2012-2013 Women's Basketball

25-7 Overall, 16-4 GPAC - Season Stats

OCTOBER

Oct. 29 York College  York, Neb. W, 92-45

NOVEMBER

Concordia Classic: Nov. 2-3
Nov. 2 Hastings College vs. William Penn University  Seward, Neb. 6 p.m.
Nov. 2 McPherson College (Kan.)   Seward, Neb. W, 102-54
Nov. 3 Hastings vs. McPherson  Seward, Neb. 12 p.m.
Nov. 3 William Penn University (Iowa)  Seward, Neb. W, 79-56
Nov. 6 (23) College of Saint Mary  Seward, Neb. W, 81-51
Cattle Classic: Nov. 9-10 (also view Cattle Classic page for more tournament info):
Nov. 9 Doane vs. York  Seward, Neb. 1 p.m.
Nov. 9 Johnson & Wales (Colo.)  Seward, Neb. W, 121-72
Nov. 10 Doane vs. Johnson & Wales  Seward, Neb. 12 p.m.
Nov. 10 York  Seward, Neb W, 95-50
Nov. 17 * Mount Marty College  Seward, Neb. W, 91-61
Nov. 20 * Nebraska Wesleyan University  Lincoln, Neb. W, 91-61
Nov. 27  * Midland University  Seward, Neb.
W, 110-65

DECEMBER

Dec. 1 * (4) Morningside College  Sioux City, Iowa W, 80-76
Dec. 5  * (5) Briar Cliff University
Sioux City, Iowa
W, 72-65
Dec. 8  * Dakota Wesleyan University 
Seward, Neb.
W, 78-58
Hoop 'N' Surf Classic
Dec. 20 (16) University of the Cumberlands (Ky.)
Honolulu, Hawaii W, 59-53
Dec. 21 Doane College
Honolulu, Hawaii W, 66-53

JANUARY

Jan. 2 * (8) Northwestern College  Seward, Neb. W, 71-68
Jan. 5 Dordt College  Sioux Center, Iowa L, 86-96 (2 OT)
Jan. 8 * Hastings College  Seward, Neb. W, 76-57
Jan. 12 * (4) Morningside College  Seward, Neb. W, 78-66
Jan. 16 Midland University  Fremont, Neb. W, 80-49
Jan. 20 Dakota Wesleyan University  Mitchell, S.D. L, 61-72
Jan. 23
* Doane College
Crete, Neb.  W, 75-63
Concordia Invitational Tournament:  Jan. 25-26
(view the CIT pages at CUNE for more information)
-For complete tournament stats, click HERE
Jan. 25 CU-Wisconsin vs CU-Ann Arbor  Seward, Neb. 1 p.m.
Jan. 25 CU-Chicago  Seward, Neb. W, 90-49
Jan. 26 CU-Chicago vs. CU-Wisconsin  Seward, Neb. 12 p.m.
Jan. 26 (10) CU-Ann Arbor  Seward, Neb. L, 69-73
Jan. 29
* Nebraska Wesleyan University 
Seward, Neb.  W, 78-54

FEBRUARY

Feb. 2 * (11) Northwestern College  Orange City, Iowa L, 51-63
Feb. 6 * (9) Briar Cliff University  Seward, Neb.  L, 80-89
Feb. 9 * Dordt College  Seward, Neb.  W, 87-64
Feb. 13 * Hastings College  Hastings, Neb. W, 73-61
Feb. 16 * Mount Marty College Yankton, S.D. W, 88-61
GPAC Tournament: Feb. 20, 23, 26
Feb. 20 Dordt College  Seward, Neb.
W, 75-63
Feb. 23 (8) Northwestern College
Seward, Neb.
L, 83-85

MARCH

NAIA Tournament: March 6-12
March 7 (21) Cardinal Stritch University (Wis.)  Sioux City, Iowa L, 60-66


*Indicates Great Plains Athletic Conference Games

All Home Games in BOLD

2012-2013 Roster

No. Name Pos. Ht. Yr. Hometown Previous School
10 Taylor Wissing G 5-8 Fr. Seward, Neb. Seward
12 Bailey Morris G 5-4 So. Roseland, Neb. Sandy Creek
14 Tracy Peitz G 5-10 So. Hartington, Neb. Hartington Cedar Catholic
20 Lori Laboda F 5-11 Jr. Parker, Colo. Chaparral
22 Kristen Conahan G 5-5 Jr. Omaha, Neb. Millard North
24 Kelsey Hizer G 5-10 So. Parker, Colo. Parker Lutheran
30 Beth Kohmetscher G 5-6 Sr. Deweese, Neb. Sandy Creek
32 Katie Rich G 5-9 Sr. Tilden, Neb. Elkhorn Valley
34 Dawn Martin G 5-8 Sr. Rockford, Ill. Rockford Lutheran
40 Jenna Lehmann F 6-2 Fr. Albion, Neb. Boone Central
42 Jericca Pearson F 5-10 So. Gibbon, Neb. Gibbon
44 Liz Sjuts F 5-10 Fr. Humphrey, Neb. Humphrey St. Francis
50 Sara Simmons G 5-10 So. Sumner, Neb. SEM
52 Britney Birtell F 6-0 Jr. Madison, Neb. Lutheran High Northeast
54 Ashley Kuntz F 5-10 So. Blair, Neb. Omaha Concordia

Coaching Staff

Head Coach: Drew Olson

Assistant Coach: Amy Harms

Graduate Assistant: Thad Sankey

Women's basketball picked to defend GPAC title

11 OCT 2012

GPAC Release

Concordia women’s basketball has claimed the top spot in the GPAC preseason coaches’ poll released on Thursday by the league. Head coach Drew Olson’s squad received seven of 11 first-places votes and 96 total points in the poll.

The Bulldogs hope to defend their GPAC regular-season and tournament titles in what was a remarkable 2011-12 season that included a 34-3 record, a berth in the national semifinals and a No. 3 national ranking in the postseason poll. Concordia boasted a league mark of 18-2, allowing it to finish two games ahead of both Northwestern and Morningside in the standings.

While the Bulldogs graduated star guard Amber Kistler, the team remains stocked with talent, led by junior do-everything guard Kristen Conahan. With a deep and accomplished group of returners, Conahan and company have set their sights set on similar success in 2012-13.

Northwestern, winner of the last three national championships, checks in at No. 2 in the poll. The Red Raiders earned 93 points and took the remaining four first-place votes. The biggest question mark for Northwestern will be who replaces last season’s National Championships Tournament MVP Kami Kuhlmann.

Concordia begins its season on Oct. 29 when it travels to play at York College in a 6 p.m. contest.

GPAC Women's Basketball Preseason Coaches' Poll

*First-place votes in parentheses

1. Concordia - 96 (7)
2. Northwestern - 93 (4)
3. Morningside - 84
4. Briar Cliff - 70
5. Hastings - 59
T6. Dordt - 50
T6. Mount Marty - 50
8. Dakota Wesleyan - 38
9. Doane - 27
10. Midland - 23
11. Nebraska Wesleyan - 15 

Bulldog women's basketball tabbed NAIA preseason No. 1

23 OCT 2012

NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Top 25 Preseason Poll

Head coach Drew Olson’s Bulldogs will begin the 2012-13 campaign ranked No. 1 in the nation. Concordia was placed atop the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Top 25 Preseason Poll with 11 of 13 first-place votes and 342 total points, the NAIA announced Tuesday.

It’s the Bulldogs first No. 1 national ranking since March 4, 2003. That date marked the ninth-consecutive week that Concordia held down the top spot. Led by then head coach Todd Voss, the Bulldogs went 36-2 overall and advanced to the national semifinals where they lost 66-60 to Hastings, the eventual national champion.

With Tuesday’s announcement, Concordia has now been ranked in 14-straight polls, dating back to the preseason poll of last year. The Bulldogs peeked in the poll at No. 2 last season, a position they held for four weeks in a row from Feb. 6–29. They finished at No. 3 in the postseason ranking.

In 11 all-time trips to the National Championships, Concordia holds a record of 18-11. The Bulldogs have reached the semifinals on three occasions but have never played in a national title game.

Eleven of the last 12 national titles have been won by GPAC schools, including the five championships captured by Northwestern (who has won the last three straight). During that period, Hastings and Morningside have each cut down the nets three times.

The preseason poll contains five GPAC programs: Concordia, No. 2 Northwestern, No. 5 Morningside, No. 8 Briar Cliff and No. 18 Hastings.

The Bulldogs begin their season on Oct. 29 with a 6 p.m. non-conference game at York College.

2012-2013 women's basketball season preview

25 OCT 2012

At a glance
2011-12 Record: 34-3 overall; 18-2 GPAC; won GPAC regular-season and tournament titles and advanced to the national semifinals; ranked No. 3 in postseason coaches’ poll
Head Coach: Drew Olson (seventh year)
Record at School: 141-60 overall; 72-39 GPAC; 2011-12 GPAC Coach of the Year; four National Championships appearances
Returning Starters (3): Kristen Conahan, Lori Laboda, Britney Birtell
Returning Letterwinners (10): Britney Birtell, Kristen Conahan, Kelsey Hizer, Beth Kohmetscher, Lori Laboda, Dawn Martin, Bailey Morris, Jericca Pearson, Tracy Peitz, Katie Rich
Key Losses: Brittany Benson, Amber Kistler
Key Newcomers: Jenna Lehmann, Liz Sjuts, Taylor Wissing
2011-12 GPAC All-Conference (*denotes returnee):*Kristen Conahan (first team); Amber Kistler (first team); *Katie Rich (second team).
2011-12 NAIA All-America: Amber Kistler (first team); Kristen Conahan (second team)

Outlook
How do you follow up a 2011-12 season in which you won GPAC regular-season and tournament titles, went 34-3 and finished No. 3 in the nation? Well, a return trip to the National Championships in Sioux City, Iowa, next March would be a great place to start.

The Bulldogs, who begin the season ranked No. 1 in the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Top 25 Preseason Poll, lose an important piece of last season’s national semifinalist squad with the graduation of Concordia’s 2011-12 Female Athlete of the Year in guard Amber Kistler. But the 2011-12 Bulldogs featured only two seniors who played significant minutes, meaning the cupboard is well-stocked with talent and experience.

After falling 74-70 to College of the Ozarks (Mo.) in last season’s national semifinals, Concordia believes it has some unfinished business to attain entering the 2012-13 campaign.

“I think it’s been really good,” seventh-year head coach Drew Olson said of the team’s attitude in the preseason. “They have a lot of confidence, but at the same time we didn’t achieve the ultimate goal, which we felt like we could have. We felt like we were one of the best teams. Because we lost in the semifinals, I think there’s still a pretty big chip on their shoulders. Connie (Kristen Conahan), Katie (Rich), Lori (Laboda), Tracy (Peitz) – they’ve shown that they have something to prove this year.”

Thanks in large part to the return of players like Conahan and Rich, league coaches placed the Bulldogs atop the GPAC preseason poll. Conahan (14.7 ppg, 2.61 spg, 2.5 apg), a junior from Omaha, Neb., fits perfectly into the Bulldogs’ up-tempo, 3-point oriented attack. The 2011-12 Second Team All-American serves as the team’s catalyst and is one of the top players in all of the NAIA.

For a shooter like Conahan, whose 104 3-point field goals were tied for the most in the nation last season, the philosophy is shoot, shoot and shoot some more. However, the 5-foot-5 do-it-all guard has become an even more well-rounded player in the offseason.

“Connie has a special ability to get her shot off any time she wants,” Olson said. “She’s a great shooter, and I think you can tell the work she’s put in over the summer to be a little bit more physical, be a little bit more of a driver at times. She’s so fast, so explosive that it really makes her tough to guard.”

Then there’s Rich a 5-foot-9 guard, who is every bit as pesky as Conahan on the defensive end. The Tilden, Neb., native is a senior leader with more than 90 career games and nearly 1,000 points scored in a Bulldog uniform.

“She’s a great athlete. Nobody can really stop her in the full court,” Olson said. “Defensively, she’s the best in the conference, if not the best in the country. She can guard any position.

“I think Katie’s done a lot of work this summer. This is the first summer that she’s been healthy enough to be able to do stuff to work on her game. You can see it now. Her offensive game is so much more improved.”

While Conahan and Rich are the most-decorated returnees, the Bulldogs are teeming with depth at every position, lessening the blow of Kistler’s departure.

“We are looking for someone to step in and fill that leadership role and the role of scoring those points,” Rich said. “But last year we never knew who was going to have a good game. I feel like Bailey Morris stepped up big when we needed her to. Tracy Peitz stepped up big. Beth Kohmetscher hit some big shots for us at the end of games. Lori Laboda gets some big rebounds for us. It’s awesome that we can go eight-to-10 deep, strong.”

Morris (8.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.7 apg), Peitz (4.7 ppg, 1.86 spg) and Kohmetscher (4.3 ppg, 1.3 rpg) combine with Conahan and Rich to give the Bulldogs an almost unfair number of quality options in the backcourt. All are liable to knock down shots from the outside for a team that ranked seventh in the NAIA with an average of 8.03 triples per game last season and regularly emphasizes 3-point shooting drills in practice.

The trio of Morris, Peitz and Kohmetscher could all see their scoring outputs increase this season as they continue to take on larger roles. Sophomore Kelsey Hizer, a 5-foot-10 native of Parker, Colo., should also see increased minutes and figures to be a defensive asset.

While the backcourt provides a lot of the firepower, the importance of Laboda on the inside cannot be understated. Laboda, also from Parker, Colo., led Concordia with 6.6 rebounds per game and 30 total blocks last season as the team’s top performer down low. She is joined by junior Britney Birtell (4.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg) and sophomore Jericca Pearson (4.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg) in a solid frontcourt.

Possible impact newcomers include Seward’s own Taylor Wissing, plus Jenna Lehmann (Albion, Neb.) and Liz Sjuts (Humphrey, Neb.). The three hope to mesh with an already star-studded roster.

Considering the sum of all these parts, it’s not hard to understand why Rich and her teammates are thinking big. These Bulldogs have dreams of cutting the nets down come March 12, 2013 – the date of this season’s national title game.

“We set our main goals like win the CIT Championship, the GPAC regular-season championship, and we do talk about getting to the national tournament,” Rich said. “I think it’s always in the back of our heads that we know we want to win the national championship. The main question is what we are going to do to achieve that. We know we can make it to the final four. We did that last year.

“It’s kind of like a chip on our shoulders. We know we can push ourselves to the next level.”

Concordia begins its 2012-13 season on Oct. 29 at York College, with game time scheduled for 6 p.m. The Bulldogs will host their home opener on Nov. 2 at 8 p.m. versus McPherson (Kan.) as part of the Concordia Classic.

Top-ranked Bulldogs throttle York in season opener

29 OCT 2012

YORK, Neb. – The top-ranked Bulldogs employed their signature depth and pressure defense in a dominant 92-45 season-opening victory at in-state York College on Monday night. Preseason No. 1-ranked Concordia lived up to its billing in a game that was well in hand midway through the first half.

“I thought we played really well,” Bulldog head coach Drew Olson said. “Defensively I thought we got after them right away and got off to a big run to begin the game, which was great. Defensively we did some really nice things in the half court that we really tried to emphasize in the second half.”

The Panthers (0-1) showed life early on with an 8-2 run in a stretch that spanned 1:23 to cut a 12-point deficit to just six. However, the Bulldogs quickly reasserted control and went on a 19-0 run capped by a long two-point jumper from Lori Laboda that made the score 35-10 with 9:45 to play in the first half.

Concordia (1-0) cruised the rest of the way using superior size and athleticism to gain a 51-32 rebounding advantage and force 36 York turnovers. Despite an uncharacteristic 8-for-36 night from beyond the arc, the Bulldogs led by 20 or more points for more than 30 minutes of Monday’s game.

Sophomore guard Bailey Morris took command of the offense and showed vast improvement on the heels of a fine freshman campaign last season. Morris scored seven points during Concordia’s monster first-half run and ended up with a game high 18 points. She also totaled seven rebounds and three assists.

“Coaches talked about me being more of a scorer this year,” Morris said. “I tried to do that, and everybody else stepped up and hit some big shots too.”

The trio of junior Laboda (eight points, four rebounds), junior Britney Birtell (seven points, nine rebounds) and freshman Jenna Lehmann (nine points, three rebounds) dominated play on the interior. The strong effort on the boards led to 24 offensive rebounds and numerous second-chance points.

“We knew that they were a little bit of a smaller team and that we might be able to attack them inside,” Olson said. “Britney Birtell was fantastic – got a lot of loose balls, lot of offensive rebounds. Jenna Lehmann, Ashley Kuntz scored really well inside. It was really nice to have post production along with our guard play.”

All fourteen Bulldogs who made the trip saw action with 12 tallying points on the scoreboard. Nine of those players notched between six and 18 points as Concordia showcased an array of talented scorers. The Bulldogs’ out-numbered the Panthers 46-10 in bench scoring.

“We wanted to come out and play focused,” Morris said. “We’ve been waiting for this game for a long time. We just came out ready to play, and people made some big plays. We came out on them early and that helped us the rest of the game.”

The Bulldogs took a lead of 53-22 to the half after executing a perfect out-of-bounds play that ended with senior Beth Kohmetscher nailing a two-pointer from the top of the left wing. The precisely run play was a fitting close to a first half that featured a ball-hawking Bulldog defense (35 total steals for the game) and a multitude of easy lay ins right at the bucket.

Concordia star junior guard Kristen Conahan added nine points, five steals, three assists and three rebounds. York, which nailed 8 of 17 3-point attempts, was led by the 11 points of Sara Lincoln.

The Bulldogs host their home opener Friday at 8 p.m. versus McPherson (Kan.) as part of the Concordia Classic. The weekend event continues on Saturday with William Penn serving as the opponent for a 2 p.m. contest.

No. 1 Concordia buries McPherson in battle of Bulldogs

02 NOV 2012

SEWARD, Neb. – The top-ranked Bulldogs dominated for the second-straight game to open the 2012-13 season. Concordia (2-0), despite a somewhat sluggish start, led 53-23 at halftime and sailed to a 102-54 victory over McPherson on Friday night inside Walz Arena. The game marked day one of the weekend Concordia Classic.

“It felt like it was kind of a 10-point game for the first part of the first half,” Bulldog head coach Drew Olson said. “All of the sudden you look up and we’re up 22. We go on those big runs with our press. That’s kind of what did it. McPherson played us really tough in the beginning.”

Concordia’s full-court pressure forced 29 turnovers from McPherson (0-2), also nicknamed the Bulldogs. Sophomore Bailey Morris led Concordia with four steals, while Kristen Conahan, Beth Kohmetscher and Katie Rich each added three apiece as part of a smothering defense.

“It’s something we really emphasize at practice,” Conahan said. “That’s what we want to be known for because our defense will give us more opportunities on offense so that’s really what we tried to do. We didn’t know much about McPherson so we just wanted to come out with a bunch of ball pressure.”

With the Concordia junior varsity squad on the road during Friday’s varsity affair, Olson’s team still had plenty of depth with 11 players seeing action. Seven Bulldogs went for 11 points or more, topped by the 14 each from Conahan and Kohmetscher. Rich and Jenna Lehmann both added 13 points.

“Our JV’s were away and got a good win at Central (CC) tonight so we weren’t actually able to play some of our swing kids,” Olson said. “But I’m pretty confident playing an Ashley Kuntz or Taylor Wissing, so I feel like we can go 11, 12 deep.

“It’s nice because we can keep running kids at them.”

Even for last season’s high-powered Concordia squad, 100 points in a game was a feat it only accomplished twice. After two games this season, Conahan and the Bulldogs are putting up an average of 97 points per game with victory margins of at least 47 points in both wins.

A strong showing of students came out for the Friday opener, something that Conahan and her teammates deeply appreciated.

“It was great seeing a lot of people there tonight,” Conahan said. “It always gives us more motivation. It’s fun.”

McPherson star guard Brittany Pittas was held to 10 points after going for 32 in the team’s season opener. McPherson’s Taylor Puttergill tied a game high with 14 points.

The Concordia Classic picks up again on Saturday. Concordia will go up against William Penn (2-0) at 2 p.m. The Lady Statesmen knocked off No. 18 Hastings earlier on Friday in the first game of the weekend event.

No. 1 Bulldogs pass test in stiffest challenge yet

03 NOV 2012

SEWARD, Neb. – Head coach Drew Olson and the top-ranked Bulldogs knew they would face their most challenging test to date with William Penn (Iowa) serving as Saturday’s opponent. The Lady Statesmen pushed Concordia throughout much of the first half before the Bulldogs took control and salted away a 79-56 victory over the Midwest Collegiate Conference foe.

William Penn was vying for its second upset of a GPAC school in two days at the Concordia Classic. The Lady Statesmen (2-1) knocked off No. 18 Hastings 52-49 on Friday.

“William Penn’s a really good team, really athletic,” Olson said. “I think they’re a team we might see again at the National Tournament, but our team really handled their athleticism, their one-on-one play. It was just great composure. We’re starting to learn how to play together.”

The Lady Statesmen held an early lead of 8-4 and tightened the game up late in the first half when a Sarah Martin 3-pointer with 5:31 remaining capped an 8-0 run and cut the Concordia lead to 28-27. William Penn got within 35-31 with 3:47 left in the half before a 9-2 Bulldog run squelched the threat.

The inside-outside game of senior guard Katie Rich was simply too much for the Lady Statesmen. The Tilden, Neb., native piled up a game high 23 points and added eight points in a dominant performance.

“She’s really changed her game by improving her 3-point shot,” Olson said. “People actually have to guard her on the perimeter now. She’s so explosive in the way that she can get to the rim.

“She’s like a pogo stick. Once the ball is missed she goes up and gets it again and finds a way to get the ball in the hole.”

While Concordia (3-0) was out-rebounded 53-40 on Saturday, Rich and teammates Jerrica Pearson (10 points), Jenna Lehmann (8 points) and Lori Laboda (6 points) had their way offensively in the paint.

“We knew it would be a lot more physical with some bigger (William Penn) players,” Rich said. “We had our mindset ready to go for today. I think we were really focused mentally and came out hard in both halves.”

Sophomore guard Bailey Morris made two 3-pointers in the final 2:07 of the first half to give the Bulldogs some breathing room and allow them to take a 44-33 lead to the break.

A bucket by the Lady Statesmen’s Arielle McClellan at the 13:42 mark of the second half brought William Penn within 50-43. Laboda then answered with a basket in the paint on the next possession and the Lady Statesmen would get no closer the rest of the way.

Senior Beth Kohmetscher ballooned the Concordia lead to its largest at 23 points with 33 seconds to play and capped the game’s scoring. Kohmetscher made two of her three attempts from beyond the arc.

Junior Kristen Conahan struggled with her shot (2-for-10 from the field) but contributed greatly with five assists and four steals. Morris, one of three Bulldogs in double figures in scoring, finished with 11 points on three-for-four shooting from downtown.

William Penn was led by the 11 points of returning Second Team All-American Orielle Thomas. She also had 10 turnovers against a stifling Concordia defense that forced 26 more turnovers on Saturday.

The Bulldogs now look forward to next week with three more home contests, starting with No. 23 College of Saint Mary (Neb.) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Concordia then plays Johnson & Wales (Colo.) and York as part of the Cattle Classic.

“It’s going to be a tough, tough battle on Tuesday,” Olson said. “College of Saint Mary is a nationally-rated team. They were at the National Tournament last year. You’re going to see a ton of 3’s so it should be pretty fun to come out and watch.”

Concordia cruises past No. 23 Saint Mary

06 NOV 2012

SEWARD, Neb. – Top-ranked Concordia flexed its muscles in an early season test against No. 23 College of Saint Mary (Neb.) on Tuesday night at Walz Arena. The Bulldogs (4-0) used their ball-hawking pressure defense to force 39 turnovers and limit the Flames to 12-for-48 shooting in an 81-51 victory.

Concordia got out to a quick 16-1 advantage after senior Beth Kohmetscher sank a 3-pointer off the assist from Katie Rich at the 15:54 mark of the first half. Saint Mary (1-1) would never recover and failed to cut its deficit to fewer than 12 points the rest of the way.

“That was a great start for our group,” Olson said. “I thought it was something that we really needed, kind of sending a message. That’s a really, really good team. I also know that they’re a team that doesn’t have a lot of depth. We wanted to get the pace going early. I felt like if we could get on top early it might make their shooters a little bit tighter.”

After St. Mary played the Bulldogs even over the final 15:54 of the first half, Concordia got out to another fast start at the beginning of a half. Junior guard Kristen Conahan got loose for a long two-point jumper from the right wing and then a 3-pointer from the top of the key to quickly extend the Bulldog lead to 46-26 with 18:23 to play.

“In the first half I wasn’t real happy with how we got complacent,” Olson said. “We allowed them back in the game. They hit a couple back-to-back 3’s that got the lead back to about 13.

“Second half Conahan was great. She can go on big runs as a lot of them can. She was the one that stepped up and hit some big shots tonight.”

Conahan finished with a game high 20 points on 8-for-19 shooting, including 4-for-9 from 3-point range. She also added five more steals to raise her season total to 17 in only four games.

Through four contests, the Bulldogs’ average margin of victory is 33.5 points thanks in large part to a smothering defensive effort that has already caused 130 turnovers.

“I think our coach is really good at emphasizing our press,” sophomore Tracy Peitz said. “We really work on that during practice so I think we do really well at the beginning of games, pressing and getting up on them and pressuring the ball.”

Peitz had a great all-around game with nine points, seven rebounds, five steals and four assists. She got help from teammates like Rich, whose 11 points allowed her to surpass 1,000 career points. She entered the night at 991 points as she begins her final season at Concordia.

Twelve of the 13 Bulldogs to see action on Tuesday scored. While only two Concordia players reached double-figures, five tallied eight or more points.

The balanced group of Bulldogs feeds off of one another.

“I think our team is really close and that helps out,” Peitz said. “Our chemistry is really good. I think that helps push each other in practice and in games. We’re a really close-knit team.”

The Bulldogs are now 1-0 this season versus ranked opponents. They recorded a mark of 11-3 last season against top 25 foes.

Concordia now shifts focus to this weekend’s Cattle Classic at Walz Arena. The Bulldogs will host Johnson & Wales (Colo.) (0-3) at 6 p.m. on Friday and then face York (1-1) for the second time this season on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Top-ranked Bulldogs drop 121 on Johnson & Wales

09 NOV 2012

SEWARD, Neb. – Head coach Drew Olson’s Bulldogs continued their dominant early season play with a 121-72 victory over Johnson & Wales (Colo.) at Walz Arena on day one of the Cattle Classic on Friday. The Bulldogs improved to 5-0 while Johnson & Wales dropped to 0-4.

“We played really well early on,” Olson said. “The press kind of got to Wales and it was really nice to see our aggressiveness defensively, and we shot really well too.”

The Bulldogs shot 47.1 percent (40-for-85) from the floor and 40.5 percent (15-for-37) from behind the arc on the evening.

Concordia scored the first nine points of the game, capped by two Tracy Peitz free throws, until allowing the Wildcats to cut the deficit to 13-8 roughly four-and-a-half minutes in. But back-to-back 3’s by Beth Kohmentscher and Dawn Martin soon after ensured it would be a long day for visiting Johnson & Wales.

Concordia sophomore Bailey Morris had 22 points and dished out six assists to lead the team in both categories. Junior Kristen Conahan added 21 points and five assists. Senior Katie Rich chipped in with 17 points. Sophomore Tracy Peitz had 15 points, senior Kohmetscher had 15 points and sophomore Jerrica Pearson had 14.

The Bulldogs controlled the boards as Pearson had nine rebounds and junior Lori Laboda added eight. Overall, Concordia out-rebounded Johnson & Wales 46-31.

Defensively, Morris used her quick hands and anticipation to get nine steals, while Conahan added five steals. The outstanding defensive play of Morris and Conahan helped the Bulldogs force 44 Wildcat turnovers, pushing Concordia to 174 total turnovers forced in only five games (34.8 per game).

Pearson was impressed with the team camaraderie and explained the importance of playing together, with all cylinders clicking.  

“We worked really hard, we focused more on team things, Pearson said. “Today we came out, worked together, and got a victory. We’ve really been focusing on becoming more post oriented. With our speed, we’re able to beat other posts down the court. We’re more physical so we can get (more) open. We’ve been working so hard on our three point shooters also when they can kick it into us, it gives them opportunities to make some threes; it just balances out.”

While the team continues to roll and the scores continue to soar high, Olson keeps an even keel, and stresses the importance of playing steady each game.

“We’re not just playing this game to win. We’re trying to get better each game.”

With 121 points on Friday, Concordia posted its highest total since Nov. 12, 2004, when it defeated Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) 107-54. The high-powered Bulldogs have now equaled the two 100-point games they had the entire 2011-12 season. On average, Concordia is outscoring its opponents 95.0 to 55.6.

The Bulldogs will tip off against York in a rematch of their first regular season game at 7 p.m. on Saturday as the Cattle Classic continues. Concordia won the season opener 92-45 over the Panthers.

Bulldogs maul Panthers

10 NOV 2012

SEWARD, Neb. – For the second time in 13 days, Concordia squared off with York College. Saturday’s Cattle Classic tussle saw a similar result as the top-ranked Bulldogs (6-0) overmatched the visiting Panthers (1-4) to the tune of a 95-50 drubbing at Walz Arena.

York junior guard Sara Lincoln poured in a 3-pointer at the 10:20 mark of the first half to get the Panthers within 19-13, but it was all Concordia from that point on. The Bulldogs went on a 22-2 spurt that included nine points from sophomore Jericca Pearson during the run. Concordia closed the half leading 50-23 with its sixth straight win to begin the season all but sealed up.

The Bulldogs continued their early season theme of spreading the offensive attack around. Concordia had five players score between 12 and 14 points as part of another balanced effort. Guards Kristen Conahan and Bailey Morris tied for a game high with 14 apiece.

“We have a lot of depth and it’s really fun because you get to play with a lot of different people,” senior Beth Kohmetscher said. “We all come and work really hard. As we continue to play together we have more confidence in one another.”

Kohmetscher, the Bulldogs’ most reliable outside shooter thus far, kept up her torrid efficiency from the perimeter in the team’s latest victory. The Deweese, Neb., native made 4-of-6 from 3-point range on the way to 12 points. She is now 19-for-42 (45.2 percent) on the season from long distance.

Freshman Jenna Lehmann enjoyed the most productive night of her young collegiate career. The native of Albion, Neb., needed only 19 minutes to put up 13 points, seven rebounds and two steals on 6-for-8 shooting.

Another commonality in each game so far this season has been the large turnover numbers put up by Bulldog opponents. Concordia’s pressure defense forced 30 more turnovers on Saturday, giving it 204 for the season for an average of 34.0 per game.

Concordia also had a huge edge in shooting percentage (50.6 percent to 32.2) and in rebounding (48 to 35).

Through six games, head coach Drew Olson’s Bulldogs have lived up to their No. 1 billing.

“We had a fun weekend,” Kohmetscher said of the team’s two Cattle Classic wins. “We played some pretty good teams and we know that we have to pursue getting better with one another and playing together. It’s just important for us to continue to work together as a team.”

Concordia, which defeated York 92-45 in the season opener on Oct. 29, is averaging 95.0 points per game while allowing 54.7. The Bulldogs entered play on Saturday at No. 3 nationally in points per game and second in steals.

Lincoln paced the Panthers with 11 points on 4-for-10 shooting.

The level of the competition will ratchet up as GPAC play tips off on Saturday, Nov. 17, when Concordia welcomes Mount Marty (1-1) to Walz Arena for a 2 p.m. contest.

Cattle Classic All-Tournament Team

Concordia – Beth Kohmetscher, Sr., G

Concordia – Katie Rich, Sr., G

York – Sara Lincoln, Jr., G

Johnson & Wales – Alex Courtney, So., F

Doane – Hannah Dostal, So., F

Kohmetscher continues hot shooting as Bulldogs roll

17 NOV 2012

SEWARD, Neb. – The top-ranked Bulldogs began their defense of last season’s GPAC crown by cruising past Mount Marty 91-61 on Friday at Walz Arena. For the second-straight year, Concordia (7-0, 1-0 GPAC) begins conference play with a victory over the Lancers (2-3, 0-1 GPAC).

Led again by an aggressive trapping defense, the Bulldogs bullied Mount Marty.

“Our defense is fantastic,” head coach Drew Olson said. “Our girls have really bought into what we do – be really aggressive in man-to-man and look to trap. The couple years playing with each other has really helped us figure out how to play with each other. It’s really paying off this year.”

The Bulldogs sprinted out to a big early lead thanks to a 13-0 run that made the score 15-2 at the 15:51 mark. The run included a pair of Tracy Peitz 3-pointers as well as a Katie Rich three-point play.

Mount Marty, who was coming off a 76-65 loss to No. 23 Saint Mary (Neb.) in its most recent game, cut the deficit to seven over the next two minutes as Concordia remained stuck on 15. However, back-to-back 3-pointers by Bulldog senior Beth Kohmetscher built the lead back up to 21-8 with 13:20 to go in the half and Concordia cruised the rest of the way.

Kohmetscher would go on to nail four 3-pointers in the first half and five for the afternoon on the way to a game high 15 points. She is now 24-for-50 from long distance on the season.

Kohmetsher, a native of Deweese, Neb.,led the way for an offense that once again displayed great balance. Concordia placed five players in double figures with Bailey Morris (14), Lori Laboda (12) Kristen Conahan (11) and Peitz (11) joining Kohmetscher.

“That’s our team,” Olson said. “We’ve got so many weapons that you don’t really know who’s going to be the dominant player that night. We just have great distribution all the way around. The girls are playing really well together.”

The Bulldogs, who entered the week leading the NAIA Division II women’s basketball with 20.5 steals per game, stole the ball 21 more times on Saturday (led by five from Katie Rich) and forced 29 Mount Marty turnovers. The tenacious Concordia defense held the Lancers to 37.5 percent shooting.

“It all started with our defense,” Morris said. “We were playing great defense up in our press in the half court, getting good traps and steals. That just opened up a lot of things for us offensively, being able to run in transition.”

The Bulldogs led 52-29 at halftime and built an advantage as large as 41 points in the second half. Sizzling shooting from the outside (13-for-28 – 46.4 percent), sparked by Kohmetscher, provided more than enough offense for Concordia to move to 1-0 in GPAC action.

Mount Marty got 11 points apiece from Taylor Forsch and Holly Hegge. Allison De Kam added seven points and nine rebounds.

The Bulldogs continue GPAC play on Tuesday when they travel to Lincoln to take on Nebraska Wesleyan (1-0), which won its season opener 52-40 over Macalester College on Friday. Tip off is set for 6 p.m.

No. 1 Bulldogs overwhelm Prairie Wolves

20 NOV 2012

LINCOLN, Neb. – The No. 1-ranked Bulldogs’ eighth game of the season looked much like their previous seven. A relentless pressure defense and hot early shooting from deep carried Concordia (8-0, 2-0 GPAC) to a 91-61 victory over Nebraska Wesleyan (1-2, 0-1 GPAC) on Tuesday. The win was the Bulldogs’ 17th-straight against conference opponents and 13th-consecutive against the rival Prairie Wolves.

“We played great in the first half,” Concordia head coach Drew Olson said. “I actually thought Wesleyan played really well at the beginning. They hit some shots, but our kids were ready to play. We hit some big shots to extend the lead. Eventually our pace and our pressure just kind of got to them, which allowed us to go on some big runs.”

Concordia junior guard Kristen Conahan scorched the nets with 15 first half points, including seven in the first 2:55 of game time. Senior sharpshooting guard Beth Kohmetscher then picked up where she left off by making her first two 3-point attempts to bring the Bulldog lead to 21-11 at the 13:42 mark. The lead bulged to 55-28 as Katie Rich capped all first half scoring with her second trey from the left corner.

While the Prairie Wolves were able to score at times by aggressively attacking the basket, they fell victim to a common fate suffered by Bulldog foes. Nebraska Wesleyan’s 31 turnovers negated its respectable 48.9 percent shooting from the field.

Concordia crushed what little hope the Prairie Wolves may have had with a 17-2 run that started late in the first half and culminated with a Katie Rich three-point play at the 18:44 mark of the second half. Rich went for 15 total points in showing off her inside-outside versatility offensively.

The lead grew to as large as 36 points in the second half, giving the Bulldogs the opportunity to once again spread minutes around to the entire bench. Concordia came in with 30 double-figure scoring efforts through seven games and got five more on Tuesday, led by the 17 from Conahan.

Rich (15), Jericca Pearson (13), Bailey Morris (12) and Jenna Lehmann (10) joined Conahan in double figures.

“That’s the great part about our team,” Olson said. “There’s no one dominant player – they’re all dominant. They can all at times exploit a matchup when they have a good one. That’s the tough part about guarding us is that you never know who’s going to play well. That’s why we’re a really good basketball team.”

The only negative in this affair was the Bulldogs’ inability to tack onto their big advantage in the second half. Concordia outscored Nebraska Wesleyan by only three points in the second half as the Bulldogs made only 1 of 12 from beyond the arc after a blistering first half (7-for-17).

Prairie Wolf senior guard Mallory Shanahan poured in a game high 19 points on 7-for-12 shooting.

Concordia is now 8-0 for the second straight season. Last season the Bulldogs lost their ninth game, a 69-66 home loss versus Morningside, but then regrouped to win the next five. The 2002-03 team began the season at 33-0 before ultimately finishing the season in the national semifinals and with a record of 36-2.

Concordia now has a week off before returning to GPAC play on Nov. 27 when it hosts Midland (3-4, 0-2 GPAC) at 7:30 p.m.

Conahan explodes as Bulldogs hammer Midland

27 NOV 2012

SEWARD, Neb. – The now consensus No. 1 Bulldogs cut through visiting Midland with near perfect precision in a 110-65 blowout on Tuesday night at Walz Arena. In the win, Concordia junior guard Kristen Conahan surpassed 1,000 career points by igniting for a game high and personal season high 31 points. The Bulldogs are now 9-0 overall and 3-0 in the GPAC. Midland fell to 3-5 and 0-3.

Tuesday’s performance was a microcosm of what Concordia basketball looks like at its finest – hot shooting from the outside and a ballhawking defense that forcers turnovers with a relentless full court press. With Conahan’s 5-for-7 shooting from beyond the arc leading the charge, the Bulldogs nailed 14 more triples.

“It was great. We executed plays and our full court press was just really good tonight,” Conahan said. “Our traps were solid. We just came out really strong. Even in the second half, we put a full game together finally.”

Despite entering the contest at only 31.6 percent from 3-point range, Conahan never lost confidence in her lethal outside shot.

“I try to come in the gym every day and shoot so I always have confidence,” Conahan said. “Sometimes it doesn’t fall for me, so I look for other players. That’s why our team is awesome. Anyone can score. It’s never a rough night.”

Head coach Drew Olson’s squad raced out to a typical fast start by scoring the first 14 points of the game, capped by a Conahan steal and layup at the 15:59 mark of the first half. Midland finally scored for the first time when Olga Mwenentanda made one of two free throws with 15:22 left in the half. The Warriors got their first field goal 27 seconds later with a score by Jami Thramer.

Conahan had plenty of help from her teammates as the Bulldogs’ most recent victory featured several acrobatic layups by the wizard-like Bailey Morris (22 points, six assists) and missiles from well beyond the arc by senior sniper Beth Kohmetscher (14 points, 4-for-8 from deep). Kohmetscher’s 3-pointer from about 25 feet out at the 8:36 mark of the second half extended the lead to 88-49 and signified the kind of night it was for a powerful Concordia bunch.

The final margin proved to be the largest of the game as the Bulldogs added on to a 63-29 halftime advantage. For the game, Concordia shot 53.5 percent (38-for-71) from the field compared to 36.8 percent shooting (21-for-57) by Midland, which also committed 28 turnovers.

A total of a dozen Bulldogs found their way onto the scoreboard, with Conahan pacing the team. She now has 1,012 points while averaging 12.9 per game for her career. She joins Katie Rich as the second Bulldog this season to eclipse 1,000 career points. Rich reached the figure in the Nov. 6 win over then No. 23 College of Saint Mary.

Junior Lori Laboda and sophomore Tracy Peitz each chipped in five steals as the nation’s leader in thefts picked up 23 more steals on Tuesday.

Concordia is now 9-0 for the first time since the 2004-05 team began its campaign at 14-0 on the way to an appearance in the national semifinals.

The Warriors got 10 points each from Joelle Anderson and Taylor Shepard.

A pair of unbeatens will clash on Saturday when the Bulldogs travel to Sioux City, Iowa, to take on No. 4 Morningside (6-0, 2-0 GPAC) at 5 p.m. Concordia won two of the three meetings last season between the two NAIA powerhouses.

No. 1 Concordia tops No. 4 Morningside in GPAC showdown

01 DEC 2012

By Taylor Mueller, Sports Information Assistant

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Top-ranked Concordia escaped with a narrow 80-76 victory in Sioux City, Iowa, on Saturday as it took down No. 4 Morningside in an early season showdown between the GPAC’s highest-ranked squads. The four point margin of victory was by far the slimmest this season for a Bulldog team that had won each of their first nine games by 23 points or more.

The Bulldogs built an early 8-2 lead to begin the game as Morningside (6-1, 2-1 GPAC) struggled to find a rhythm, going 1-for-9 from the field.

Concordia was able to stretch its lead to as much as 14 on a 3-point bucket by senior guard Beth Kohmetscher. By the end of the first half, however, Morningside had cut the margin down to six points.

The Mustangs came out firing in the second half, and by the 13:20 mark, had taken a 48-47 lead off a three point basket by Lacey Lehmann. Concordia came right back with a basket of their own on a layup by junior Lori Laboda that put the Bulldogs up 49-48.

"We got the lead right back so quick that it never felt like we were down,” head coach Drew Olson said.

Concordia never looked back, and commanded the game the rest of the night and threw in a 13-0 run to increase their lead to 60-48. With 3:24 left in the game, sophomore Baily Morris drained a cold-blooded 3-point basket to cushion the Bulldogs lead to 68-63. The teams traded baskets through the remaining minutes until Concordia stretched its lead to nine points with 51 seconds left off a layup by Morris.

The Mustangs refused to go away and came within four points with 31 seconds left off two free throws by Chelsie Trask. Free throws by junior Kristen Conahan put the game out of reach with 10 seconds left and put the score at 80-73.

A jumper and free throw by Trask produced the game’s final score of 80-76, running the Bulldogs’ record to 10-0 overall and 4-0 in GPAC action. It was the second victory over a ranked opponent this season.

Leading the Bulldogs with 16 points apiece was Morris and Conahan. Senior guard Katie Rich chipped in with 15 points, while Laboda added 13 of her own. Conahan used her quick hands to dish out five assists and get four steals defensively. Laboda also handed out five assists.

Concordia finished the night shooting 43.9 percent from the field, 29.6 percent from behind the arc. The Bulldogs made 14 of 16 shots from the charity stripe.

Laboda worked the glass hard all night and came up with three offensive and nine defensive rebounds to earn a double-double. Rich also snatched eight boards.

"It really was a game of runs. We were pretty much always in the lead except for the one-point lead Morningside had, but then we got it right back. I was pretty confident we would get the result we wanted, but I never felt like we were handling the situations quite as well as we could have."

"Every time the game hung in the balance we made a big play. Katie Rich made a big shot in the corner late in the game. Then Bailey Morris also hit a big shot in the corner and Jenna Lehmann had the three-point play."

Head coach Drew Olson was impressed with his team’s performance, despite their sloppy play at times.

"I thought defensively we played hard, but Morningside did a good job handling our pressure,” Olson said. “This was the first game going back to last season where we didn't win the turnover battle. I thought the plays we made offensively were huge. We made big plays when we needed it."

While the Bulldogs are one of seven undefeated teams in NAIA Division II competition, Olson isn’t focused on the standings.

"It's nice to win the game, but I don't think it does much that much for us in the standings,” Olson said. “It's still so early. We still have to play Morningside again and Briar Cliff and Northwestern twice. What it does, I think, is it give us a little more confidence. It reassures us that we can beat some of the great teams in the nation."

The Bulldogs face another tough test when they travel to Briar Cliff (10-0, 4-0 GPAC) to take on the No. 5-rated Chargers on Wednesday, Dec. 5 at 6 p.m.

"We play another elite team that we get to see how well we do against and see if we can continue to win tough games on the road,” Olson said.

Concordia topples another top five team on road

05 DEC 2012

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Top-ranked Concordia has made itself comfortable of late against top five teams that reside in Sioux City, Iowa. The Bulldogs won on the road for the second straight time against a team ranked among the nation’s top five by escaping with a 72-65 victory at No. 5 Briar Cliff on Wednesday night.

Concordia improved to 11-0 overall and 5-0 in GPAC action while Briar Cliff fell for the first time and is now 10-1 overall in 4-1 in the conference. The NAIA powers were two of seven undefeated squads entering the night. The Bulldogs were also the first team to defeat Morningside, taking down the fourth-ranked Mustangs 80-76 on Dec. 1.

“You have to give credit to Briar Cliff,” Bulldog head coach Drew Olson said. “We got up on them by 16 and they kept clawing back. They hit some big shots and took the lead a couple times late in the game, but I just love how composed our team was down the stretch.”

Last season’s GPAC Defensive Player of the Year Katie Rich came up huge down the stretch with two steal of her six steals in the final minute-and-a-half. The first one thwarted Briar Cliff’s attempt to regain the lead. The Chargers watched as the senior guard from Tilden, Neb., picked the pocket of Alex Fuller and raced to the other end for a layup that extended Concordia’s lead to 68-65 with 1:21 remaining. Rich continued to be a pest with another theft to maintain the Bulldog advantage with 36 seconds left.

“It was awesome,” Olson said of Rich’s defensive effort. “She wasn’t at that level the entire game. She let Kelsey Evans get a couple 3-pointers. But when we put her back in with about four minutes left, she honestly took over the game. She had a couple steals, a couple big rebounds and a block. It’s cool to see someone take over on the defensive end.”

Rich’s second steal led to Laboda getting fouled and making one of two free throws for a 70-65 lead with 28 seconds to play. After the Charger’s Kela Cihak missed the front end of a one-and-one on the next possession, Concordia scored quickly off the ensuing out-of-bounds play with layup by Laboda to beat the press and salt away another Bulldog victory.

Senior guard Beth Kohmetscher poured in all of her team high 14 points in the first half in allowing Concordia to gain a 42-28 halftime advantage. The Bulldogs pushed the lead to as many as 16 points in the second half before Briar Cliff came roaring back with a 21-4 spurt that gave the Chargers a 63-62 lead with 4:30 left.

That’s when players like Rich and sophomores Kelsey Hizer and Bailey Morris shined under pressure.

“Bailey got us going again with some big jumpers to calm our team down,” Olson said. “I can’t say enough about Kelsey Hizer. This was her first real game back from the injury. She filled in for Tracy Peitz and did a great job on Evans.”

Laboda nearly tallied a second-straight double-double as she ended up with 11 points and nine rebounds. Morris chipped in 12 points and four steals while Jenna Lehmann added 10 points and three blocks. The Chargers were paced by the 16 points of Evans.

Both teams were without a key player as Peitz and Briar Cliff’s Sara Reeves sat out on Wednesday due to injuries.

The Bulldogs are now 3-0 against ranked opponents with wins over then No. 4 Morningside, Briar Cliff and No. 23 College of Saint Mary. Concordia has also won 20-straight games against GPAC opponents, including eight in a row on the road. With a 5-0 conference mark, the Bulldogs are currently alone in first place atop the GPAC.

Concordia has won three consecutive games against Briar Cliff having swept the season series last season in a pair of closely contested games. The two GPAC title contenders are used to classic games that go down to the wire no matter the home team.

“We could play this game in Mexico and it would be the same game,” Olson said. “Great game with two great teams.”

The Bulldogs come back home on Saturday for a 2 p.m. game versus Dakota Wesleyan (8-3, 2-2 GPAC). Tiger junior forward Kim Johnson has been named the GPAC Player of the Week two-consecutive weeks.

Second half scoring spurt keys Bulldog win over Tigers

08 DEC 2012

SEWARD, Neb. – A surprising Dakota Wesleyan squad pushed No. 1 Concordia hard for nearly 30 minutes, but the Bulldogs used one of their patented scoring runs to pull away from the Tigers on Saturday. Concordia won 78-58 and remained unbeaten at 12-0 overall while bumping its GPAC-leading conference mark to 6-0. Dakota Wesleyan dropped to 8-4 overall and 2-3 in league play.

“Dakota Wesleyan is a really good team,” Olson said. “They are solid defensively and made us earn everything we got. It really came down to us being able to defend in the full court, getting them to play a little bit faster than what they want to. We caused a couple turnovers late that kind of broke the game open.”

The Tigers cut an early second half deficit of 16 points all the way down to three at the 10:48 mark after a Taylor Piper bucket in the paint capped a 17-4 Dakota Wesleyan run. That’s when Concordia took control of the game with a 17-2 spurt initiated by a Kristen Conahan steal and 3-pointer from the top of the key. Sophomore Kelsey Hizer finished the run with a layup that gave Concordia a commanding 65-48 lead with 6:23 remaining.

Concordia never led by less than 14 the rest of the way while holding an advantage as large as 23 points despite only 37.1 percent second half shooting and 37.9 percent shooting for the game. Once again the Bulldogs, the nation’s leader in turnover margin entering Saturday (plus-13.1), wreaked havoc defensively by forcing 29 turnovers. Concordia also did a fine job keeping star forward Kim Johnson and company off the offensive glass as the Tigers had only five offensive rebounds.

Lori Laboda enjoyed another fantastic game down low with 12 points and 12 rebounds for her second double-double in the last three games. The junior from Parker, Colo., also nailed a dagger of a 3-pointer during Concordia’s decisive second half run. She is averaging 12 points and 11 rebounds over the last three games.

“It was a really physical game and I just feel like there were a lot of opportunities for offensive boards,” said Laboda, who hauled in eight offensive rebounds on the afternoon. “Inside they weren’t as tall so it was easy to go up and get some easy points.”

While Kristen Conahan shot only 6-for-17 from the field, she managed 4-for-10 from the 3-point line and piled up a season high eight thefts in typical gnat-like defensive effort. Conahan led the team with 18 points and was backed by 15 from sophomore guard Bailey Morris and 10 from sophomore forward Jericca Pearson, who also swatted three shots.

“Both of them are fantastic guards,” Olson said of Conahan and Morris. “They really control the tempo of the game.”

Dakota Wesleyan, led by Kim Johnson who has taken the past two GPAC Player of the Week awards, came into the week just outside of the top 25. After being picked to finish eighth in the GPAC, the Tigers had won eight of their first 10 games but were unable to overcome their hefty turnover number and 43-33 disadvantage on the boards on Saturday.

Johnson finished with a game high 22 points while also adding six rebounds, three assists and two blocks.

The Bulldogs are now idle until Dec. 20-21 when they play in sunny Honolulu, Hawaii, as part of the Hoop ‘N’ Surf Classic. Concordia will take on the University of the Cumberlands (Ky.) and conference rival Doane in what is sure to be a memorable experience.

“We’re really excited and it’s an awesome place to go travel to,” Laboda said. “But we have to remember what we’re going there for, and that’s to get another two wins. So hopefully we’re just really prepared and ready to go when we get there.”

Defense carries Bulldogs to victory in The Aloha State

20 DEC 2012

HONOLULU, Hawaii – The top-ranked Concordia women’s basketball squad traveled nearly 3,800 miles to Honolulu, Hawaii, to continue its unbeaten run. The Bulldogs (13-0, 6-0 GPAC) overcame 29.0 percent (18-for-62) shooting and pulled away with a 59-53 victory over NAIA Division I 16th-ranked Cumberlands (Ky.) on Thursday evening at the Hoop ‘N’ Surf Classic hosted by McKinley High School.

“We really defended well. We took away their shooters and played physical inside,” Concordia head coach Drew Olson said.

A day after soaking up the sun on the beach, taking in the Pearl Harbor memorial and hiking Diamond Head crater, Concordia got back to business. The Bulldogs shook off their largest deficit of the season – a seven-point first half disadvantage – on the way to winning their first of two games in Hawaii.

Concordia used a late 7-0 run that ended at the 1:54 mark of the second half with a Katie Rich free throw that strengthened the Bulldog lead to 57-48. The run was initiated by freshman Jenna Lehmann’s layup with 5:11 remaining, coming on the heels of a 6-0 Patriot spurt that left Concordia clinging to a two-point lead.

Cumberlands (9-4) would not cut the deficit to less than six points the rest of the way. The Patriots, who failed to record a field goal in the final 6:13 of the first half, managed just one field goal in the last five-and-a-half minutes of the second stanza in a game that saw ugly shooting percentages on both sides.

Cumberlands, a school located in Williamsburg, Ky., and member of the powerful Mid-South Conference, appeared to take control late in the first half with a 13-5 run that made it 24-17 in favor of the Patriots with 6:13 left in the half. That’s when junior and Omaha native Kristen Conahan came alive again.

“Connie just totally took over in the first half,” Olson said. “She kept us in the game and allowed us to take the lead at the end of the first half.

“Then we got contributions from a lot of different people. Katie made a bunch of free throws. Lori (Laboda) had a big three. And even though Bailey (Morris) didn’t shoot well statistically, she had a couple big jumpers. Jenna (Lehmann) also had two really good finishes inside.”

On a night when points were difficult to come by, Conahan’s 13 first-half points loomed large. With Concordia trailing 24-20, Conahan drilled one of her three 3-pointers and then connected on a jumper to put the Bulldogs back in the lead. Concordia’s leading scorer helped the Bulldogs narrowly avoid going to the half with a deficit for the first time all season.

Cumberlands held a lead as big as four points early in the second half after a Jackie Alexander triple. But the Patriots struggled offensively against the Bulldogs’ usual stifling defense. Cumberlands shot 30.9 percent (17-for-55) for the game and committed 27 turnovers compared to 17 for Concordia.

“I thought they did a decent job of handling our pressure even though they had 27 turnovers,” Olson said. “They took the strategy of slowing the game down. They broke us early. As they fatigued we got into them.

“They’re such a different team. They play two posts the whole time and have more size than we usually see.”

Conahan finished with a game high 19 points and plucked eight steals for the second straight game. Rich added 13 points on 9-for-12 free throw shooting and junior Laboda and sophomore Tracy Peitz both chipped in seven rebounds.

Alexander topped the Patriots with 13 points. Senior forward Dace Bicane hauled in a game high 14 rebounds.

The Bulldogs remained undefeated despite season lows in shooting percentage and points. Concordia improved to 4-0 against ranked opponents this season. The Bulldogs also have wins over No. 4 Morningside, No. 5 Briar Cliff and No. 23 College of Saint Mary.

Concordia continues play in Honolulu on Friday when it takes the court at 6 p.m. local time (10 p.m. CST) against conference rival Doane (5-10, 0-7 GPAC). The Bulldogs swept a pair of meetings with the Tigers by an average margin of 23.5 points last season.

Concordia hopes to be much sharper offensively in its second game in Honolulu. The extended layoff and long journey have played a part in low scores at the Hoop ‘N’ Surf Classic.

“The atmosphere is so different,” Olson said. “We’re playing at a high school gym with hardly anyone there. But I think a lot of it had to do with not playing for 11 days and playing a good Cumberlands team.”

After finishing up play at the event on Friday, the Bulldogs have plans on Saturday to go snorkeling and possibly enjoy a luau before flying back late Sunday afternoon.

Bulldogs complete perfect Hawaii trip

22 DEC 2012

HONOLULU, Hawaii – The consensus No. 1-ranked Bulldogs completed the mission they set out to accomplish when they took off from the airport in Omaha early Tuesday morning – win twice in Hawaii. After topping NAIA Division I 16th-ranked Cumberlands (Ky.) on Thursday, Concordia improved to 14-0 overall and 7-0 in the GPAC with a 66-53 victory over conference rival Doane (5-11, 0-8 GPAC) on Friday night in a physical contest at the Hoop ‘N’ Surf Classic.

“I told our team that these were two really good games for us,” Concordia head coach Drew Olson said. “I didn’t think we played particularly well in either one. We certainly weren’t as sharp as we were in Nebraska, but we did show that when playing a physical team we can match that. We fought and fought and fought to win these games.”

While the Tigers entered play with a 10-game losing streak, they made life tough throughout much of the first half in which they nailed 7 of 13 attempts from 3-point range. The Bulldogs finally opened up some breathing room midway through the second half when senior Beth Kohmetscher connected from downtown on back-to-back possessions to make it 51-38 with 11:43 to play.

Concordia led by as many as 15 points and never let its lead shrink to less than eight the rest of the way with sophomore guard Bailey Morris providing the dagger any time Doane threatened to make a run. Morris responded well from a tough shooting night on Thursday to go 7-for-12 from the field, including 3-for-4 from behind the 3-point line, while notching a game high and career-high tying 22 points.

The Bulldogs’ ultra-talented backcourt of Morris and junior Kristen Conahan proved too much for Doane. Morris scored eight-straight points for Concordia during a late first half spurt and then capped a 9-0 Bulldog run with a layup that put them up 30-23 with 5:14 remaining in the half. The Morris bucket came immediately after a Conahan triple.

“Bailey played phenomenal. She was fantastic in both halves,” Olson said. “And Connie was really solid as well. She made a big three at the start of the second half.”

The duo combined to shoot 7-for-10 from beyond the arc to power Concordia’s 10-for-23 (43.5 percent) effort as a team. Conahan played a team high 32 minutes and added 14 points while knocking down 4 of 6 tries from deep.

The Bulldogs, who shot 29.0 percent in Thursday’s victory, boosted their field goal percentage to 38.7 percent (24-for-62) on Friday. Doane posted a mark of 37.3 percent (19-for-51) from the field and cooled off considerably in the second half, making only 2 of 9 attempts from 3-point range.

The Tigers got 15 points from Brittany Luettel and 10 from Jamie Kennedy.

Concordia is 14-0 for the first time since the 2004-05 season when then head coach Todd Voss’ squad finished 31-5 and reached the national semifinals. The best start to a season in team history occurred in 2002-03 when Voss guided Concordia to 33-straight wins to begin the campaign. The 02-03 Bulldogs did not lose a game until March 1 and completed the season at 36-2 en route to a Fab Four berth.

Concordia will now take 11 days off before getting back to action. The Bulldogs ring in the new year on Jan. 2 with a GPAC showdown against No. 8 Northwestern (10-3, 5-2 GPAC) inside Walz Arena at 6 p.m. The Red Raiders have won the last three NAIA Division II national championships. Northwestern is currently tied with No. 6 Briar Cliff for third place in the conference.

“We’re going to have to play really well to beat Northwestern,” Olson said. “They just get better as the season goes on.”

But first things first, the Concordia women’s basketball team will enjoy another day in Hawaii on Saturday when it plans to go snorkeling. The Bulldogs will catch a flight back late Sunday afternoon.

Bulldogs take down defending national champions

02 JAN 2013

SEWARD, Neb. – The top-ranked Bulldogs have found themselves in similar situations before. With the outcome hanging in the balance, a Concordia team struggling offensively suddenly caught fire in the clutch on the way to claiming a 71-68 victory over three-time defending national champion and No. 8-ranked Northwestern (11-4, 5-3 GPAC) on Wednesday in Seward, Neb.

Junior guard Kristen Conahan’s 3-pointer on a set play off the inbounds pass from sophomore Tracy Peitz at the 6:05 mark of the second half fueled an outside shooting barrage. Conahan coolly knocked down the corner 3 at the shot clock buzzer to get the Bulldogs within 57-56.

The game-changing seemed to infect the rest of the team.

“Northwestern did a great job handling our pressure. They’re such a tough team and so disciplined,” Concordia head coach Drew Olson said. “They made us work for everything we got. They outplayed us for 33 minutes, but those last seven minutes were fun to watch.

“Our team knows how to win. They step up and make big shots when the game is on the line.”

Senior guard Katie Rich then drilled her only triple of the game on the next possession to give Concordia a 59-57 lead with 5:28 to play. The threes kept coming.

Peitz connected on another bomb from beyond the arc at 4:25 to provide a 62-57 lead. After Northwestern came right back with five-straight points to tie the game for the 11th and final time, Conahan buried her third 3-pointer to put the Bulldogs up for good.

“We’ve been in a lot of situations like this over the last couple of years,” Olson said. “We have a confident group that always stays composed in tight situations.”

Sophomore guard Bailey Morris took it from there by tallying Concordia’s final six points of the game, including a pair of crucial back-breaking jumpers. Morris, showing her typical resiliency, fought off shooting struggles of her own in coming up big when it mattered most.

“That’s the team we are,” Morris said. “We have to find ways to win and we did that tonight. We had a lot of people step up. I think Katie, Tracy and Connie all had some big threes there at the end.”

The Bulldogs are now 15-0 overall and 8-0 in GPAC action. Concordia has won 23-straight games against GPAC opponents and has now beaten each of the other three conference teams ranked in the top eight of the national poll.

With 14 regular-season games remaining (12 GPAC), Olson is confident his team will stay focused on the opponent at hand as the unbeaten run (the second longest in school history only to the 2002-03 team’s 33-0 start) continues into the new year.

“I think we’re experienced enough not to get caught up in those things even if other people outside are talking about it,” Olson said.

Morris finished with a game high 19 points. Conahan came in next with 17 points. The Red Raiders’ Samanthan Kleinsasser led a quartet of double-figure scorers for Northwestern with 14 points. Reigning GPAC Player of the Year Kendra De Jong was held to 10 points on 2-for-8 shooting from the field.

While more than half the GPAC slate remains, a win over the powerhouse Northwestern program, coupled with the Bulldogs’ four additional top 25 victories, validates the team’s consensus No. 1 rating and only grows its confidence.

“It’s just a boost of confidence,” Morris said. “We wanted to start the second half of the season strong. We’ve had a little time off with Christmas break and playing in Hawaii, and this is a good way to start the year.”

Concordia is back in action on Saturday at Dordt (9-9, 4-5 GPAC), which owns a win over Briar Cliff and has several close losses to highly-ranked teams on its resume. Game time is 2 p.m. from Sioux Center, Iowa.

Feisty Defenders hand No. 1 Concordia its first loss

05 JAN 2013

SIOUX CENTER, Iowa – After seemingly taking control down the stretch, top-ranked Concordia saw an eight-point lead in the final minutes of regulation melt away and ultimately fell 96-86 in double overtime at Dordt (10-9, 5-5 GPAC) on Saturday. The Bulldogs (15-1, 8-1 GPAC) were unable to pull another close victory out of the fire like they had against the other conference favorites Briar Cliff, Morningside and Northwestern.

“Dordt played great,” Concordia head coach Drew Olson said. “They shot the ball very well and really played to their strengths. We couldn’t get the stops when we needed them. If you’re going to beat good teams on the road you have to step up and make a play.”

With the loss, Concordia dropped its first game of the season and had streaks of 23-straight wins against GPAC foes and 10 road victories in a row snapped.

Dordt ran away in the second overtime with a 16-6 advantage in the five-minute period, which would not have been possible without late heroics in regulation. Defender junior guard Kayla Broekhuis threw up a long 3-pointer that banked home to tie the game at 71 with :8.6 left. Concordia guard Bailey Morris then dribbled the length of the floor but couldn’t get the layup to go down, setting the stage for overtime.

The Bulldogs also got a good look at the end of the first overtime on an out-of-bounds play with :4.7 left. Junior forward Lori Laboda got loose off a screen and received the inbounds in the paint. Her attempt rimmed out and was tipped around as the clock ran out.

Dordt quickly took command of the second overtime with a jumper and a 3-pointer, both from the hot hand of Kara Van Dyke, who finished with a game high 27 points. Concordia had a flicker of hope after Kristen Conahan drilled her fourth and final triple of the game to make the score 87-83 with 3:09 to go. Dordt pushed the lead back up to seven soon after and never allowed the Bulldogs to get any closer than six points.

Concordia shot 46.2 percent (30-for-65) for the game, including 8-for-21 (38.1 percent) from long range. However, the Bulldogs made only 1 of 6 attempts from beyond the arc in the overtimes as they struggled to overcome a mounting double overtime deficit. The Defenders 45.8 percent (27-for-59) from the field and made 32 of 37 free throws compared to 18-for-25 shooting from the charity stripe by the Bulldogs.

Broekhuis and Van Dyke were the stars all afternoon for a Dordt team that also defeated No. 6 Briar Cliff on Dec. 15. Broekhuis and Van Dyke combined for 48 points while both playing in excess of 40 minutes. The duo came up with several clutch points when Concordia threatened to steal a road win.

“It comes down to being able to defend,” Olson said. “They got up five (in the second overtime) and we lost a little of our cool. Then we got down seven and we were forced to do some things we wouldn’t normally do.”

For the Bulldogs, sophomore forward Jericca Pearson posted a career high 18 points on the strength of 10-for-15 free throw shooting.

“Jericca did some great things,” Olson said. “She posted up well and our guards were able to find her inside. I thought she played very well.”

Conahan (14), Tracy Peitz (14), Morris (12), Kelsey Hizer (10) and Lori Laboda (10) joined Pearson in double-figures in scoring. Laboda added 12 rebounds to post her third double-double of the season. Hizer’s 10 points were a career best.

The 15-0 start marked the second best start in school history behind only the 2002-03 squad’s 33-0 run. Olson summed it up by saying, “You learn a lot more from a loss, but I never like to lose.” At 8-1 in league games, Concordia remains atop the GPAC, now tied with Morningside.

Dordt head coach Craig Stiemsma was proud of the way his team responded after relinquishing an 11-point first half lead and then falling behind by eight late in regulation.

“We got down eight and a lot of teams would have given up there. We kept fighting,” Steimsma told KDCR Radio after the game.

The Bulldogs return home on Tuesday when Hastings (9-10, 4-5 GPAC) visits Seward for a 7:30 p.m. contest. A junior varsity game at 5:45 p.m. will precede varsity action.

GPAC-leading Bulldogs grind out victory over Hastings

08 JAN 2013

SEWARD, Neb. – Coming off their first loss of the season, the Bulldogs came out sluggish in the first half before kicking their offense into gear in a 76-57 victory over Hastings (9-11, 4-6 GPAC) on Tuesday night. Concordia, which fell one spot to No. 2 in the national coaches’ poll released just hours before the opening tip, won its 21st-straight game at Walz Arena and improved to 16-1 overall and 9-1 in GPAC action.

“It was a grind it out game in the first half and then we stopped making silly mistakes,” Concordia head coach Drew Olson said. “Offensively we had 11 turnovers in the first half and only five in the second half. So that was a big key, but I do think our defense – our press – started to get to them.”

The Broncos hung right with the GPAC-leading Bulldogs most of the way until lighting quick Concordia sophomore guard Bailey Morris took control. The native or Roseland, Neb., exploded for nine-consecutive points for the Bulldogs between the 5:54 mark and the 4:51 point of the second half. The outburst extended the Concordia lead from only five to a 60-50 advantage.

Morris showed off an array of moves during the stretch, including a blow by to the rim for a layup and a 3-pointer in displaying her much improved range this season. She went on to tally a game high 21 points, with 14 coming in the final six minutes.

Morris’ big time play was much needed on a night when Concordia shot only 29.6 percent (8-for-27) in the first half and trailed Hastings 15-8 eight minutes after the opening tip. The Bulldog defense would tighten up and hold the Broncos to just two points over the final 6:46 of the opening frame. Concordia went to the break up 22-21 and then pushed the lead to 29-21 thanks to an 11-0 run that spanned the end of the first half through the beginning of the second half.

Concordia’s final margin of victory – 19 – was its biggest lead of the game. For a good portion of the night, the visitors stayed close thanks to the solid inside-out combo of center Sierra Williamson (16 points, six rebounds) and guard Cami Bruckman (15 points, four steals).

Concordia again got steady, if not spectacular, results from its bench players like Morris and sophomore Kelsey Hizer. After going for a career high 10 points on Jan. 5, the Parker, Colo., native posted eight points, three rebounds and three steals in 19 minutes of action in Tuesday’s win.

“I think Coach does a great job of keeping variety in the game,” Hizer said. “We all just try to push each other and push ourselves. We just have really great team chemistry.”

For Hizer and company, a return to the home court proved a great way to put the team’s first loss behind it.

“It was good for us. It was very humbling,” Hizer said of the defeat at Dordt. “We just needed to get back out there and get a win and tonight was a great win for us. Definitely second half was better than the first half. That’s just the team we are – we bounce back.”

Olson believes a return to a normal schedule with classes will have his team clicking once again.

“We started off really poorly (Tuesday),” Olson said. “We need school to start because I think we’re in a little bit of a funk. We’re just not in the normal rhythm, kind of the day-to-day lifestyle that we’re used to.”

Concordia senior Katie Rich piled up 11 points and eight rebounds while sophomore Tracy Peitz was second on the team with 12 points on 4-for-6 shooting from the field.

The Bulldogs will remain at home Saturday for a 2 p.m. tussle with No. 4 Morningside (16-2, 8-1 GPAC). Concordia defeated the Mustangs 80-76 on Dec. 1 in the first meeting this season between the two conference heavyweights. Morningside sits just one-half game behind the Bulldogs in the GPAC standings.

Career day for Morris leads No. 2 Concordia past No. 4 Morningside

12 JAN 2013

SEWARD, Neb. – Saturday’s GPAC heavyweight battle between second-ranked Concordia and fourth-ranked Morningside had all the intensity expected of a contest voted ‘NAIA Game of the Week.’ With Bailey Morris’ career high 27 points and Katie Rich’s lockdown defensive effort, the Bulldogs topped the Mustangs 78-66 at Walz Arena. Concordia pushed its mark to 17-1 overall and 10-1 in GPAC action.

“I think both teams were out to prove something today,” Bulldog head coach Drew Olson said of the matchup between the league’s top-ranked teams. “Morningside’s an awesome team with great players. Their style of play is really fun, especially when it’s matched up against a team like us and the way that we play. That had to be one of the most entertaining games of the year.”

In a game filled with stars on both sides, the sophomore Morris, a Roseland, Neb., native stole the show while knocking down shots from virtually everywhere on the court. She drilled 10 of 17 attempts overall, including 6-for-8 shooting from 3-point range. She also showed off her patented dizzying-quick drive to the basket, where she either finished herself or dropped a dime to an open teammate.

“Bailey is turning into one of the best players in the conference and one of the best players in the country,” Olson said. “She is coming along. She’s just a sophomore. Her upside is huge. She keeps getting better.”

Morris, Concordia’s leading scorer at 15.6 points per game, completed a white-hot week in which she went for a combined for 48 points in two conference home victories. The 5-foot-4 guard saved her best in the biggest game of the season to date.

“We were really ready for this game,” Morris said. “I don’t think I really took any shots that I wouldn’t normally take. It’s just today they were falling.”

Morningside (16-4, 8-3 GPAC) made a late push to cut Concordia’s lead from 11 all the way down to three after an Ashlynn Muhl 3-pointer with 2:43 left in the game. With contributions from many, the Bulldogs then went on an 11-0 run capped by a Morris layup following a Rich steal. Rich also plucked one of her four thefts earlier in the run when she intercepted a Leann Osten pass and finished at the other end.

Rich, the GPAC Defensive Player of the Year last season, was again a menace for the opponent to deal with. She spent most of the afternoon mirroring returning First Team All-American guard Chelsie Trask, who was held to 11 points and just 2-for-10 shooting from the field. For only the third time this season, Trask failed to knock down a 3-pointer.

Junior guard Kristen Conahan struggled at times with her jumper on Saturday, but she rebounded to sink a back-breaking 3-pointer with 2:30 left in the game that initiated the game-deciding 11-0 run. She finished with nine points, all on triples, in 31 minutes of play.

Morningside, which entered the game leading the GPAC with 9.0 treys per game, connected on 8 of 23 attempts from downtown. The sniping of senior guard Bobbi McManaman (4-for-5 from deep) allowed the Mustangs to stay within striking distance for much of the afternoon. However, they made only 10 of 21 shots from the foul line and had 20 turnovers to the Bulldogs’ 13.

“In the second half we took care of the ball and knocked down some open shots,” Olson said. “You could see the game change when we did start turning the ball over. That’s when Morningside climbed back in and cut it to two, but our kids were mentally tough.”

Recent years have seen several great battles between Concordia and other top teams in the league such as Morningside. Saturday’s game was no different.

“We’re always excited to play Morningside, Northwestern, Briar Cliff – any of those teams,” Morris said. “They’re a good team and they’re well coached. So it’s just kind of a fun game to play. You know it’s going to be a good game.”

Morris finished with a line of 27 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. Jericca Pearson (13) and Rich (11) joined Morris in double-figure scoring. Pearson tied Tracy Peitz and Rich with a team high six rebounds.

The Mustangs were led by the 15 points of Muhl, who went 7-for-14 from the field and hauled in eight rebounds. Osten added 13 points and four assists.

Concordia is now 6-0 against ranked opponents with two victories over Morningside this season. The Bulldogs have won 22-consecutive home games and 25 of 26 contests against conference opponents.

Morris has scored at least 20 points in four games, including three of the last five contests. Her effort on Saturday vaulted her into third place on the GPAC scoring leaderboard.

The Bulldogs will play their next three games on the road, starting with Midland (8-12, 3-8 GPAC) on Wednesday at 6 p.m. Concordia defeated the Warriors 110-65 inside Walz Arena on Nov. 27.

Morris garners GPAC Player of the Week honors

14 JAN 2013

GPAC Release

Concordia sophomore guard Bailey Morris has been named the Hauff Mid-America Sports GPAC Player of the Week, the conference announced on Monday. Morris is the first Bulldog women's basketball player to earn the distinction this season and is the first Concordia weekly honoree for the program since Amber Kistler on Feb. 13 of last season.

Morris scored more than 20 points in both of the Bulldogs’ wins over the past week, including a career high 27-point effort in the win over No. 4 Morningside in the NAIA Game of the Week on Jan. 12. Morris averaged 24.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.5 steals while shooting 18-for-30 (60 percent) from the field and 8-for-11 (72.7 percent) from 3-point range in Concordia’s two GPAC victories.

“Bailey is turning into one of the best players in the conference and one of the best players in the country,” Olson said following the Morningside game. “She is coming along. She’s just a sophomore. Her upside is huge. She keeps getting better.”

Morris’ big week allowed her to take over the team scoring lead with 15.6 points per game, a figure that places her third in the conference. Her 3.28 steals per game rank second in the GPAC behind teammate Kristen Conahan.

Morris, a native of Roseland, Neb., has added a lethal outside shot this season to go with her knack for cruising past defenders on the way to the basket. She has improved from 8.5 points in 2011-12 to 15.6 in 2012-13 while pushing her 3-point field goal percentage from 28.6 to 41.3 this season.

As the GPAC Player of the Week, Morris is now placed on the national ballot among the honorees from all other NAIA Division II conferences, independents and unaffiliated groupings. The NAIA National Division II Women’s Basketball Player of the Week will be announced on Tuesday. Kistler was tabbed with this award on Feb. 14 last season.

This week’s GPAC nominees:

Cami Bruckman, Hastings

Jamilah Johnson, Midland

Brittany Little, Mount Marty

Kendra De Jong, Northwestern

Conahan, No. 2 Bulldogs run away from Midland

16 JAN 2013

FREMONT, Neb. – Concordia junior guard Kristen Conahan continued her mastery of Midland on Wednesday night as the Bulldogs earned a season sweep of the Warriors with an 80-49 victory in Fremont, Neb. Conahan, who scored 31 points in a 110-65 win over Midland on Nov. 27, poured in 22 points to power Concordia to a record of 18-1 overall and an 11-1 GPAC-leading mark.

“Midland played really well. They’re definitely getting better,” Bulldog head coach Drew Olson said. “Our team continued to grind it out. We stuck with what we do, played hard and eventually broke their spirits. In the second half we got stop after stop and kept extending the lead. Our second half was phenomenal.”

While Midland (8-13, 3-9 GPAC) hung closer than in the first meeting, Concordia took control early and led by 13 at halftime after senior Katie Rich drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing on the kick out from sophomore Bailey Morris. Conahan tallied 15 points in the first half, reaching double-figures prior to the midpoint of the opening 20 minutes.

“Katie started off really well. Her energy defensively was fantastic,” Olson said. “And Connie really did a nice job getting us going offensively. At the beginning we couldn’t get anything off our set plays except for her creating on her own.”

Again Concordia’s ballhawking pressure defense gave the Warriors fits. The Bulldogs, who entered the night forcing an averaging of 28.2 turnovers per game, caused another 27 on Wednesday and held Midland to 17.9 percent first-half shooting and 21.1 percent for the contest. Olson was proud of the way his team attacked defensively against a Midland team with a solid point guard.

Midland actually trailed by as few as six points as late as the 14:15 mark of the second half. Then the second-ranked Bulldogs got on a roll that put the game completely out of reach. A Concordia 18-2 run punctuated by a Conahan triple to finish it off and back-to-back Rich buckets in the paint early in the spurt provided a commanding Bulldog advantage.

While Conahan and Rich came through with the offensive firepower, sophomore Jericca Pearson put forth another solid effort down low with six points and a team high nine rebounds. On the defensive end, sophomore Tracy Peitz piled up a career best six steals.

For Conahan, the 22-point game marked her fourth game this season with 20 points or more and the eighth time she has accomplished the feat in her career. She connected on 7 of 18 attempts at Midland and knocked down all six tries from the free throw line.

The Bulldogs shot 38.7 percent from the field and uncharacteristically struggled from 3-point range, going 5-for-24 (20.8 percent).

Sophomore forward Ashley Kunz, who has been tearing it up at the junior varsity level, has earned more playing time of late and notched four points in six minutes on Wednesday. Another young player – freshman Jenna Lehmann – was productive with eight points and three rebounds.

Midland’s Kellie Page posted a team best 10 points on 4-for-8 shooting, including 2 of 4 from beyond the arc.

With a victory margin of 31 on Wednesday, Concordia has now won eight games this season by 30 points or more, including two such contests against Midland. The Bulldogs came into the night ranked fourth in NAIA Division II with an average victory margin 23.4.

Concordia will hit the road again on Sunday to face Dakota Wesleyan (14-6, 6-5 GPAC) in Mitchell, S.D., at 2 p.m. The Bulldogs defeated the Tigers 78-58 on Dec. 8 in Seward.

Offensive struggles lead to upset loss

20 JAN 2013

MITCHELL, S.D. – In a wacky week of NAIA Division II women’s basketball, the top three teams in the national poll all fell victim to upsets. Second-ranked Concordia could not overcome its offensive woes on Sunday on the way to a 72-61 defeat at Dakota Wesleyan. The Bulldogs remain in first place in the GPAC with an 11-2 league mark and 18-2 overall record.

“I knew it was going to be a tough battle. Dakota Wesleyan is a real good defensive team in the half court,” Concordia head coach Drew Olson said. “I knew we were going to need to score. We just didn’t make a lot of shots. The thing that killed us was that we didn’t make our free throws.”

Concordia shot only 29.6 percent (21-for-71) from the field and 23.1 percent (6-for-26) from 3-point range in one of the team’s most frustrating offensive performances of the season. Both teams went through prolonged periods of ineptitude on offense in a rough and tumble GPAC battle that saw plenty of physical play.

The Bulldogs’ deficit swelled to as many as 14 points after the Tigers’ Celeste Beck nailed a long two-point jumper. That’s when Concordia flipped the switch and used a boatload of turnovers to come roaring back thanks to an 11-0 run initiated by five-straight points from Jericca Pearson. The Bulldogs used 18 second half turnovers to eventually tie the score at 58 with 3:12 left in the game.

“I didn’t even feel like we started playing until we got down 14 in the second half,” Olson said.

But the gutsy Dakota Wesleyan squad kept on coming. Back-breaking 3-pointers delivered by the Tigers’ Amanda Hart and Beck helped push the lead back up to eight with just over the minute to play. All Concordia could manage in the final few minutes was a Kristen Conahan triple that proved too little, too late.

For head coach Jason Christensen’s club, it’s the signature win it has been looking for. The Tigers are 10-1 at home and nearly knocked off then No. 10 Northwestern at the Corn Palace before falling 69-66 on Jan. 9. Star forward Kim Johnson led the way for Dakota Wesleyan with 18 points and eight rebounds. Elizabeth Lamb notched a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

The Tigers shot 46.3 percent (25-for-54) while hoisting 17 less shots than Concordia, mainly due to turnovers. However, Dakota Wesleyan took advantage of its 18 attempts from the free throw line where it drilled 16 shots. The Bulldogs were an uncharacteristic 13-for-21 from the charity stripe.

“Really all of our makes came off of turnovers in the press,” Olson said. “We didn’t run our half-court offense well. We were sloppy and then we would end up forcing a shot.”

Conahan finished with 16 points to top the Bulldogs, but she was unable to find a rhythm as she went 5-for-21 from the field. Making her first start of her career, Pearson fell just short of a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore guard Bailey Morris added eight points, nine rebounds and seven assists while senior guard Katie Rich piled up 12 points, seven rebounds and five steals.

Concordia senior Dawn Martin also started on Sunday, marking the first start of the season for the Rockford, Ill., native. Junior Lori Laboda (7.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg) did not travel with the team after coming down with the flu.

Olson’s Bulldogs are now 5-2 on the road this season. They entered the day with wins in 10 of their last 11 GPAC road contests.

The Bulldogs are back on the road on Wednesday when they visit Doane (5-16, 0-13 GPAC) for a 6 p.m. game. Concordia defeated the Tigers 66-53 on Dec. 21 in a contest played in Honolulu, Hawaii. The Bulldogs will then return home Friday and Saturday for the Concordia Invitational Tournament.

Concordia's dynamic duo shreds Doane

23 JAN 2013

CRETE, Neb. – Despite being winless since Nov. 15, Doane has made a habit of forcing the GPAC’s top teams to sweat it out. Second-ranked Concordia came back from a 10-point first half deficit by outscoring the host Tigers 59-37 over the last 27 minutes on the way to a 75-63 win on Wednesday night. The Bulldogs maintained their grip on first place in the conference with a 12-2 league mark while improving to 19-2 overall.

Concordia head coach Drew Olson gave the keys to perhaps the nation’s top backcourt and let it take control. Guards Kristen Conahan and Bailey Morris were nearly unstoppable on Wednesday as they combined for 51 points. Conahan’s smooth, effortless jumper went ablaze midway through the second half. She poured in 14 points in a period of just over five minutes during the second half while sniping shots from all over the court.

“We did a really nice job with spacing the floor in the second half,” Olson said. “We attacked and got some really good looks. When Connie gets going she’s really tough to stop. When she makes a couple she feels like everything is going to go in.”

Morris would not let Conahan do it alone. She tallied 21 points of her own to mark the third time this season both she and Conahan have reached 20 or more points in the same game. Morris got to the rim with regularity and flashed her continually improving outside jumper. She knocked down 3 of 5 attempts from 3-point range.

The Tigers (5-17, 0-14 GPAC) led 26-16 at the 7:22 mark in their bid to take down the GPAC-leading Bulldogs. Doane went wire to wire with then No. 4 Morningside on Jan. 19 and appeared poised for another close contest until Conahan busted loose with 23 second-half points. The Bulldogs’ dynamic duo was simply too much for the upset-minded Tigers.

The molten-lava hot effort shooting performance from the Concordia backcourt was much needed after one of the team’s sloppiest-played halves to open the game. The Bulldogs committed 16 turnovers in the first 20 minutes, leading to a halftime deficit for only the third time this season.

Fortunately, Concordia shook off an ice-cold 29.6 percent effort on Sunday to shoot 48.4 percent in the second half versus Doane. The Tigers posted a shooting percentage of 42.0 percent with 26 turnovers in falling to the Bulldogs for the second time this season.

“I have a lot of respect for what Doane is doing,” Olson said. “It would be easy for them to get down, but they are playing good basketball. Us beating them by 12 at their place is a good win. Their record doesn’t signify how well they’re playing.”

Conahan’s 30 points were just one point shy of the career high she set back on Nov. 27 versus Midland. She has five games this season with at least 20 points and nine such outings in her career. The two previous games in which Conahan and Morris scored 20 or more in the same game occurred on Nov. 9 against Johnson & Wales (Colo.) and on Nov. 27.

“They’re really tough to guard,” Olson said of Conahan and Morris. “They’re both so versatile. Bailey can break anyone down off the dribble and she’s got a nice jumper. Connie’s got that great step back jumper that creates space from defenders.”

Senior Katie Rich notched 10 points to join Conahan and Morris in double-figures. Rich added four rebounds and three steals.

Doane’s Hannah Dostal paced her team with 20 points and nine rebounds.

The Bulldogs step outside of conference action this weekend as Walz Arena plays host to the 62nd annual Concordia Invitational Tournament on Friday and Saturday. The Bulldogs draw Concordia-Chicago on Friday at 6 p.m. before a matchup with either Concordia-Ann Arbor or Concordia-Wisconsin on Saturday. ClickHERE for more information on CIT.

Kuntz's career night helps push Bulldogs to CIT title game

25 JAN 2013

Friday’s women’s CIT results

Concordia-Nebraska 90, Concordia-Chicago 49
Concordia-Ann Arbor 74, Concordia-Wisconsin 52 –CUAA RECAP

Saturday’s women’s CIT schedule

Consolation – Concordia-Chicago vs. Concordia-Wisconsin, 12 p.m.
Championship – Concordia-Nebraska vs. Concordia-Ann Arbor, 5 p.m.

TOURNAMENT STATS


By Taylor Mueller, Sports Information Assistant

SEWARD, Neb. – The rocking Walz arena was the place to be as the Concordia women’s basketball team took care of business in the opening round of the CIT tournament, as they handled Concordia – Chicago en route to a 90-49 victory. The electric atmosphere made for a one-of-a-kind experience for the hundreds of fans who packed the gymnasium. The “black-out” themed night was topped off by a couple hundred screaming students who provided an energy boost to the Bulldog basketball team.

“I think the crowd was awesome,” Olson said. “It was very loud in the gym and that just gets our girls pumped up to play. I thought our girls came out with a little extra juice than we normally do which was good but at the same time we didn’t have the greatest start. It took us a while to kind of settle down and get into the game, but once we did, it really paid off.”

The Bulldogs struggled to find a rhythm early in the game, but it didn’t take long for them to heat up. Concordia-Nebraska shot 47 percent from the field in the first half, and stroked seven 3- pointers. The streaky shooting had the Bulldogs up 41-21 at the end of the first half.

“I think it really started more with the whole defense that we used to play,” Olson said. “We’re just not playing really good team defense. So we kind of got back to our basics and that started our pressure and (we) got some turnovers and then we started to hit some 3s and we started to play a little more loose.”

It was more of the same in the second half, and the Bulldogs never looked back. The hot shooting continued as Concordia-Nebraska shot 47 percent from the field once again.

Offense wasn’t the only thing going the Bulldogs way. Concordia-Nebraska played tremendous defense, forcing the Cougars to commit 32 turnovers.

Leading the way for the Bulldogs was sophomore Ashley Kuntz, who scored a career high 17 points.

“It was really fun,” said Kuntz who is seeing more minutes on the varsity squad since her due in part to her outstanding play on the junior varsity team. “My teammates were able to get me the ball and I was just able to put them in.”

Olson also had positive things to say about Kuntz’s night.

“Tonight was a great opportunity for her and she took advantage of it,” Olson said. “She was fantastic. Every time the ball went inside to her, good things happened.”

Junior guard Kristen Conahan tied Kuntz for a game high with 17 points. Conahan connected on 5 of 7 attempts from 3-point range and recorded four steals. Meanwhile sophomore guard Bailey Morris torched the nets with 3-for-5 shooting from downtown on the way to 15 points. Freshman Jenna Lehmann added 12 points thanks to a 5-for-7 effort from the field.

The Bulldogs are in for a tough match in their next game against 10th-ranked Concordia from Ann Arbor, Mich.

“They’re a great basketball team,” Olson said. “They’re great defensively and are a good rebounding group. We have our hands full tomorrow.”

“It’s going to be a bigger challenge,” Kuntz said. “We’re going to have to focus in. Hopefully we can get off to a strong start right away. Hopefully our fans will come back and give us high energy.”

CU-Ann Arbor takes CIT title in battle of top-10 teams

26 JAN 2013

Friday’s women’s CIT results
Concordia-Nebraska 90, Concordia-Chicago 49
Concordia-Ann Arbor 74, Concordia-Wisconsin 52

Saturday’s women’s CIT results
Consolation – Concordia-Wisconsin 74, Concordia-Chicago 52
Championship – Concordia-Ann Arbor 73, Concordia-Nebraska 69

All-Tournament
MVP -  
Hannah Sabol (CUAA)
Kristen Conahan (CUNE)
Abbey Hengesbach (CUAA)
Katie Luethe (CUW)
Krystyna Rickett (CUC)


By Taylor Mueller, Sports Information Assistant

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia women’s basketball team suffered a tough-to-swallow defeat in the Concordia Invitational Tournament championship Saturday as it fell to the 10th-ranked Concordia-Ann Arbor Cardinals, 73-69. With a packed Walz crowd ready to erupt, CUAA star guard Abbey Hengesbach shut the door on any possible late Bulldog heroics with her bucket in the paint in the final seconds.

“Concordia Ann Arbor did a great job,” Bulldog head coach Drew Olson said. “No. 11 (Hengesbach) is a stud and their post player (Hannah Sabol) has similar ability. They were tough to stop. Defensively we didn’t get as many stops as we needed to. We’ve got to have more players step up and make some shots.”

The atmosphere on day two was even more intense than the first as more than 1,000 fans packed the stands to watch the Bulldogs battle. CUNE students, dressed in blue, stood in the stairways as the seats disappeared, only to see Ann-Arbor take home its second CIT tournament title all-time and second in three years.

The Cardinals (20-4) came out gunning from the beginning and quickly took a seemingly commanding 20-8 advantage. The Bulldogs countered with a tremendous 21-8 run, to take the lead late in the first half. The Bulldogs shot 39 percent in the first half, and found themselves up 39-37 at the half. The tide seemed to turn when sophomore Bailey Morris drilled back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the 12-point deficit down to just six.

“We started off pretty slow, but I’m really proud of our team. We really fought,” Olson said. “And then we started to play Concordia basketball.”

Both teams struggled to gain solid momentum in the second half as each team traded buckets with neither team leading by more than seven. CUNE (20-3) shot only 35 percent in the second half compared to Ann-Arbor’s 46 percent. On top of that, the Bulldogs were an ice-cold 0-for-10 from the 3-point line over the final 20 minutes.

Ann-Arbor began to pull away late in the game, until a steal and a layup by junior Kristen Conahan brought the Cardinal lead down to two points. Ann-Arbor answered on the next possession and nailed two free throws and a two-point bucket in the final minutes to sink the Bulldogs.

Senior Katie Rich led the way with 18 points and eight rebounds. Conahan, a member of the all-tournament team, added 17 points while Morris chipped in with 10 points. Sophomore Tracy Peitz and junior Lori Laboda snatched six rebounds apiece.

While the night didn’t end the way Bulldog fans had hoped or anticipated, Olson was appreciative of the enthusiasm that filled Walz Arena.

“It was a great time. This was awesome,” Olson said. “I’m hoping that every time we play at home, that it can be this crazy. There’s no other GPAC school has this kind of crowd, this kind of atmosphere. It’s a really credit to our students and their pride in our school.”

Sabol was named the tournament MVP after getting double-doubles in both games. She 16 points and hauled in 17 points in Saturday’s affair. Hengesbach had a game high 22 points while chipping in 10 rebounds and three assists.

Concordia will take on Nebraska Wesleyan on Tuesday Walz Arena. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m. The Bulldogs took down the Prairie Wolves by a 91-61 score in their first meeting this season in Lincoln, Neb.

Bulldogs bounce back by pummeling rival NWU

29 JAN 2013

SEWARD, Neb. – The third-ranked Bulldogs showed no signs of a post-CIT letdown as they returned to GPAC play and thumped visiting Nebraska Wesleyan on Tuesday. With guards Kristen Conahan and Kelsey Hizer bombing away from long range early, Concordia put the game away by halftime on the way to a 78-54 victory inside Walz Arena. The Bulldogs improved to 21-3 overall and 13-2 in GPAC action.

“Our energy was really good,” Concordia head coach Drew Olson said. “Despite the energy in the gym not being where it normally is, our team played with a lot of energy and got a lot of second chance points. I was just really proud of the way that we played defensively. We’ve been really talking about helping each other out more.”

Hizer, a sophomore from Parker, Colo., topped her previous career high of 10 points late in the first half after plucking an offensive rebound and depositing the ball back in the hoop. She ended up with 12 points on 4-for-6 shooting while making both 3-point attempts in her best offensive day as a Bulldog.

Before Hizer got going, Conahan put Concordia in control from the very beginning. She tallied the team’s first eight points on the strength of a pair of 3-point makes for an early 8-2 advantage. The lead only grew from there with Hizer’s second triple of the half pushing the margin up to 31-13 before a 47-22 halftime advantage.

“We had a devotion before the game and part of the devotion was give all you got every possession, so that was one of the keys to the game,” Hizer said. “I’m just trying to play for my team and give all I’ve got every possession.”

The overmatched Prairie Wolves never could get on track offensively as a typically stout Concordia defense gave Nebraska Wesleyan headaches all night. The Prairie Wolves shot only 29.8 percent and committed 20 turnovers in falling for the seventh time in their last eight games.

Conahan went for a game high 16 points as she continued her scoring binge. The junior from Omaha, Neb., filled it up with 3-for-4 shooting from deep on Wednesday while also using her patented running floater to convert on a 3-point play. Over her last six games she is averaging 19.7 points per game.

After recent struggles from the free throw line, the Bulldogs drained 16 of 20 attempts from the charity stripe. They entered the game fourth in the GPAC at nearly 70 percent from the foul line.

Hizer led a strong Concordia showing from its reserves. Junior forward Britney Birtell put up a season best eight points as the Bulldog bench combined for 41 points to just 16 points of bench scoring for Nebraska Wesleyan.

The highlight of the night came late in the first half when Lori Laboda stole the ball in the backcourt and with her momentum carrying her out of bounds, made a beautiful bounce pass to Dawn Martin for a layup.

Nebraska Wesleyan got 13 points and four rebounds from Felicia TeKolste and 12 points and eight rebounds from Kaitlyn Janata.

The Bulldogs go back on the road on Saturday when they challenge No. 11 Northwestern (15-6, 9-5 GPAC) at 2 p.m. Concordia defeated the Red Raiders 71-68 on Jan. 2 inside Walz Arena. Provided Northwestern avoids the upset versus Dordt on Wednesday, Concordia could eliminate Northwestern from contention for the GPAC title by knocking off the Red Raiders on Saturday.

“We’re really excited about Northwestern,” Hizer said. That’s pretty much all we can talk about after tonight’s game. We’ve just got to prepare for the week and see what happens.”

No. 11 Northwestern uses defense, rebounding to cut down No. 3 Concordia

02 FEB 2013

ORANGE CITY, Iowa – Three early Kristen Conahan 3-pointers kept No. 3 Concordia close, but 11th-ranked Northwestern used a physical effort defensively and manhandled the Bulldogs on the boards. With reigning GPAC Player of the Year Kendra De Jong having her way on the glass, the Red Raiders upset Concordia 63-51 in Orange City, Iowa, on Saturday. The Bulldogs fell to 21-4 overall and 13-3 in the GPAC.

Concordia put forth a solid defensive effort of its own by forcing 25 Northwestern turnovers while allowing just 33.9 percent shooting from the field. It marked the 11th time this season that the Bulldogs held an opponent below 35 percent, however, it simply was not enough to overcome 26.1 percent shooting and a 61-32 disadvantage on the boards.

“It was a physical game and they were a lot more physical than us,” Concordia head coach Drew Olson said. “Offensively we couldn’t get the shots we needed.”

The Red Raiders’ inside combo of De Jong (15 points, 17 rebounds) and Samantha Kleinsasser (seven points, 10 rebounds) overmatched the Concordia frontcourt. While De Jong struggled from the field, she helped limit the Bulldogs to one-and-dones and then made critical free throws and a layup late in the game to pull away from Concordia.

“She played hard and we didn’t match it,” Olson said. “She killed us on the glass.”

The Bulldogs led only briefly early in the first half but never in the second half. Concordia seemed to seize control of momentum at the outset of the second half when senior Katie Rich scored back-to-back layups, including a nifty reverse after an offensive board, to pull even at 32-32. Northwestern called timeout, regrouped, scored the next five points and did not relinquish the lead the rest of the way.

The Red Raiders’ physical play on the interior also resulted in foul trouble for two of the Bulldogs’ most reliable post players. Sophomore Jericca Pearson picked up her fourth foul at the 16:47 mark of the second half and junior Lori Laboda was whistled for her fourth about 10 minutes later, allowing the rebound discrepancy to grow larger.

Conahan looked like she may have another big day when she drilled a trio of triples from almost the exact same spot on the left wing in the first 10 minutes of the game. She, like the rest of the team, eventually went cold.

Conahan, who led Concordia with 14 points on Saturday, now has at least one 3-pointer in 23 of 25 games this season and three or more treys in 14 games. She entered the weekend 10th in NAIA Division II with 66 3-point field goals.

Although Morningside (14-3 in the GPAC) owns a half-game lead over Concordia in the GPAC standings, the Bulldogs hold the tiebreaker thanks to a season sweep over the Mustangs. In other words, Concordia controls its own destiny as it aims for a second-straight GPAC regular-season title.

The Bulldogs return home on Wednesday to take on another highly-ranked opponent as No. 10 Briar Cliff (21-5, 12-4 GPAC) visits Seward for a 6 p.m. contest. Rich’s late game defensive dominance helped Concordia to a 72-65 victory at Briar Cliff on Dec. 5. The Chargers sit one game behind the Bulldogs in the standings.

Bulldogs clipped by Briar Cliff in showdown between top-10 teams

06 FEB 2013

By Taylor Mueller, Sports Information Assistant

Struggling to find a hot hand and plagued with turnovers, the fourth-ranked Concordia women’s basketball team dropped its second-straight game in an intense 89-80 defeat to ninth-ranked Briar Cliff University. The Bulldogs now sit at 21-5 overall and 13-4 in the GPAC, a full game behind first-place Morningside in the race for the league title.

Concordia jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead off a two point bucket by sophomore Tracy Peitz, only to see it disappear midway through the first half. Concordia struggled to find any offensive momentum, shooting just 27 percent from the field, and headed into the locker room down 48-36 at the break.

The second half didn’t provide much better news for the Bulldogs as they soon found themselves down 17 points at the 16:30 mark. It wasn’t until 36 seconds left in the game that Concordia was able to draw within six points after a Kristen Conahan steal and layup. Five Briar Cliff free throws in the closing seconds were enough to sink the Bulldogs, who shot just 34 percent from the field to Briar Cliff’s 50 percent.

The Bulldogs fared well at the other end of the court, causing 31 Charger turnovers, however, junior Lori Laboda felt the team can improve their defense.

“I think our defense was OK,” said Laboda, who posted her fourth double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds. “A lot of times we didn’t go for loose balls or play as hard as we could have. We have a little bit to improve on as far as our team defense.”

Laboda talked about her own game, and what was working well in her impressive performance.

“Tonight I think I did more inside,” Laboda said. “I think my teammates did well in feeding me the ball inside and I was able to finish and make my free throws.”

Leading the way for the Bulldogs with 20 points, including four 3-pointers, was sophomore Bailey Morris. Junior Kristen Conahan added 17 points, and led all players with six assists. Senior Katie Rich snatched seven rebounds and sophomore Ashley Kuntz added 10 points off the bench to lead all reserves.

Briar Cliff’s (22-5, 13-4 GPAC) Mattie Murren had a monster game with a game high 29 points thanks to 7-for-9 shooting from beyond the arc. She buried 23 first-half points in helping the Chargers to a double-digit advantage.

The win moves the Charges into a tie with Concordia for second place in the league. With three regular-season games left before the postseason, the Bulldogs know a lot is riding on the final stretch of contests.

“We have to just bounce back and keep our heads up and stay confident,” Laboda said. “We have Dordt coming up this weekend, I think that’s going to be a really good game for us and I know we have a lot to prove after a defeat to them the first time – so it’ll be fun.”

Tip off against Dordt is on Saturday at 2 p.m. in Walz Arena. With it being the final home regular-season game of the year, seniors Rich, Beth Kohmetscher and Dawn Martin will be honored for their contributions to the program.

Hot second half keys Senior Day victory

09 FEB 2013

By Taylor Mueller, Sports Information Assistant

SEWARD, Neb. – The women’s basketball team sent the seniors off with a bang in their final home contest of the season as they routed Dordt 87-64 to improve to 22-5, 14-4 GPAC on the season. In a game flooded with emotions, Concordia bid farewell to three seniors: Beth Kohmetscher, Katie Rich and Dawn Martin.

From the beginning, Dordt College brought everything it had, and made the season home finale a tough one in the opening half. Both teams traded buckets throughout the first 20 minutes, with neither team gaining much of an upper hand. The largest lead for the Bulldogs was five points, which came at the 9:30 mark off a Rich two point bucket off a Dordt turnover. Concordia shot just 31 percent from the field to Dordt’s 50 percent and was outrebounded by the defenders, 27-13. Despite the one-sided numbers, the Bulldogs found themselves down only one point at the intermission.

The halftime speech must have been a good one, because the fiery Bulldogs took command of the second half right from the start, and never looked back.

Leading the way for the thunderous Bulldog takeover were the three senior guards.

Kohmetscher got things started with a 3-point bucket to put the Bulldogs up by two points 57 seconds into the half. Then a free throw by Martin added another point to the lead until Rich added a two point bucket of her own to put the lead at five points for the Bulldogs with 18 minutes to go.

“We came out with a lot of energy,” Rich said. “We knew today would be special for us seniors but we knew we really had to come together as a team and have fun. The second half was a lot of fun, we played together. We put the ball in the hole.”

Head coach Drew Olson had similar feelings to Rich on the second half turnaround.

“Second half, we played with great energy,” Olson said. “I didn’t think our first half was really that bad. I thought defensively we were good, but those shots just didn’t go in. I felt like we dominated the game, but yet on the scoreboard, we were down.  We got after them a little bit in the second half. Our pressure was great and the shots went in.”

The Bulldogs shot 44 percent in the second half, to the Defenders’ 47 percent. But perhaps the difference maker of the game was Dordt’s 28 turnovers to Concordia’s 11.

In her last regular season home game as a Bulldog, Rich shared her feelings and emotions on the game and what it meant to her.

“It was pretty exciting and an emotional day too,” Rich said. “Playing all four years and having this potentially maybe being our last home game without the tournament, but there was a lot of excitement in the locker room before the game. We were really excited for our three seniors and the team really came together. We put a lot of pride out there.”

Rich finished the day with a game high 17 points to go along with five rebounds. Junior Kristen Conahan added 15 points (5-for-5 shooting), while sophomore Bailey Morris chipped in with 11 points and four assists. Sophomore Tracy Pietz dished out four assists as well while fellow sophomore Jericca Pearson grabbed five boards.

Olson expressed his proud and thankful spirit after the game, and gave his thoughts on the seniors’ contributions to the program.

“I love all three of them,” Olson said. “I can’t say enough about Beth, Dawn and Katie. What they’ve done for our program, the sacrifices they’ve made for our program through their four years, what great teammates, and what great role-models they are. I’m really happy for them tonight and really proud of what they’ve become.”

With the win, Concordia avenged its first loss of the season – a 96-86 double overtime defeat at Dordt on Jan. 5. The Bulldogs remain one game behind Morningside in the race for the league title.

Concordia will hit the road for its final two games. First it’s off to Hastings (15-13, 10-8 GPAC) on Wednesday for a 6 p.m. contest. The regular season concludes next Saturday with a trip to Mount Marty (16-11, 10-8 GPAC) for a game that will tip off at 2 p.m.

Bulldogs earn season sweep of Hastings

13 FEB 2013

HASTINGS, Neb. – After a slow offensive start, the visiting Bulldogs turned things around quickly and dominated the latter part of the first half on the way to 73-61 victory at Hastings on Wednesday. Seventh-ranked Concordia appeared to get its swagger back in the Senior Day win over Dordt and then carried it over to the new week. The Bulldogs bumped their record to 23-5 overall and 15-4 in the GPAC.

“I’m really proud of our kids. That’s a really good team at home,” Olson said. “We knew they would be tough to beat. We did a great job in our press and got the tempo the way we wanted. We were able to get easy baskets.

“(Laurel) Zwiener got loose on us but we limited everyone else defensively.”

Like it typically does, Concordia used its attacking defense to create points while benefiting from a big first half from senior Katie Rich. The host Broncos took an early 17-12 advantage but never looked comfortable when trying to break the Bulldog pressure, which forced at least 20 turnovers for the 27th time this season and allowed Concordia to outnumber Hastings 24-10 in points off turnovers.

Concordia never panicked in the face of the early deficit and took control of the game with a 22-7 run to end the first half. The Bulldogs were beautifully in sync during the spurt with a pretty Kristen Conahan assist to Rich on a backdoor cut and triples by Conahan and sophomore Kelsey Hizer punctuating the run.

To Hastings’ credit, it did not simply lay down the rest of the way. The Broncos put together an 8-2 run that got them within 47-42. Concordia soon reasserted its dominance with another crushing spurt, this one by a 13-1 margin. The Bulldogs knew things were going their way when Britney Birtell banked in a long two-point jumper to make it 60-43 with 8:39 left.

Concordia shot 46.6 percent (27-for-58) for the game but heated up to 56 percent (14-for-25) in the second half. That’s when sophomore Bailey Morris put up 13 of her 16 points on the night while scoring on several driving layups.

Conahan came in next with 14 points and a team high five assists for the Bulldogs. Rich finished with 13 points and five rebounds while Jericca Pearson and Tracy Peitz added eight apiece. Included in Peitz’s eight points was a key 3-pointer from the left corner during the Bulldog’s big second-half run.

“I still think we have a ways to go,” Olson said. “At this point of the season everyone is playing well. We’re not going to just go and blow someone away. We have to play solid and really grind out wins. I’m excited that we are back to playing well together.”

Hastings entered the night with a 9-2 record on its home court, including 76-63 upset of then No. 9 Northwestern on Jan. 26. The Broncos got a career high 28 points from Zwiener on Wednesday.

Concordia will conclude the regular season on Saturday when it travels to Yankton, S.D., to play Mount Marty (16-12, 10-9 GPAC) at 2 p.m. The Bulldogs can tie Morningside for the conference title with a victory and a Mustang loss to Hastings. Concordia defeated Mount Marty 91-61 in the conference opener for both teams on Nov. 17.

Bulldogs close regular season with road victory

16 FEB 2013

YANKTON, S.D. – No. 7 Concordia raced out to a big early advantage and cruised to an 88-61 road win over Mount Marty on Saturday. The Bulldogs entered the day with a chance to tie Morningside for the conference title, but the Mustangs rallied to beat Hastings 79-63 on Saturday to claim the league championship outright. Head coach Drew Olson’s squad finishes the regular season with an overall record of 24-5 and a GPAC mark of 16-4.

“I think we have regained our confidence,” Olson said. “We re-established our roles on the team. It’s nice having Kelsey (Hizer), Tracy (Peitz) and Katie (Rich) gaining confidence in their shots and looking to shoot. Their giving us more weapons because they’re shooting it well.”

The Bulldogs got a 3-pointer from Peitz right out of the gate and held the lead the entire way, building a 20-point advantage with just under six minutes left in the first half. Mount Marty cut its deficit all the way down to 12 midway through the second half, but Bailey Morris quickly followed with a layup and the rout was back on. Olson cited Morris’ baseline drive as one of the key plays in the game.

Concordia outscored the Lancers 26-11 over the final 10:06 to salt away victory No. 24. The Bulldog defense served as the catalyst again, forcing 28 turnovers while holding Mount Marty to 40.8 percent shooting. Concordia consistently got good looks at the basket and shot 50.0 percent on the day, marking the third time this season it has shot at least 50 percent for an entire game.

“We had a really good start,” Olson said. “Tracy Peitz played phenomenal. Our press was really effective. We were getting them to turn it over and then scoring on those turnovers. We did a nice job defensively on their guards. (Taylor) Forsch and (April) Winne are good players.”

The Lancers struggled to contain junior guard Kristen Conahan all afternoon. The Omaha native continued her hot stretch of shooting from the outside as she nailed 5 of 7 shots from long range on the way to a game high 19 points. She also plucked three steals and dished out three assists.

Three Bulldogs joined Conahan in double-figures in scoring: Katie Rich (16), Morris (13) and Peitz (13). Rich went a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw line and added a team high four steals. Junior Lori Laboda topped the team with seven rebounds. Sophomore Ashley Kuntz came off the bench to score eight points in eight minutes of action.

Peitz, a sophomore from Hartington, Neb., put forth one of her best games of the season. She made 4 of 6 shots and played especially well defensively. She came up with three steals as part of Concordia’s outstanding effort on that end of the floor.

With the win Concordia earned a season sweep of Mount Marty with an average margin of victory of 28.5 points in the two meetings. Saturday’s contest marked the 13th triumph this season in which Concordia has won by 20 or more points.

The Bulldogs have concluded the regular season and now look forward to hosting a GPAC first-round tournament game on Wednesday at 7 p.m. As the No. 2 seed, Concordia will draw the seventh seed, which is yet to be determined.

Second-seeded Concordia to host Dordt Wednesday in GPAC Tournament

17 FEB 2013

Seventh-ranked Concordia (24-5, 16-4 GPAC) has earned the No. 2 seed in the GPAC Tournament and will open bracket play on Wednesday at 7 p.m. against seventh-seeded Dordt (16-14, 10-10 GPAC).

With a league mark of 16-4, the Bulldogs fininshed the regular season one game behind conference champion Morningside. As the No. 1 seed, the Mustangs will enjoy home court advantage as long as they remain alive in the tournament. With a victory Wednesday, Concordia would then host a semifinal game on Saturday against the winner between Northwestern and Mount Marty.

Dordt closed the regular season with a 68-59 overtime win versus Doane on Saturday. The Defenders upset then No. 1 Concordia on Jan. 5 in a double overtime contest. The Bulldogs then avenged that loss by posting an 87-64 triumph over Dordt inside Walz Arena on Feb. 9.

Dordt is 2-6 this season against ranked opponents and 6-6 in road games. The Defenders are led by Kara Van Dyke, who tops the team in scoring (13.0 ppg) and rebounding (7.4 rpg).

Dogged defense wears out Dordt in GPAC quaterfinals

20 FEB 2013

SEWARD, Neb. – The seventh-ranked Bulldogs leaned on their typically nasty defense as postseason play began on Wednesday night inside Walz Arena. Concordia forced 31 Dordt turnovers on the way to a 75-63 GPAC tournament quarterfinal win. Head coach Drew Olson’s squad has advanced to the GPAC semifinals where it will host third-seeded Northwestern at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

“I thought we played good basketball, not great,” Olson said. “I thought we had a really good start defensively. Our pressure really got to them. First half we just turned the ball over a lot and kept them in the game. In the second half we made another really good run and got up by 23.”

The Bulldogs got a monster scoring effort off the bench from sophomore Jericca Pearson. She matched a career high with 18 points on near perfect 5-for-6 shooting from the floor and 8-for-9 shooting from the foul line. The Gibbon, Neb., native was also part of a smothering defensive performance that limited the Defenders’ top player Kara Van Dyke to six points and seven turnovers.

“It was really the guards and everybody else trying to get me the ball and me end up finishing,” Pearson said. “That was exciting. Just finishing and making baskets caused the energy to go up and all of us to get excited. That’s really what gave us energy with everybody making shots.”

Concordia dominated Wednesday’s games at times when the offense clicked. After a slow start in the opening few minutes, the Bulldogs jumped out to a 19-5 lead with five different players scoring during the run, topped by six points from senior Katie Rich. The advantage bulged to as many as 16 points in the first half before the Defenders cut it to 38-28 at the break.

The Bulldogs got rolling again in the second half to put the game out of reach. The offense ignited during a 14-4 spurt that staked Concordia to a 60-37 advantage with less than 10 minutes to play. That bulge started with a Kristen Conahan 3-pointer and ended with a Rich triple from the right corner to virtually put the game on ice.

The plus-15 advantage in turnover margin allowed the Bulldogs to fire off 16 more shots. The lockdown defensive effort led to a 26-10 advantage in points off turnovers. Many of those points came from Concordia’s 17 steals. The ball-hawking Bulldogs had four players with three steals or more, including four each from Bailey Morris and Tracy Peitz and three apiece from Rich and Kelsey Hizer.

“I think our press took them out of their normal offense,” Olson said. “They really just couldn’t get Van Dyke the ball in spots where she normally catches it. We did a great job frustrating her and we did a decent job taking away their shooters. Overall, great energy for our team.”

Conahan trailed closely behind Pearson with 16 points while Rich tallied 11 on the scoreboard and added six rebounds in another strong defensive effort. Morris fell just short of double-figures with nine points. The sophomore from Roseland, Neb., dished out five assists and plucked four steals. Junior Lori Laboda paced the team with eight rebounds.

Dordt got a team best 18 points from Brianna Spronk. Van Dyke led all players with 10 rebounds.

With Wednesday’s victory, Concordia women’s basketball has won 25 or more games in eight of the past 12 seasons. The school record of 36 wins occurred in 2002-03 when the Bulldogs reached the national semifinals. Only three teams in program history have eclipsed the 30-win mark.

Saturday’s game against Northwestern will also be webcast live via the Concordia Sports Network. The first 300 students will be admitted free of charge.

The Red Raiders, ranked No. 8 nationally, advanced to play Concordia by drubbing Mount Marty 89-63 in Orange City, Iowa, on Wednesday in one of the four quarterfinal matchups. The Bulldogs split the season series with Northwestern as each team held serve on its own home court.

“We don’t want our conference tournament to be over,” Pearson said. “It’s just a whole bunch of energy coming to conference. We’re all ecstatic. We’re all ready to win. We’re all ready to go.”

No. 7 Concordia, No. 8 Northwestern set to clash in GPAC Semifinals

22 FEB 2013

SEWARD, Neb. – The semifinals of the GPAC women’s basketball tournament could easily be confused for the national semifinals. The quartet of teams in action on Saturday are each ranked in the top 14 nationally and three of the four, including Concordia, advanced to the Fab Four in Sioux City, Iowa, last March.

Head coach Drew Olson’s Bulldogs (25-5, 16-4 GPAC) continue play in the GPAC Tournament at 3 p.m. on Saturday in the semifinals. Eighth-ranked Northwestern (22-6, 15-5 GPAC), winner of the last three national championships, will serve as the opponent as Concordia resumes its quest for a second-straight GPAC Tournament title. The first 350 students to arrive will be admitted free of charge.

“It’s another GPAC opponent so you know they’re going to be pretty good,” Olson said after Wednesday’s quarterfinal win over Dordt. “It’s nice that we’re at home. Hopefully we get another great crowd and pack in the Dog House.”

After hitting a bit of a rough patch in the second half of the GPAC regular season, the Bulldogs have gotten their swagger back with four-consecutive wins – all by 12 points or more. Concordia used a career high-tying 18 points from Jericca Pearson and 31 Dordt turnovers to cruise to a 75-63 victory over the Defenders on Wednesday night inside Walz Arena.

“The last three games we’ve started to feel confident with what we’re doing again,” Olson told the Omaha World-Herald early in the week. “We’re back to being healthy. We’re back to playing really good basketball.”

Last season the Bulldogs captured the GPAC Tournament title by defending their home court in the three-game run that included wins over No. 17 Hastings and No. 5 Morningside (title game). Concordia has been close to unbeatable in Seward over the past two years, as evidenced by its 28-3 home mark since the start of the 2011-12 season.

With the most important part of the college basketball season in their midst, Pearson and company believe they are clicking at the right time.

“I would say we’re more focused, more determined,” Pearson said after Wednesday’s triumph. “For Dordt it was their last chance. If they won they kept going, if they lost it’s the end of the season. We don’t want our conference tournament to be done. It’s just a whole bunch of energy coming into the conference (tournament). We’re all ecstatic. We’re all ready to win. We’re all ready to go.”

The Red Raiders, led by second-year head coach Chris Yaw, will present a significant challenge on Saturday. Northwestern is a program used to rising to the occasion when it matters most and has won seven games in a row since an upset loss at Hastings on Jan. 26.

Reigning GPAC Player of the Year Kendra De Jong went only 3-for-11 in the Red Raiders’ 63-51 victory over Concordia in Orange City, Iowa, on Feb. 2. However, she still put up 15 points and 17 rebounds in a game the Red Raiders dominated with defense. The matchup between De Jong and 2011-12 Defensive Player of the Year Katie Rich will be a compelling one once again. Concordia’s ability to contain De Jong (17.5 ppg, 10.6 rpg) could go a long way towards deciding the outcome.

The Bulldogs are hoping to duplicate the effort they put forth when they won the first meeting, 71-68, over Northwestern on Jan. 2, but they know they must contend with one of the nation’s top defensive teams. The Red Raiders rank first in the GPAC in field goal percentage defense (36.0) and second in scoring defense (61.6). Concordia counters with conference rankings of first in three major categories: scoring margin (plus-18.9), steals per game (16.6) and turnover margin (plus-10.6); and second in scoring offense (81.2).

The winner between second-seeded Concordia and third-seeded Northwestern will play either No. 1 seed Morningside or No. 4 seed Briar Cliff on Tuesday night in the championship game. The highest seed to advance will host.

Seventh-ranked Bulldogs come up short in GPAC semifinal heart-stopper

23 FEB 2013

SEWARD, Neb. – Saturday’s GPAC semifinal between No. 7 Concordia and No. 8 Northwestern (23-6, 15-5 GPAC) lived up to the hype and then some. The Red Raiders survived a frantic finish to pull out an 85-83 victory inside Walz Arena, allowing them to advance to Tuesday night’s GPAC championship game. The Bulldogs (25-6, 16-4 GPAC) now await the NAIA’s Wednesday (Feb. 27) announcement of the national tournament bracket.

“I thought both teams played really well at times and I told our players that we played great,” Concordia head coach Drew Olson said. “We played really well, but the bottom line is they deserved to win the game. When it comes down to it, we’ve got to be able to get defensive stops.”

With the Bulldogs trailing 85-83 with 10 seconds remaining, Northwestern’s Paige O’Neal missed a pair of free throws to give Concordia a chance to tie or win the game on the final possession. Senior Katie Rich received the ball in good position in the lane only to have her layup rim out and kick back to sophomore Kelsey Hizer, who rushed a free throw-line jumper that caromed into the hands of the Red Raiders’ Alli Dunkelberger as the final seconds ticked away.

The physical clash saw both teams fight through foul trouble to star players. Reigning GPAC Player of the Year Kendra De Jong picked up her fourth foul at the 11:09 mark of the second half and was forced to the bench. She eventually came back in and avoided picking up her fifth. Then with Concordia leading 73-71, star junior guard Kristen Conahan fouled out of the game with 4:40 remaining. Conahan exited with 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting (3-for-4 from beyond the arc).

Conahan’s absence down the stretch helped tip the game in favor of Northwestern, which extended its lead to 80-75 with a Dunkelberger dagger from the left baseline. That shot came immediately on the heels of Dunkelberger’s 3-pointer from the top of the key that broke the 75-all tie.

The Bulldogs tried to ride the hot hand of sophomore Bailey Morris to victory in crunch time. The lightning quick guard from Roseland, Neb., consistently jetted past Red Raider defenders to give Concordia a fighting chance in the final minutes. Morris tallied the last 10 points of the game for the Bulldogs, including eight in the final 36 seconds. She finished with a career high 28 points.

“The last minute it was get the ball into Bailey’s hands. Let’s push tempo and try to create something,” Olson said. “She did a great job for that minute getting us back into the game. When they missed both free throws, we were thinking let’s go get a two. Bailey did a nice job reading the floor – threw it up to Katie. Katie had a great look. It just didn’t go in.

“But we had plenty of misses. It doesn’t come down to that. It came down to the full 40 minutes and mostly us defensively not getting the job done.”

On an afternoon when buckets were at times hard to come by, Concordia aggressively attacked the hoop, resulting in 27 free throw attempts (21 made). The Bulldogs showed equal aggression on defense in forcing 27 Northwestern turnovers compared to just 11 of their own. However, the Red Raiders converted on 51.7 percent from the field, while Concordia shot only 35.8 percent and 4-for-17 from the 3-point arc.

The Bulldogs got another nice game from sophomore Jericca Pearson, who recorded 13 points (9-for-10 foul shooting) and eight rebounds. Sophomore Tracy Peitz also reached double-figures in scoring with 12 points. Meanwhile, Morris’ eight steals were one short of a career high.

De Jong put up yet another double-double with 19 points and 16 rebounds, but had limited touches in the paint. Dunkelberger provided the big shots in the waning moments and led Northwestern with 22 points. Samantha Kleinsasser went for 16 points and seven rebounds.

As the seventh-ranked team in NAIA Division II, Concordia is a lock to make another trip to the national tournament. A berth in the 2013 NAIA National Championships would mark the 12th appearance in school history and the fifth in the last six years. Olson has guided the Bulldogs to national tournaments in four of his first six years at the helm.

The 2013 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championships get underway on Wednesday, March 6 at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.

“We’re going to practice pretty hard and make sure we’re ready to go,” Olson said.

Rich, Conahan and Morris named to All-GPAC teams

27 FEB 2013

View GPAC women’s basketball all-conference teams

Concordia’s talented trio of senior Katie Rich, junior Kristen Conahan and sophomore Bailey Morris have each been named all-conference choices for the 2012-13 season, the GPAC announced on Wednesday. Rich and Conahan were both placed on the first team, while Morris is a second team pick. Rich also received GPAC Defensive Player of the Year honors for the second-straight year.

Rich, a native of Tilden, Neb., moves up to the conference’s first team after garnering second team accolades as both a sophomore and junior. The 5-foot-9 guard routinely matches up with the opponent’s top offensive threat and is one of the best defenders in the nation. She ranks third in the GPAC with 2.50 steals per game and is the third-leading scorer for Concordia with an average of 11.1 points per game.

In 123 career games, Rich has amassed 1,287 points, 648 rebounds, 264 steals and 232 assists. She was a key cog for the Bulldogs’ GPAC regular-season and tournament championship squad last season and will play in the national tournament for the third time in her career when the 2013 event gets started next week.

Conahan quickly became one of the top players in the GPAC upon her arrival at Concordia and is making her second-straight appearance on the GPAC’s first team. She has improved her numbers across the board compared to last season. The Omaha native leads Concordia with a scoring average of 15.9 points per game. She is shooting 40.8 percent from the field and 36.6 percent from 3-point range. She ranks second in the GPAC with 3.16 steals per game.

Morris, a native of Roseland, Neb., broke out with a huge sophomore campaign to improve upon her honorable mention all-conference honor last season. The 5-foot-4 guard is second on the team with 14.5 points per game and leads the conference with 3.23 steals per contest. She has vastly boosted her shooting percentages from a year ago and currently sits at 39.8 percent from the field and 35.0 percent from the 3-point arc.

Says head coach Drew Olson of the trio of Rich, Conahan and Morris: “They’ve got a lot of experience between Katie, Connie and Bailey, they’ve been there. At the same time they are really talented. They’ve got great athleticism, great speed, great quickness. They can really shoot the ball. I think that gives them a lot of different weapons that they can utilize at different times of the game.”

Rounding out all-conference honors for Concordia is junior Lori Laboda and sophomore Tracy Peitz, who both received honorable mention acknowledgment. Laboda, an honorable mention selection for the second-straight year, is averaging 6.3 points and a team-leading 6.4 rebounds in 29 games on the season. Meanwhile, Peitz is averaging 7.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.31 steals in 29 games.

Bulldogs draw Cardinal Stritch in national tournament first round

27 FEB 2013

National Tournament Bracket | NAIA National Qualifiers Release

SEWARD, Neb. – It’s official. For the fifth time in the last six years, and for the 12th time in program history, Concordia women’s basketball is headed to the NAIA Division II National Championships. The complete bracket, announced Wednesday night by the NAIA, tabbed the Bulldogs as a No. 3 seed and pitted them against sixth-seeded Cardinal Stritch University (Wis.) in the first round at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 7 at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.

The first-round game will be a rematch of last season’s second round contest in which the Bulldogs cruised to a 69-48 victory over Cardinal Stritch. Concordia holds an all-time tournament record of 2-0 against the Wolves, having also beaten Cardinal Stritch 65-51 in the second round in 2005.

“When we played them last year it was a tough, physical game,” Olson said. “They had two pretty good posts and a really good shooter at guard. I don’t know if it’s the same team or not this season, but the fact that they got to their conference finals shows they’re playing well.”

The Wolves, led by third-year head coach John Pfaffl, own a record of 26-7 overall and are ranked 21st in the national coaches’ poll. They received an automatic bid to Sioux City by finishing as the runner up in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament. Cardinal Stritch ranks seventh in NAIA Division II in scoring defense (54.1) and 13th in rebound margin (plus-7.8). Star sophomore forward Michelle Piepenburg leads the team with averages of 14.0 points and 8.3 rebounds.

The Bulldogs finished last season’s national tournament unsatisfied with their 74-70 Fab Four loss to College of the Ozarks (Mo.) on March 12. Despite falling to Northwestern in last week’s GPAC semifinal game, Concordia remains confident it can make a deep run in Sioux City. Donning bracelets throughout the season with the words “unfinished business” printed on them, the Bulldogs feel like they have something to prove.

“’Unfinished Business’ refers to the business we failed to take care of last March in Sioux City,” sophomore Bailey Morris said. “It’s been a long-term goal since the beginning of the season (to take care of the unfinished business) and is often discussed. We’ve set some high standards for ourselves, and I’m confident that we can achieve them.”

Olson could sense this unique confidence and determination in his team entering the 2012-13 season. With the calendar about to flip to March, that attitude has not changed.

“It says a lot about our program that we expect not just to get to the tournament, but to do well when we get there,” Olson said. “This group especially had the mindset that it wouldn’t be good enough just to get there. They weren’t going to be satisfied by that.”

As the No. 9-rated team in NAIA Division II, Concordia ranks first among the 11 schools that received at-large bids. A total of 21 squads gained entry into the tournament by way of automatic bids. Morningside and Northwestern earned the two GPAC automatic berths, while Briar Cliff joins Concordia in the at-large pool. The four national tournament GPAC squads were each placed in their own quadrants of the bracket.

With a deep and experienced backcourt and a relentless, full-court pressure defense, Concordia employs the type of talent and style that figures to give unfamiliar foes headaches. The Bulldogs enter the national tournament ranked third nationally in steals per game (16.4), third in turnover margin (plus-10.8), seventh in scoring offense (81.2), eighth in scoring margin (plus-18.2) and 10th in 3-point field goals per game (8.0).

The impressive numbers aside, Concordia now begins a new season against a worthy opponent.

“I think a lot of people would agree that the tournament the last three or four years has gotten even tougher,” Olson said. “It used to be that the top seeds were definitely going to win. Now everyone is a tough out in the first round.”

The first 30 tournament games from Sioux City, Iowa, will be available via the NAIA’s live video stream for $29.95 and any single day can be purchased for $9.95. For more information and to pre-register, click here.

The National Championship final on Tuesday, March 12 will be televised live nationally on CBS Sports Network with tip-off at 6 p.m. CST.

NOTES:

  • In its first 11 appearances at the national championships, Concordia has posted a record of 18-11 with three trips to the national semifinals and four quarterfinal finishes. The Bulldogs are 8-3 overall in first-round games, including a 7-1 mark in the last eight first-round contests. All of the program’s 12 national qualifying seasons have come since 1992 – the same year the NAIA split into two divisions for both men’s and women’s basketball.
  • Concordia carries a record of 5-4 this season against teams that have qualified for the national tournament. The five wins came against Morningside (twice), Northwestern, Briar Cliff and College of Saint Mary. The four losses came at the hands of Northwestern (twice), Concordia-Ann Arbor and Briar Cliff.
  • Ten of the 13 players on the Bulldogs’ official national tournament roster have prior experience at the national tournament. These 10 individuals have combined for 38 career games between appearances in 2010 and 2012. Senior Katie Rich leads the team with five career national tournament games played.
  • Rich has played at a high level in her five tournament games. She leads current Concordia players with a national tournament scoring average of 17.0 points. She has also averaged 5.8 rebounds and 3.4 steals while shooting 58.3 percent from the field and 85.7 percent from the free throw line.
  • Last season Rich received First Team All-Tournament honors as the Bulldogs made a run to the Fab Four. Junior Kristen Conahan averaged 14.3 points at the 2012 national tournament on the way to earning Second Team All-Tournament recognition.
  • In the program’s first 29 games at the national tournament, the Bulldogs have averaged 70.6 points per game while allowing an average of 64.2 points. The school record for most points in a single tournament game came in 2003 when Concordia defeated William Jewell (Mo.) 88-44 in the second round. The Bulldogs’ stingiest defensive effort occurred in 2005 when they held Western Baptist to just 28 points in a 70-28 first-round victory.
  • Head coach Drew Olson has been at the controls for each of Concordia’s past five national tournament appearances (including 2013). Olson also helped the Bulldog men to two national tournaments as a player and was part of three such trips to the grand stage as an assistant men’s coach at Bellevue University (Neb.). Seventh-year assistant coach Amy Harms has served on Olson’s staff for all five national tournament appearances since 2008 and played in national tournaments in 2002 and 2003 as a member of the Bulldogs. The 2003 squad owns the school record with 36 wins and advanced to the national semifinals. In addition, graduate assistant Thad Sankey played on Concordia national tournament teams in 2003 and 2005. The 2005 team finished as the national runner up.
  • Olson became the fifth coach in program history to lead the Bulldogs to the national tournament when he made his first appearance as head coach in 2008. Now with five national tournament appearances, Olson has two more than Todd Voss for the most among head coaches in school history. Here are the all-time records for Bulldog coaches at the national tournament:
    • Todd Voss: 8-3 (three appearances; two Fab Fours; one quarterfinal finish)
    • Drew Olson: 7-4 (five appearances; one Fab Four; two quarterfinal finishes)
    • Mark Lemke: 2-2 (two appearances; one quarterfinal finish)
    • Micah Parker: 1-1 (one appearance)
    • Carl Everts: 0-1 (one appearance)
  • Concordia earned the No. 1 ranking in each of the first four polls of the 2012-13 season and enters the national tournament at No. 9. In the last 13 years, six teams that have been rated No. 1 in the preseason have gone on to win the national championship.
  • Great Plains Athletic Conference members have won 11 of the last 12 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championships. Northwestern has five national titles during that stretch while Hastings and Morningside each have three. The GPAC has advanced at least two teams into the Fab Four five-straight years and in 11 of the past 12 years. Last season Concordia, Briar Cliff and Northwestern all reached the semifinals.

Fan bus set to travel to women's basketball national tournament March 7

28 FEB 2013

The Concordia athletic department has organized a fan bus that will travel to Sioux City, Iowa, on Thursday, March 7 for the Bulldog’s first-round game at the 2013 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championships in Sioux City, Iowa.

Those interested in reserving a seat on the bus should contact Daneen Kovar Theye by email at Daneen.KovarTheye@cune.edu or by phone at 402-643-7320. The cost is $25 per person. Reservations will be accepted from the first 50 people to respond. Faculty, staff, students, Seward community members and people of all ages are welcome to come cheer on the Bulldogs!

The bus will leave campus at 5:30 a.m. on March 7 in preparation for Concordia’s 8:30 a.m. game versus Cardinal Stritch University. The bus will then travel back to Seward shortly after the conclusion of the game.

Backcourt trio makes Bulldogs go

04 MAR 2013

By Jake Knabel, Sports Information Director

It’s no secret why Concordia women’s basketball has risen to elite status since the turn of the new millennium. A slew of multi-talented guards began finding their way to Seward, Neb., opening up a floodgate that has bestowed the program with riches in the form of backcourt stars.

From All-American guard Elizabeth Rhoden, the backbone of Concordia’s school record 36-win 2002-03 team, to the present edition’s triumvirate of senior Katie Rich, junior Kristen Conahan and sophomore Bailey Morris, the Bulldogs have been stacked with floor generals.

Head coach Drew Olson places a premium on finding guards that fit his uptempo, attacking style on both ends of the floor. He knows he hit it big when he landed Rich, Conahan and Morris in consecutive years. With Rich now the leader of the group as a senior, the Bulldogs own arguably the nation’s best group of guards.

“They’ve got a lot of experience between Katie, Connie and Bailey. They’ve been there,” Olson said. “At the same time they are really talented. They’ve got great athleticism, great speed and great quickness. They can really shoot the ball. I think that gives them a lot of different weapons that they can utilize at different times of the game.”

Not only does the trio light up the scoreboard (they each average between 11.1 and 15.9 points per game), but it is also an absolute terror on the defensive end. They rank Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the GPAC in steals per game, enabling the Bulldogs to force 20 or more turnovers in every game this season but one. Root canals are more pleasant than the effort it takes to break Concordia’s full-court press complete with this relentless bunch of ball-hawkers.

“They’re all athletic, they can run and they can guard multiple positions,” Olson said. “They’re very interchangeable. They’re super aggressive. They love to defend and they love to pressure people and make them miserable.”

Rich embodies these traits as well as anyone. The native of Tilden, Neb., also a national qualifier last season in the shot put at the NAIA outdoor track and field championships, is arguably the best athlete on campus. This natural ability combined with her tenacious style on the court helped make her the GPAC Defensive Player of the Year in each of the past two seasons.

“On the court my style of play is definitely defense minded first,” Rich said. “The momentum can change with a big rebound or a big steal. Even getting deflections helps our team, and those little things don’t get put in the stat book.”

Rich’s hustle and aggressiveness on the court has filtered down to the rest of the team. She is Concordia’s unquestioned leader who demands the best out of her teammates.

“Katie Rich has always been a leader since I've been here. I think it's just her nature,” Conahan said. “She has definitely been someone I look up to as a vocal leader and for her work ethic. She is constantly pushing everyone to improve.”

Improvement has been evident in all of Concordia’s backcourt standouts. Already a second team All-American as a sophomore last season, Conahan has seen her numbers rise across the board. She is averaging a career best 15.9 points and has smothered opponents to the tune of a 3.16 steals per contest. Noted for her long-range shooting, the Omaha native has drained 90 3-point field goals – sixth most in NAIA Division II. As Olson says, “Connie’s an incredible shooter. She has the quickest release that I’ve seen.”

With the departure of first team All-American guard Amber Kistler following last season’s run to the national semifinals, the Bulldogs needed someone to fill the void. Morris, a 5-foot-4 lightning quick guard from Roseland, Neb., has stepped up in a big way. An offseason spent fine-tuning her 3-point shot and pull-up jumper has made Morris one of the most versatile scorers in the country.

“Bailey has been great for our team this year,” Conahan said. “I think everyone improves a great deal from freshman to sophomore year because now they have an understanding of how difficult the GPAC is and also how long the season is. She has a lot more confidence this year and realizes she is a dominant player that most teams can't stop.”

Morris’ dedication in the offseason has paid off in obvious ways. Her shooting percentages have skyrocketed from 36.7 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from 3-point range last season to 39.8 percent and 35.0 percent, respectively. Of course going up against Rich and Conahan in practice also has its benefits.

“I can say with confidence that they are two of the best players in the country and practicing with them every day has significantly improved my game,” Morris said. “Kristen and I guard each other almost every day in practice and because we’re both so competitive, we’re consistently pushing each other to become the best guards we can be.”

Morris, one of six players on the Concordia roster that at least shared the point guard role in high school, has the freedom to attack the rim anytime she feels necessary. Olson convinced the Sandy Creek High School product to be an aggressive scorer after serving more of a distributor role as a prep.

Morris’ emergence as one of the GPAC’s top players has made life even more difficult on the rest of the conference. The backcourt has powered the team to a record of 59-9 record the past two years and pushed it to the top of the league in key categories like scoring margin and turnover margin. Teams that struggle to match up athletically at the guard position run the risk of getting run right out of the gym.

“With our team this year we are very fast,” Rich said. “Offensively we want to get the ball out quick but under control. I think that is when we play our best – when we can push the pace but still take care of the ball. Defensively we are aggressive. Our press is what gets us going.”

With this Bulldog backcourt, Olson has a close-knit group that thrives off of one another’s energy.

“What don’t I enjoy about playing with them? They’re both so athletic and love to run the floor like I do,” Morris said of Conahan and Rich. “They’re just fun to play with because they have the ability to create opportunities for themselves and others whenever they want to.”

The ultimate test for Concordia’s do-it-all backcourt comes in Sioux City, Iowa, at the national tournament. The grand stage has a way of making the brightest stars illuminate in blinding fashion. Is this group ready?

“I think it’s one of the best if not the best,” Olson said of his backcourt. “Morningside definitely has a really good backcourt with (Shelby) Beaudette and (Chelsie) Trask. Briar Cliff has a lot of really good guards that can play. I think ours is one of the best but we’ll see when we get to nationals.”

Led by the senior Rich, Concordia enters the national tournament unsatisfied with last season’s loss in the national semifinals. Donning bracelets throughout the current campaign that spell out the words “unfinished business,” the Bulldogs, fueled by that dominant collection of guards, have set their sights on something special this March.

No. 9 Bulldogs eliminated in national tournament first round

07 MAR 2013

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – A promising 2012-13 Concordia women’s basketball campaign that began with 15-straight wins ended in the first round of the 2013 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championships on Thursday. Sixth-seeded and 21st-nationally ranked Cardinal Stritch used a superior performance defensively and on the boards to upset the Bulldogs, 66-60, and bounce them from the tournament. Concordia ends its season with a mark of 25-7 overall, following a second-place GPAC finish.

“Cardinal Stritch is a really good team. They played well,” Bulldog head coach Drew Olson said. “They deserved to win. We had chances at the end as we continued to chip away at the lead. We didn’t get the rebounds we needed. That’s really what cost us.”

After the Bulldogs came out of the gate with an 8-4 lead, the Wolves responded with a 12-0 run and led most of the way. Cardinal Stritch star forward Michelle Piepenburg and company out-muscled Concordia on the boards, 40-29, helping the Wolves to an 18-6 advantage in second-chance points. Their work on the glass frustrated a Concordia team that played catch up after getting down eight in the first half and nine in the second half.

Cardinal Stritch (27-7) finally iced the game with Julie Raeder’s four free throws in the final seconds after Concordia had turned to Bailey Morris in the clutch. Morris, a sophomore from Roseland, Neb., tallied a game high 17 points and kept the Bulldogs close late in the game with her driving layups.

The momentum appeared to shift when junior guard Kristen Conahan drilled a 3-pointer in the right corner with 6:03 left in the game to pull Concordia within 52-49, closing the gap on what had been a 50-41 deficit. Following a Cardinal Stritch bucket, Peitz drained a deep trey from the left wing to make it 54-52. Unfortunately, Concordia failed to continue its roll and Liz Neitzel’s 3-pointer at about the 3:30 mark pushed the Wolves’ advantage back to seven.

The Bulldogs slashed the deficit down to two when Morris’ layup in traffic made it 60-58. Raeder then nailed two free throws with :20 left and Conahan’s 3-point attempt on the ensuing possession went out of bounds, allowing Cardinal Strich to claim the tournament’s first significant upset.

In addition to rebounding struggles, Concordia went through prolonged offensive droughts in both halves. Stritch’s 12-0 run spanned a period in which the Bulldogs went scoreless for nearly six minutes, finally ending that futility at the 11:19 mark of the first half. The Bulldogs then scored only 12 points in the opening 13 minutes of the second half.

“I thought we played hard,” Olson said. “Offensively we tried to do a little too much on our own. We rarely had the ball in the post when we needed to. I’m disappointed – we had opportunities.

“When Connie hits that three (6:03 mark of the second half), we kind of felt like we’re going to change a little bit and we’re going to find a way to win this game. It just didn’t happen.”

Conahan added 12 points and six steals in allowing Concordia to force 27 turnovers, meaning the Bulldogs caused 20 or more turnovers in all but one game all season. Sophomore Kelsey Hizer, who knocked down 2 of 3 attempts from 3-point range, finished with 10 points. Morris plucked four steals to go along with her 17 points.

The loss marks the end of the career for two-time GPAC Defensive Player of the Year Katie Rich. In four seasons at Concordia, she led the Bulldogs to a record of 95-37 (.720), one GPAC regular season and tournament title each and three appearances at the national tournament.

“I love Katie,” Olson said. “I’m really proud of what she did for our team. I love Beth (Kohmetscher) and Dawn (Martin) too, for what they did for our program. All three of them sacrificed themselves and put in a lot of work.

“Katie is a tremendous player. She will go down as one of the best players in our program’s history. Everything she did to get our program back to this level – I can’t thank her enough.”

Concordia entered the national tournament with an all-time record of 8-3 in first-round games, including wins in seven of the previous eight opening-round contests.

Thursday’s game was a rematch of a second round battle last season when the Bulldogs defeated Cardinal Strich 69-48 to advance to the quarterfinals of the national tournament.

Concordia will return all-league guards in Conahan and Morris for the 2013-14 season. Several other key players will be back in the fold as well for a team that figures to enter the season nationally-ranked once again.

Martin, Stoltz named NAIA Scholar-Athletes

11 MAR 2013

Concordia women’s basketball team members Dawn Martin and Kasi Stoltz have been named 2013 Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athletes, as announced by the national office on Monday.

Martin, a senior from Rockford, Ill., also earned the same honor last year as a junior. She is a secondary education major with an emphasis in physics and math. Stoltz, a junior and Elgin, Neb., native, has been awarded as a Scholar-Athlete for the first time in her career. She is majoring in sports management and coaching.

In order to be nominated by an institution's head coach, a student-athlete must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale and must have achieved a junior academic status to qualify for this honor. A total of 178 NAIA Division II women’s basketball players were named 2013 Scholar-Athletes.

Click HERE to view the complete list of Scholar-Athletes.

Conahan, Rich receive NAIA All-America honors

13 MAR 2013

View complete 2012-13 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball All-America teams

Concordia junior guard Kristen Conahan, a second team All-America selection as a sophomore, has been named to the 2012-13 first team All-America squad, as announced by the NAIA on Wednesday. Joining Conahan with All-America honors is senior guard Katie Rich, who was placed on honorable mention for the second time in her career.

Conahan, also a two-time first team all-GPAC choice, moves up to first team All-America after improving her numbers across the board as a junior. The Omaha native led the Bulldogs in scoring with 15.8 points per game (third in the GPAC), while tying teammate Bailey Morris for the conference lead with 3.25 steals per contest. Conahan nailed 92 3-point field goals (seventh in NAIA Division II) and topped Concordia with 3.1 assists per game. She has scored 1,374 points in her first three collegiate seasons.

Rich, a native of Tilden, Neb., collects honorable mention All-America accolades in addition to receiving first team all-conference and GPAC Defensive Player of the Year honors this season. She averaged 10.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.5 steals in 31 games this season. For her career, Rich totaled 1,293 points, 653 rebounds, 265 steals and 233 assists in 124 games.

With Conahan’s first team mention, Concordia women’s basketball has now had 14 All-America selections (first, second or third team) in program history. Conahan joins Whitney Stichka (2008 and 2009) and Trish Kindle (1993 and 1994) as just the third women’s basketball player in school history to be named an All-American in two separate seasons.

Bulldogs finish ranked No. 9 in postseason poll

20 MAR 2013

View complete NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Postseason Top 25 Poll

The Concordia women’s basketball team has completed the 2012-13 season with a postseason ranking of No. 9. The NAIA released the complete postseason NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Top 25 Poll on Wednesday.

The Bulldogs spent the entire 2012-13 season ranked in the top 10 – a total of 13 polls – and now own an active streak of 26-straight top 25 mentions. Under head coach Drew Olson, the program has finished the season ranked in four of seven years and has appeared in the top 25 at least once in six of those seven seasons.

The four-straight No. 1 rankings to begin this season were the most for the program since the nine-consecutive appearances atop the poll in 2002-03. Since Nov. 28, 2011, Concordia has been placed in the top 10 of every poll – a total of 26.

Last season the Bulldogs appeared at No. 3 in the postseason poll after advancing to the semifinals of the national tournament.

This year’s postseason edition included three GPAC teams other than Concordia: No. 3 Morningside, No. 4 Northwestern and No. 12 Briar Cliff.