Many moments of excitement were produced this spring for Concordia squads led by elite athletes such as Samantha Liermann, Hhana Haro, Erin Lokke, Marlene Maier, Christian Meza, Addie Shaw and Cody Williams, to name a few. Team conference championships were delivered by head coach Ryan Dupic’s baseball program and by head coach Matt Beisel’s women’s track and field program. The spring concluded with national championship events in locations such as Henderson, Tenn., and Gulf Shores, Ala. By the time the dust settled, Concordia moved up to No. 2 in the final GPAC All-Sports Trophy Standings. In addition, 2018-19 Bulldog student-athletes are on track to break a school record for most NAIA Scholar-Athletes in an academic year.
Liermann, Shaw claim national titles on back-to-back days
The pressure of carrying national top seeds into the 2019 NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championships failed to get to Samantha Liermann or Addie Shaw. Two of the most accomplished throwers in school history added their résumés with a national title apiece on the final weekend of the season. First up, Liermann tossed the shot put 50’ 5 ¼” on May 24 while sewing up the third shot put national championship of her impressive career. The very next day, Shaw defended her 2018 NAIA discus title with a winning toss of more than 154’ ½.” Liermann and Shaw are two of five Concordia throwers in program history with more than one career individual national title. The duo helped the Bulldogs place fifth nationally as a team at the NAIA outdoor meet. Liermann and Shaw wound up with two All-America awards apiece as the season came to a close.
Joked Shaw afterwards, “(Sam) is my best friend but I’m going to be chasing her (for number of national titles).” Liermann completed her career with three NAIA shot put national titles. She was a member of the 2016 outdoor national championship team.
Baseball jets out to 15-0 start in league play, wins GPAC title
Picked in the preseason by league coaches to finish fifth, the Concordia baseball team shook off a disappointing seventh-place finish in 2018 and rose back up to the top of the GPAC standings in 2019. Behind a stunningly dominant pitching staff, head coach Ryan Dupic’s squad raced out to a 15-0 conference record while running away with the program’s second GPAC regular-season title in three years. Second baseman Christian Meza became the program’s first player to ever be named GPAC Player of the Year while a pitching staff led by the likes of Dylan DuRee, Jake Fosgett, Sasha Jabusch and Jason Munsch carried the Bulldogs to an NAIA National Championship Opening Round appearance. That vaunted staff produced an impeccable 2.31 ERA in conference games and shattered the program record for strikeouts in a single season with 501. Offensively, Concordia broke the school standard for home runs in a season with 40. On the national stage, Munsch struck out 12 hitters in a 3-1 win over Clarke University.
Track women complete sweep of GPAC indoor/outdoor team titles
Only one other time in school history had the women’s track and field program swept GPAC indoor/outdoor conference titles – until the 2019 group accomplished that feat again. The latest championship was spurred in part by individual GPAC titles from Rachel Battershell (400 meters), Samantha Liermann (shot put), Erin Mapson (pole vault) and Addie Shaw (discus). It took many more contributors for GPAC Women’s Coach of the Year Matt Beisel’s squad to reach such heights. A total of 29 Concordia female athletes earned outdoor all-conference honors in one or more events. Not only did Liermann win the conference shot put title, she also broke the GPAC outdoor meet record in the event. Shaw led the way with 21 team points via her GPAC title in the discus in addition to place finishes of third in the hammer and fourth in the shot put. Bulldog women’s track and field has captured six conference titles in school history with the first coming in 1998 when Concordia competed in the Nebraska-Iowa Athletic Conference.
Williams earns GPAC Athlete of the Meet, GPAC Athlete of the Year awards
Cody Williams keeps getting better and better. Now a three-time All-American, Williams may have enjoyed the finest moment of his young collegiate track and field career to date when he racked up 34 team points at the GPAC outdoor championships by way of conference titles in the 110 meter hurdles (14.88) and the long jump (23’ 7 ¼”) and place finishes of second in the high jump (6’ 7 ½”) and third in the triple jump (45’ 1 ¾”). That point total resulted in Williams earning the GPAC Outstanding Athlete of the Meet and GPAC Athlete of the Year awards. Williams is the fourth Bulldog male since 2011 to earn GPAC Outdoor Athlete of the Year accolades. The previous three were Lucas Wiechman (2017), Zach Lurz (2014) and Dana Schmidt (2011). At this spring’s NAIA championship meet, Williams competed in the long jump, high jump and pole vault.
Zikas wins David Toms Overcoming Adversity Award, finishes Concordia career
An inspirational student-athlete throughout his time at Concordia, cancer survivor Nolan Zikas was named the 2018 winner of the David Toms Overcoming Adversity Award on March 19. In its 10th year of existence, the Toms Overcoming Adversity Award is presented each year to the men's collegiate golfer who has overcome obstacles in life to excel both on and off the golf course. In recent years, the honor has been given to student-athletes from schools such as the University of Michigan, Louisiana State University and the University of Florida. In recognition of his honor, Zikas flew to Orlando, Fla., over spring break to interview at the headquarters of the Golf Channel. That interview aired as part of the Golf Channel’s Morning Drive program early on March 19. Now a Bulldog alum, Zikas finished his career with numerous school records, including standards for lowest single-season average (74.06) and lowest career average (75.60). He was a four-time All-GPAC performer.
Women’s tennis reaches GPAC final, breaks program wins record
Some unique dynamics were in play this spring for the Concordia women’s tennis team, which welcomed a new head coach, David DeSimone, in the middle of February and brought in a new top player in Alcorn State University transfer Marlene Maier. It all worked out quite well in what amounted to perhaps the best season in program history. With Maier at the No. 1 spot in the lineup, the Bulldogs broke the school single-season record for wins with a 15-6 overall mark and came within a hair of winning the GPAC tournament title. At one point, Concordia won five GPAC matches in a row and captured postseason victories over Midland and College of Saint Mary.
Softball goes on 12-game win streak, beats eventual NAIA World Series qualifier
There were times during the 2019 season that the softball program looked like a serious contender for a GPAC title in Shawn Semler’s first year as head coach of the Bulldogs. Hhana Haro and Tori Homolka were the anchors of the lineup while Camry Moore and Brittany Woolridge formed a nice 1-2 pitching combo. They were instrumental in a 12-game winning streak (longest for the program since 2008), that included a win over eventual NAIA Softball World Series qualifier Valley City State University. Semler’s squad ended up at 28-12 overall for the program’s fourth .700 win percentage season or better all-time.
Lokke wins female national title in combined international open events; shooting sports makes climb up national leaderboard
The shooting sports program has reached new levels in terms of the quantity and quality of its roster as it just completed its first season as an official varsity athletic program at Concordia. Scott Moniot took the reins of the program and helped guide the team to a finish of fourth high over all out of 13 teams in Division 2 at the ACUI National Championships in San Antonio, Texas. Once again, the most high profile competitor within the program was Erin Lokke, now a CUNE graduate. Her accomplishments in San Antonio included a second-place HOA finish among women and a national championship in the category of combined international open events by way of shooting an 86 in international skeet and a 94 in international trap. Back in April, Lokke represented the United States at the International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) World Cup in the city of Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates (eastern region of Abu Dhabi), where she competed in skeet. Lokke continues to have aspirations of competing internationally.
Women’s golf breaks school single-round record at Concordia Invite
There were some ups and downs for the women’s golf program in 2018-19, but things came together on March 28 when the Bulldogs shot a 332 and broke the school record for lowest team score in a single round. That total placed Concordia third among 10 teams at its own spring invite at Highlands Golf Course. Murphy Sears (78), Kendra Placke (79) and DJ Bokelman (84) each shot an 84 or lower in paving the way for a new standard. It was a stellar freshman season for Placke, who led the team with a season scoring average of 81.46 and placed fifth in the GPAC.
2019 record: 33-20 overall, 23-5 GPAC (1st)
Top performer: Senior second baseman Christian Meza became the first Bulldog in baseball program history to be named the GPAC Player of the Year. In his final season at Concordia, Meza hit .339 with 16 doubles, three home runs, 40 RBIs and a .446 on-base percentage and .480 slugging percentage. Meza concluded his collegiate career with school all-time rankings of first in doubles (53), second in hits (216), second in RBIs (141), third in games played (189), sixth in runs scored (115) and seventh in batting average (.340).
Season highlights: Just like the 2017 team, the 2019 team celebrated a GPAC regular-season title. Unlike the 2017 team, the 2019 squad enjoyed the chance to lock up the championship at home, as it did on April 27 with a dominant pitching performance from Sasha Jabusch. From March 22 through April 9, the Bulldogs won 15 games in a row (all against conference opponents) while breaking the school record for longest win streak. All season long, Concordia got stellar work from a pitching staff that mesmerized its conference competition. So impressive was the staff that Bulldogs were responsible for four of the five pitchers on the All-GPAC first team. Those first team all-conference hurlers were Dylan DuRee, Jake Fosgett, Jabusch and Jason Munsch. Along the way, Jabusch put forward a 17-strikeout performance and Munsch K’d 16 in a win over Jamestown. Via the GPAC title, Concordia advanced to the NAIA national tournament for the second time in three seasons. Before being eliminated, the Bulldogs claimed a 3-1 win over Clarke University.
GPAC all-conference: Ryan Dupic (Coach of the Year); Christian Meza (Player of the Year; First Team); Wade Council (First Team; Gold Glove); Dylan DuRee (First Team); Jake Fosgett (First Team); Sasha Jabusch (First Team); Jason Munsch (First Team); Jesse Garcia (Second Team); Logan Ryan (Honorable Mention); Ryan Samuelson (Honorable Mention); Tanner Wauhob (Honorable Mention).
Thoughts from Coach Ryan Dupic: It’s been a fun year. I can’t say I really prepared for this (to end). The environment the players created for everybody allowed the players and us coaches to be ourselves. Sometimes in coaching I feel like you sort of get stuck being the police all the time and you can’t ever let your hair down and have fun. This team just did such an awesome job of balancing expectations and enjoying their experiences that it created an environment where we could all really be ourselves and have fun. Everybody was so well-accepted and so at peace. Obviously we were sad to lose the opportunity to continue that, which is always a challenge right away. I got a text from Drew Olson (when the season ended) and he talked about creating the type of program where you expect to go to nationals every year and that’s the hope as we move forward. With those juniors having been through this before I hope it can be motivation seeing just how close we are. The bottom line is we have to go back to work and just keep getting better. We’ll get recharged (over the offseason) and have a vision for the next step.
2018-19 men’s GPAC finish: 9th (309-300-326-320–1,255)
2018-19 women’s GPAC finish: 7th (334-338-370-389–1,431)
Top performers: A May 2019 graduate, Nolan Zikas left a lasting impact upon the program as a cancer survivor who has fought through numerous surgeries throughout his life. As a senior, Zikas broke a program single-season scoring average (74.05) while competing in all 17 rounds. His best performance was a 69-69–138 (school record two-round score at an event) that allowed him to win the Siouxland Invitational during the fall season. On the women’s side, freshman Kendra Placke starred with a team best scoring average of 81.46. She placed fifth in the GPAC and collected all-conference honors. Her low round of 2018-19 was a 75 as part of the GPAC Championships in the fall.
Season highlights: Placke and the women’s team took advantage of playing on their home course for the Concordia Spring Invitational and carded a school record single-round total of 332, which put the Bulldogs in third place out of 10 teams. Placke and junior Murphy Sears were responsible for each of the nine individual rounds of 80 or lower carded by Concordia in 2018-19. Placke and Sears were both named all-conference honorees. The women averaged a score of 360.46 for the season. On the men’s side, the Bulldogs shot their best round of 293 at the Siouxland Invite back in the fall and averaged 311.82 for the season. Zikas shot a two-under-par 69 on three separate occasions. A four-time All-GPAC performer, Zikas was named the David Toms Overcoming Adversity Award winner in March.
GPAC all-conference: Kendra Placke; Murphy Sears; Nolan Zikas.
Thoughts from Coach Brett Muller:
On Concordia women
The highlight for the women’s team during the spring season was shooting a 332 and setting the record for lowest 18 hole score in school history. Kendra finished the year fifth in the GPAC and Murphy joined her as All-GPAC performers. The team was able to improve our team score by 16 strokes from a year ago. Next year we return four of our top five players and look to move up the GPAC standings.
On Concordia men
Nolan Zikas completed his banner career finishing with a scoring average of 75.60 over the last four years and a season average of 74.1, both school records. Nolan holds multiple individual and team school records during his career and was the leader of our team the past three seasons. We will miss his leadership in years to come. The other four of the top five guys return in the fall. We need to improve our consistency. I am excited about the recruiting class we have coming in and look forward to making a jump in the standing next fall.
2019 national finish: 4th (out of 13 in Division 2)
Top performer: A competitor on the international scene, Erin Lokke departs Concordia having made a name for herself for a shooting sports program just beginning to take off. The native of Saint Francis, Minn., placed second high over all among women at the ACUI National Championships and was the female national champion in the category of combined international open events by way of shooting an 86 in international skeet and a 94 in international trap. As a silver medalist in the women’s international skeet championship (ISO), Lokke earned a spot on the National ACUI/USAS All-Collegiate International Team, an ACUI/USA Shooting All-Collegiate team jacket and entry into the USA Shooting National Championships.
Season highlights: The finish of fourth out of 13 teams in Division 2 at the ACUI National Championships marked a significant improvement from the 10th-place claim a year earlier. Broken down by discipline, the Bulldogs placed third in both American trap (484) and international trap (280), fourth in American skeet (482), seventh in international skeet (255) and eighth in super sporting (435) and sporting clays (403). They set new school records in five of those six disciplines. Across those events, Concordia’s top shooters were Lokke in American skeet (97) and super sporting (90), Wyatt Hambly in American trap (99) and American skeet (97), Colten Uitermarkt in international skeet (87), Wyatt Eriksen in international trap (96) and Breese and Hambly in super clays (84). Eriksen won a shoot-off to earn a podium finish in international trap (third place). Hambly was the men’s standout with a top three team score in every event. He shot 97 in American skeet, 99 in American trap, 84 in sporting clays, 86 in international skeet, 88 in super sporting and 90 in international trap. In addition, Hambly tied for ninth place in men’s combined American events and shared 10th place in the men’s American trap open event.
Thoughts from Coach Scott Moniot: We have been building the whole season for this event (ACUI National Championships). We knew this year was going to be a challenge going from a roster of 14 and more than doubling it and having 16 incoming freshmen. Our mantra has been, ‘We’re here to do a job.’ That applies academically and on the range. The kids went down (to San Antonio) and knocked it out of the park. The goal was to finish top 10. We had to be the youngest team there. I really leaned heavily on seniors Erin Lokke and Ethan Cradick. Erin went down there on a mission. With this young of a team, it’s going be exciting going forward. Erin set the standard very high. She put the bar high and she did it with style. I think it challenged a lot of our kids to see that if they work hard enough they will have an opportunity to go out like that. I think that’s always going to be a standard that will motivate everyone.
2019 record: 28-12 overall, 15-7 GPAC (3rd)
Top performer: It’s too close to call between fellow sophomore infielders Hhana Haro and Tori Homolka. Haro followed up a GPAC Player of the Year campaign in 2018 with another stellar season this spring. The team’s third baseman and No. 3 hitter earned first team All-GPAC accolades and batted .411 with a .476 on-base percentage and .629 slugging percentage. She totaled 27 runs, nine doubles, six RBIs, 37 RBIs and 78 total bases. Homolka may have been the most improved player on the team. Also named first team all-league, Homolka batted .400 with 36 runs scored, 10 doubles, four triples, seven home runs and 34 RBIs. She posted an on-base percentage of .431 and slugging percentage of .679.
Season highlights: With the help of a 12-game winning streak, Concordia broke into the receiving votes category of the NAIA national poll on April 9. That stretch began at the Tucson Invitational in March and stretched into the start of conference play. Included in that run was a 6-1 victory over a Valley City State University squad that eventually reached the NAIA World Series. The 28 wins overall were seven more than what the 2018 squad totaled. The regular season ended with Tori Homolka drilling a three-run walk-off homer. A well-regarded recruit, Camry Moore established herself as a force in her freshman season. Her signature pitching performance was a nine-inning shutout she tossed in a 1-0 triumph over eventual GPAC co-champion Midland. Moore and Brittany Woolridge formed a nice combo in the pitching rotation. At third base, Hhana Haro was Hhana Haro – again one of the league’s best players.
GPAC all-conference: Hhana Haro (First Team); Tori Homolka (First Team); Brittany Woolridge (First Team); Camry Moore (Second Team); Allysia Thayer (Second Team).
Thoughts from Coach Shawn Semler: I was happy overall. When you look back, there were some things we did really well. They bought in to a lot of the things we want to do. They’re going to find that changes a little next year with a new group coming in. What we had this year was a group that could play softball at a pretty high level. The lack of consistency is probably the thing I was most disappointed in. I know we can play at a high level more consistently. There were teams we split with that we felt like we should have been able to beat twice. We want the attitude to be that we’re going to go there and beat you. When I talk about being excited for next year, it sure doesn’t hurt knowing that Haro, Homolka, Thayer, Moore, Nixon, Schmidt and all of those girls are coming back. They’re going to keep getting better. Now, how much better can Hhana Haro get? I don’t know. She’s so talented. I’ve been writing a lot of lineups out and thinking about what will jell. You talk about a kid you want up to bat in a big situation, it’s Kylee Nixon. She doesn’t give anything away. It’s fun to play around with lineups and get excited about it.
2019 men’s record: 10-10 overall, 3-3 GPAC (4th)
2019 women’s record: 15-6 overall, 5-2 GPAC (3rd)
Top performers: For the women, Marlene Maier became a star at the top of the lineup in her only season with Concordia. At 17-3 overall, Maier broke a program record for most wins in a season. She put two separate singles win streaks of eight along the way and was named to the All-GPAC singles and doubles teams. On the men’s side, Thomas Greeff played at the No. 1 position all season. The team wins leader, however, was freshman Isaac Howes, who went 13-7.
Season highlights: Led by Marlene Maier, the Bulldogs kept stacking victories. During a five-match GPAC win streak, Concordia defeated its foes by a combined score of 42-3 in a dominant run. Maier and company defeated opponents from the levels of NAIA, NCAA Division II and III. Not only did Maier go 17-3 in singles, Allison Marshall (13-7), Angela Bell (12-3) and Kirsten Wagner (12-7) each accumulated at least a dozen singles victories. With their help, the Concordia women reached the GPAC championship match for the first time since 2011. On the men’s side, the Bulldogs bumped up their win total by two from the previous season. Freshmen Isaac Howes and Jack Kitson took on big roles in helping solidify the lineup. Concordia blanked Morningside, 6-0, in the GPAC quarterfinals before the season concluded in the semifinals.
-MEN – Jeremy Berryman (honorable mention singles; doubles); Thomas Greeff (singles; doubles); Isaac Howes (singles); Jack Kitson (singles; honorable mention doubles); Conner Works (honorable mention singles); Luke Zoller (singles; honorable mention doubles).
-WOMEN – David DeSimone (Coach of the Year); Angela Bell (singles; honorable mention doubles); Marlene Maier (singles; doubles); Allison Marshall (singles; honorable mention doubles); Claudia Miranda Viera (singles; doubles); Lindee Schultz (honorable mention doubles); Kirsten Wagner (singles; honorable mention doubles); Katelinn Wurm (honorable mention singles).
Thoughts from Coach David DeSimone:
On Concordia Women
I was impressed to see how much our women grew and developed this past season. They challenged each other each day in practice, resulting in unprecedented success for our program. The GPAC Championship match was a great opportunity for our women to gain familiarity with that type of match environment and better prepare us for the future. I am excited to continue to build on the dynamic and success of this past season and give these student-athletes the best experience possible for the remainder of their time at Concordia.
On Concordia Men
I enjoyed watching our men take ownership of the team throughout the course of the season. They started to rely heavily on one another for support and encouragement, which will be beneficial next season. I know our men are excited to have an opportunity to compete for a conference title in the future.
Outdoor Track and Field
2019 men’s finishes: 3rd in GPAC, 31st at national championships
2019 women’s finishes: 1st in GPAC, 5th at national championships
Men: Sophomore Cody Williams put his vast athleticism on full display at the GPAC outdoor championships by winning a pair of conference individual titles on his way to piling up 34 team points. He was then named the GPAC Athlete of the Year. Williams qualified for the national championships in three separate events. Another star, junior Jacob Cornelio won the GPAC hammer throw title and earned All-America honors in the event. Cornelio was recognized with the GPAC Men’s Field Performance of the Meet for his personal best hammer throw of 202’ 5.”
Women: This is a tossup between national champions Samantha Liermann and Addie Shaw. Both were at their best when it counted the most. Liermann swept GPAC/NAIA titles in the shot put while Shaw did the same in the discus. Their efforts were a huge reason why the Concordia women earned a top five team national finish. Liermann broke the GPAC outdoor meet record in the shot put. The Liermann/Shaw duo combined for four outdoor All-America awards.
Season highlights: From a team perspective, the completion of a GPAC indoor/outdoor title sweep for the women was a major highlight. It was spurred by four conference individual titles. The 2019 indoor/outdoor season marked just the second time in school history that the Concordia women had swept GPAC championships. Then of course, Samantha Liermann and Addie Shaw returned to the mountain top to seize national titles. The outdoor season resulted in 16 Bulldogs earning All-America awards, 47 picking up all-conference honors and 38 qualifying for the NAIA national championships. Matt Beisel was named the GPAC Women’s Coach of the Year while Beisel and Ed McLaughlin both pulled in Midwest region awards from the USTFCCCA. Finally, Jessica Deterding became the new school record holder in the heptathlon and Concordia boasted top nationally event categories in multiple women’s event groups: pole vault, shot put, discus, hammer and heptathlon.
GPAC all-conference: View complete list HERE.
NAIA All-Americans: Rachel Battershell (4x400m relay); Jacob Cornelio (hammer throw); Gavin DeHaai (pole vault); Sarah Lewis (4x400m relay); Samantha Liermann (shot put; discus); Erin Mapson (pole vault); Nathan Matters (4x800m relay); Josiah McAllister (4x800m relay); Tristen Mosier (pole vault); Jamie Nikodym (4x400m relay); Jacee Pfeifer (4x400m relay); Johanna Ragland (hammer throw; shot put); Addie Shaw (discus; hammer throw); Thomas Taylor (4x800m relay); Christian Van Cleave (4x800m relay); Carley Weisser (discus).
Thoughts from Coach Matt Beisel: We were top five in the nation (for women) and just six points out of fourth place, which is a trophy. We were ninth place indoor and were able to move up. A lot of things had to come together to do it. I want to win a championship and we are taking steps towards that. This program has won national championships on the guys’ and girls’ sides a few years back. That’s always the goal. It’s a yearlong daily effort on the recruiting front and in developing our athletes not only as athletes, but as people, and building relationships and trust with them. Our guys ended up in 31st place (at nationals). Last year at outdoor we tied for 69th. Our guys are maybe a year behind our girls as far as development. Again, I’m super proud. There were a lot of guys who competed who were right on the cusp of breaking in. When we get back next year it’s going to be a different story. Our guys will be a top 10 team again.