SEWARD, Neb. – The 2022 GPAC championship matchup will be exactly the same as the one from 2021. For a second year in a row, the Bulldogs will be headed to North Dakota to take on Jamestown for the conference tournament final. In semifinal action on Wednesday night, third-seeded Concordia outlasted second-seeded Midland and the top-seeded Jimmies took out fifth-seeded Dakota Wesleyan in five sets. Both contests paired teams ranked inside the top six of the latest NAIA coaches’ poll. Head Coach Ben Boldt’s squad has moved to 23-4 overall heading into Saturday’s GPAC championship tilt.
Saturday, Nov. 12 at No. 2 Jamestown (30-2, 15-1 GPAC), 3 p.m.
--Live Webcast/Stats | Location: Newman Arena (Jamestown, N.D.)
By the numbers
· In the fourth and fifth sets on Wednesday, the Bulldogs played like a team determined not to fall at the hands of Midland for a third time this season. As Ben Boldt said of those last two sets, “We really played like a championship team.” Put a gold star next to the performance by middle Gabi Nordaker, who has stated a strong case this fall for All-America consideration. Nordaker’s stat line in the GPAC semifinals included 16 kills on 27 swings (no errors), a .593 hitting percentage and 13 blocks. In addition, Camryn Opfer totaled 15 kills, 14 digs and four blocks and Carly Rodaway posted 12 kills and 10 blocks. In the back row, Rebecca Gebhardt tallied 21 digs and Lexie Kreizel notched 12 digs. Bree Burtwistle posted 54 assists, nine digs and three blocks as Concordia outhit the Warriors, .219 to .188. Midland (25-4) had beaten the Bulldogs twice in the regular season: in five sets in Fremont and in three sets in Seward.
· The team celebrated win No. 100 for Ben and Angie Boldt following Wednesday’s semifinal triumph. In the parking lot of the Wikert Event Center, the players shot off confetti in honor of the Boldts, who have led the program to a record of 100-41 since they arrived prior to the 2018 season. Under the Boldts, the program has enjoyed its most successful run ever in terms of national prominence. The Bulldogs have clinched a fourth straight trip to nationals. Prior to the Boldts’ time in Seward, the program had made just one appearance on the national stage (2015). Concordia has also achieved its best ever national ranking while currently situated at No. 4 in the NAIA coaches’ poll. The Bulldogs are one of four programs nationally to have reached bracket play at the national tournament in each of the past three years.
· The blocking numbers have ramped up significantly for Concordia in recent outings. The Bulldogs have reached at least 10 blocks in four consecutive matches (13, 13, 10 and 20), including the two postseason outings. That production has moved Concordia up to No. 36 nationally in blocks per set at 2.11. The Omaha native Nordaker is now averaging more than a block per set (1.06), ranking 39th in the NAIA in that category. There are four Bulldogs with at least 40 total blocks on the year: Nordaker (99), Rodaway (61), Kalee Wiltfong (49) and Opfer (41).
· The Bulldogs hit .279 in the quarterfinals against College of Saint Mary and .219 in the semifinals at Midland. With a .268 season hitting percentage, Concordia has slipped just behind Jamestown (.269) for the national lead in that category. It’s been a total team effort for Concordia in reaching that level. Four Bulldog hitters have accumulated more than 230 kills on the season: Nordaker (290), Opfer (266), Keck (240) and Carly Rodaway (237). At setter, Burtwistle is averaging 11.19 assists per set, ranking her No. 4 nationally in that category. Nordaker ranks seventh nationally in individual hitting percentage (.358).
· The Seward High School product Opfer is moving up the ladder on the program’s all-time lists. She currently sports school career rankings of sixth in digs (1,262) and sixth in kills (1,214). Opfer moved past Darcy Lindner (1,204 kills) on Wednesday and is creeping up on Renae Beikmann (1,223) on the kills list. Opfer is enjoying another fine season with totals of 266 kills, 325 digs and 41 blocks to go along with a .215 hitting percentage from the outside. The next highest career kill totals on the current team are owned by Nordaker (855) and Wiltfong (739). In recent action, Nordaker surpassed 300 career blocks (now at 327).
Jamestown and Concordia will be a battle between the top two teams in the nation in terms of hitting percentage. The Jimmies have moved to the championship with conference tournament sweeps of eighth-seeded Dordt and fifth-seeded Dakota Wesleyan. The Jimmies have won 11 matches in a row since being clipped in five sets at home by Midland on Oct. 8. The only other loss all season for Jamestown came in four sets in a neutral site match with then 12th-ranked Eastern Oregon back in August. The stars of the show for Head Coach Jon Hegerle’s squad include Kalli Hegerle and Anna Holen – both of whom have racked up well over 300 kills this season. Libero Ellie Holen ranks fifth nationally in digs per set (6.32). Concordia is still looking to knock off Jamestown for the first time since the Jimmies became a GPAC member in 2018.
Quarterfinals – Saturday, Nov. 5
(1) Jamestown def. (8) Dordt, 3-0
(5) Dakota Wesleyan def. (4) Northwestern, 3-2
(3) Concordia def. (6) College of Saint Mary, 3-0
(2) Midland def. (7) Hastings, 3-0
Semifinals – Wednesday, Nov. 9
(1) Jamestown def. (5) Dakota Wesleyan, 3-0
(3) Concordia def. (2) Midland, 3-2
Championship – Saturday, Nov. 12
(3) Concordia at (1) Jamestown, 3 p.m.
NAIA national tournament announcement
Official qualifiers and pairings for the opening round of the national tournament will be announced by the NAIA via a live selection show at 10 a.m. CT on Monday (Nov. 14). The selection show will be streamed via the NAIA’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/PlayNAIA. Concordia Athletics is making preparations to host an opening round match on Saturday, Nov. 19.