012-13 to 2013-14. Second-year head coach Dana Vote orchestrated a transformation that saw the Bulldogs go from sixth place in the GPAC, last in the NAIA North Qualifying group and no national qualifiers to second in the GPAC, second in the North and six national qualifiers. In addition, junior college transfer Emilio Rivera went undefeated against conference opponents and was named GPAC Wrestler of the Year. At the national championships, senior Austin Mogg, another new face, placed fifth to earn All-America honors.

“I think we can make a huge jump again next year. I really do,” Vote said. “Where we finished, a lot of people would be satisfied but we were actually disappointed with where we finished. We want to crack that top 10 (nationally).”

Bailey Morris / Emilio Rivera take GPAC yearly honors
Juniors Bailey Morris and Emilio Rivera became the first players in the history of their respective programs to win GPAC yearly honors. Morris, a four-time GPAC Player of the Week this past season, received GPAC Women’s Basketball Player of the Year recognition after leading the conference in scoring. Rivera, who finished 23-8 overall, was named GPAC Wrestler of the Year following his 133-pound NAIA North title.

Crouse completes impressive indoor career
Senior Jamie Crouse finished her indoor track and field career at the national championships with her third-straight All-America performance in the weight throw, an event in which she also won three-consecutive GPAC titles. Crouse, who fell just short of the school weight throw record, is also a two-time All-American in the hammer throw (outdoor).

Both hoops teams win CIT titles
The Concordia men won its 25th CIT title and the women seized their 24th championship trophy as the Bulldogs swept the annual event, held this year at Concordia-Wisconsin. Adam Vogt earned tournament MVP honors on the men's side while Bailey Morris received the same award on the women's side. 

SEASON SUMMARIES

Men’s Basketball
2013-14 record: 8-21, 3-17 GPAC (10th)
Top performer: Playing in a starring role for the first time in his career, senior Adam Vogt produced a solid season that included a CIT MVP award and second team all-conference laurels. Vogt, a native of Syracuse, Neb., finished 13th in the GPAC in scoring (14.5), sixth in 3-point shooting percentage (.413) and seventh in free throw shooting percentage (.843). In 105 career games, the 5-foot-9 guard totaled 910 points – 420 of which came in his senior season.
Season highlights:  While there where several agonizingly close losses in conference play, Concordia relieved some of that frustration by capturing the 25th CIT title in school history. Head coach Ben Limback’s squad rallied back an 18-point deficit to beat Concordia-Ann Arbor on Jan. 24. The next day the Bulldogs defeated host Concordia-Wisconsin, 68-64, to reclaim the CIT trophy. In terms of rankings, the Bulldogs’ most impressive win came at the Cattle Classic on Nov. 9 when Vogt poured in 26 points to lead an 85-76 upset of then No. 13 Oklahoma Wesleyan, which went on to reach the national tournament.
GPAC All-Conference: Adam Vogt (second team); Chandler Folkerts (honorable mention); Robby Thomas (honorable mention).
Thoughts from Coach Ben Limback: While we did not meet all of our goals this season, it was a great group of guys to work with. Losing Max Wegener to a season ending injury the third game into the season, coupled with Joel Haywood missing time due to an injury, was a tough challenge to start the season. But it gave opportunities for some other young guys to step up, namely Robby Thomas, Chandler Folkerts, Justin Damme, Aaron Walker and Eli Ziegler. Senior Adam Vogt was instrumental in keeping the team focused through adversity which really allowed the young guys to continue to improve. His leadership, toughness and intensity will surely be missed. This offseason is dedicated to becoming both mentally and physically tougher. The returners now have a better understanding of what it will take to get to the upper level of the conference and I feel they are hungry to take that next step.

Women’s Basketball
2013-14 record: 25-8, 16-4 GPAC (T-1st)
Top performer: Junior Bailey Morris had already established herself as a star in her sophomore campaign. She then put herself on the national spotlight this season by breaking a school single-game record with 45 points in a win over No. 3 Northwestern on Feb. 15. Morris earned GPAC Player of the Year recognition by leading the league in scoring during the regular season (19.3). She also finished second in the conference in assists (4.1), third in free throw percentage (.826) and fifth in steals per game (2.44). Morris, a native of Roseland, Neb., will enter her senior season at 11th in school history with 1,389 career points – 411 shy of Sarah Harrison’s program record.
Season highlights: Morris exploded as a junior to help lessen the blow of the injuries to Britney Birtell, Kristen Conahan, Lori Laboda and Jerrica Pearson at points throughout the season. Concordia went on an improbable eight-game winning streak late in the season to tie for its third GPAC regular-season title in three seasons. It also reached the national tournament for the sixth time in the past seven years and for the 13th time in program history. Head coach Drew Olson twice guided his team to wins over teams ranked No. 3 nationally – Morningside on Nov. 16 and Northwestern on Feb. 15. In addition, the Bulldogs won the CIT title for the 24th time in school history.
All-Americans: Bailey Morris (first team); Tracy Peitz (third team).
GPAC All-Conference: Bailey Morris (player of the year/first team); Tracy Peitz (defensive player of the year/first team); Kristen Conahan (honorable mention); Kelsey Hizer (honorable mention); Jericca Pearson (honorable mention); Becky Mueller (honorable mention).
Thoughts from Coach Drew Olson: It was an exciting season. We had some incredible highs and lows throughout the year. I am impressed with how the team handled the adversity of losing three key players (Conahan, Pearson, Birtell) at midseason. I am so proud of their accomplishments of CIT champs, GPAC champs and another trip to the NAIA national tournament. The fans had to be entertained during all of our close wins and losses. We are very thankful to have outstanding people like Kristen Conahan, Lori Laboda and Britney Birtell in our program. They will be extremely missed. I know this program will continue to strive for the ultimate goal of a national title. With the return of GPAC player of the year Bailey Morris, GPAC defensive player of the year Tracy Peitz, all-GPAC honorable mentions Kelsey Hizer and Becky Mueller, along with other returners and another strong recruiting class, I know we have a chance at achieving that goal.

Indoor Track and Field
Men’s finishes: 1st at GPAC Championships; 17th at NAIA National Championships
Women’s finishes: 2nd at GPAC Championships; 11th at NAIA National Championships
Top performers: Many Bulldogs did big things for head coach Kregg Einspahr’s track and field squads. Senior Jamie Crouse closed her indoor career with her third-straight All-America performance in the weight throw via a third-place finish. Crouse was one of 15 All-Americans at the indoor national championships. Fellow senior John Cartier competed in an All-America 4x400 meter relay for the fifth time in his career. Cartier ran the anchor for a quartet that finished the race in school record time. In addition, sophomore Kim Wood took another step forward, winning GPAC titles in the 1,000 meter and one mile runs. She then raced to All-America accolades in the 1,000 meters and as part of the 4x800 meter relay.
Season highlights: The men’s GPAC title surfaced as the biggest highlight of the 2014 indoor season. The first championship in school history was powered by four first-place claims, including two that involved Cartier (400 meters, 4x400 meter relay). The women put together a solid conference meet as well and finished runner up prior to an 11th place national championships finish.  Since 1997, the Bulldog men have placed inside the top 25 on 14 occasions, including six top 10 finishes. During that same time period, the women have finished in the top 25 a total of 12 times with three top 10 placements.
All Americans: Jonathon Becker (4x400 meter relay); Cody Boellstorff (weight throw); John Cartier (4x400 meter relay); Stephanie Coley (shot put); Jamie Crouse (weight throw); Carson Farr (pole vault); Alex Heiden (4x400 meter relay); Zachary Lurz (shot put); CJ Muller (4x400 meter relay); Lydia Pomerenke (pentathlon); Erika Schroeder (4x800 meter relay); Marti Vlasin (4x800 meter relay); Jenean Williams (4x800 meter relay); Kim Wood (1,000 meter run, 4x800 meter relay); Shelby Yelden (pole vault).
GPAC All-Conference: See complete list HERE.
Thoughts from Coach Kregg Einspahr: We had a tremendous season to finish first (men) and second (women) in the GPAC conference and have both teams finish so well – women 11th and men 17th at the national championships.

We have an outstanding track and field conference and to win the men’s championship was quite an accomplishment. Scoring over 190 points at the GPAC conference meet is very notable. We have a balanced team with scoring potential in nearly every event this year. Our student-athletes worked very diligently to accomplish this goal. I would also point out that our assistant coaches have done an excellent job in recruiting and coaching these individuals. Coach Mark Samuels, Coach Ed McLaughlin, Coach Jason Berry and Coach Nick Mann are very passionate about coaching and teaching track and field. They love what they do here at Concordia and it definitely came through during our indoor track and field season.  We hope to build on this success for the outdoor season and for seasons to come.

Wrestling
2013-14 dual record: 9-8, 5-2 GPAC (T-2nd)
Finishes: 2nd at NAIA North Qualifier; 22nd at NAIA National Championships
Top performer: Junior Emilio Rivera found his way to Concordia via Palomar College and made a seamless transition in his first season as a Bulldog. Rivera (23-8) earned GPAC Wrestler of the Year honors by going 11-0 against conference opponents. The native of Escondido, Calif., won the NAIA North 133-pound title and qualified for the national championships, where he came up frustratingly close of All-America honors. Concordia also got stellar work from senior Austin Mogg (fifth place at 125 pounds – All-America) and from freshman Austin Fehlhafer (28-11, 20 pins).
Season highlights: Head coach Dana Vote and the Bulldogs did a complete 180 in comparison to the previous season. The Bulldogs qualified six wrestlers for the national championships and finished second in both the GPAC and NAIA North Qualifier in a big turnaround campaign. Rivera won the North title, Mogg claimed All-America honors and Fehlhafer established himself as one of the top freshman grapplers in the NAIA. With Mogg being the only senior of the six national qualifiers, Vote is at the controls of a program with a clear upward trajectory.
All-American: Austin Mogg
GPAC All-Conference:
Emilio Rivera (wrestler of the year/first team); Austin Fehlhafer (first team); Enrique Barajas (honorable mention); Ken Burkhardt, Jr. (honorable mention); Kodie Cole (honorable mention); Austin Mogg (honorable mention).
Thoughts from Coach Dana Vote: We have five guys at the national championships that will all be back next year. I think they got hungry and they saw how close we came in some matches. They’re ready to get back to the drawing board and start working for next season already. I think we can make a huge jump again next year. I really do. Where we finished, a lot of people would be satisfied but we were actually disappointed with where we finished. We want to crack that top 10 (nationally).

20 March 2014

Men's track and field captures first GPAC title in school history.

Bailey Morris earned GPAC player of the year/All-America recognition in leading Concordia women's basketball to its second GPAC regular-season title in three years.

For the third-straigh year, senior Jamie Crouse won the GPAC weight throw title and collected All-America honors in the event.

Junior Emilio Rivera was part of a dramatic turnaround for Concordia wrestling in 2013-14. Rivera went on to earn GPAC wrestler of the year recognition.

Both Bulldog basketball teams won CIT titles at Concordia-Wisconsin in January.