Bulldog volleyball jumps out to first 4-0 start since 2005

Bulldog volleyball jumps out to first 4-0 start since 2005

MONTREAT, N.C. – The competition level ratcheted up on Saturday on the second and final day of the Montreat College Volley in the Mountains in Montreat, N.C. The Bulldog volleyball squad completed a perfect 4-0 start to the season by outlasting Mount Vernon Nazarene University (Ohio) in five sets, 14-25, 25-22, 28-30, 25-19, 15-7 and then rolling in the fourth set for a 25-16, 19-25, 25-19, 25-10 victory over Montreat.

Concordia is 4-0 for the first time since 2005 when then first-year head coach Rachel Miller guided the Bulldogs to an 18-0 mark to begin the campaign. Head coach Scott Mattera’s squad has already bested its 2012 season high win streak of three.

Mount Vernon Nazarene, led by the NAIA’s winningest active coach in Paul Swanson, took the first set handily and led 2-1 after three games. But the Bulldogs roared back on the strength of a monster effort by junior middle Mariah Schamp. The native of Arvada, Colo., pounded out a career high 24 kills while stifling the Cougar attack with 5.5 blocks.

Despite at times playing sloppily, the Bulldogs came out victorious against a fundamentally sound opponent.

“This was a nightmare matchup for us in so many ways,” Mattera said. “Mount Vernon Nazarene is simply a team that doesn't make mistakes. They are so consistent and they don't give you any points. We also were in danger of looking forward to the matchup tonight with Montreat that is literally the talk of the town.”

Mattera admired the way his young Bulldog squad kept a positive mind and fought back after dropping the first set and then falling behind again after losing the third set.

“We could look at all of our errors and pick out a lot of negatives but we will do that later,” Mattera said. “Right now, we are focusing on just how tough minded we were in the fourth and fifth sets and how we were able to change our play by changing our energy. That's such a huge part of volleyball and it was a fantastic lesson early in the year.”

That led into the anticipated final match of the night between Concordia and Montreat, an Appalachian Athletic Conference member for which Mattera served as an assistant coach in 2011. The Bulldogs looked sharp from the get-go and after a brief hiccup in set No. 2, they shut the door with a dominant effort in the fourth and final set.

Said Mattera, “Fantastic win over a very spirited Montreat group in a very tough environment.”

Sophomore Claire White of Exeter, Neb., played solid again on the attack with 11 kills, giving her 31 kills on the day. She totaled 56 kills on the weekend to top the Bulldogs.

Junior Carli Smith racked up 25 more digs and freshman Paige Getz went for double-digit kills for the second-straight match with a team best 12 against Montreat.

As is typical, Juniors Kayla James and Jami Nekoliczak split time at setter and combined for 30 assists in the victory over the Cavaliers, while junior right side Michala Maurer piled up six service aces.

Saturday’s wins go a long way toward legitimizing the preseason buzz regarding the significant improvement of Mattera’s squad. Both Mount Vernon Nazarene and Montreat won 24 matches last season.

“We are starting to get used to being a team that other teams bring their best shot against,” Mattera said. “Wearing the mantle of raised expectations is a very interesting process and we are starting to embrace it. This whole trip has been an amazing experience with so many different girls stepping up at different times. We've got a lot of work to do but tonight was a nice glimpse of who we could be.”

The Bulldogs will not officially return to action until next Friday at the Bellevue University Labor Day Classic, but fans can catch a glimpse of the team at the Blue-White scrimmage on Tuesday. The action will get started at 7:30 p.m. from Walz Arena.

24 August 2013