SEWARD, Neb. – This one’s for real. Nine days after reporting back to campus for preseason camp, the Concordia University volleyball team will serve up the first Bulldog athletic contest of the 2017-18 academic year. Sixth-year head coach Scott Mattera’s squad will welcome Baker University to Walz Arena for Saturday’s 3 p.m. nonconference tilt. The two programs last meet in the opening match of the 2012 season.
Concordia will debut a much different looking team than the 2016 edition. The Bulldogs will unveil a setter (or two), new hitters on the outside, a potential impact freshman in Tara Callahan, transfer Kelsey Baarck and a new full-time assistant coach. A positive vibe has permeated preseason camp, which featured the return of Annie Friesen, a first team All-GPAC performer in 2015. Friesen, defensive specialist Jocelyn Garcia and captain Courtney Jurgens are the lone seniors on the roster.
In preseason polls, Concordia landed at No. 7 in the GPAC and Baker checked in at No. 6 among the 14 volleyball programs in the Heart of America Athletic Conference. The Bulldogs are coming off a 15-19 (6-10 GPAC) record in 2016. Meanwhile, the Wildcats finished at 12-20 (6-7 HAAC). Baker is located in Baldwin City, Kan.
The Wildcats are under the direction of second-year head coach Matt Windle. Of the team’s four all-conference selections in 2016, three return to the court this fall. Middle Olivia Brees garnered second team honors while piling up 203 kills and 132 blocks. Behind Brees, Baker ranked among the top 50 NAIA programs nationally in terms of blocks per game.
Fans of the Bulldogs will have plenty of early-season opportunities to check out Concordia volleyball. The team will play seven times at home before the close of the second week of school. The Bulldogs will also host Bethany College on Wednesday, Aug. 23.