SEWARD, Neb. – This week has been about regaining an edge in regards to the tough-minded mentality the Concordia University Volleyball program aspires to be known for. There were no glaring weaknesses on this particular night as the Bulldogs used a balanced effort to turn away visiting Briar Cliff. Concordia won in straight sets for the seventh time this season while triumphing, 25-19, 25-19, 25-15, on Friday (Oct. 23) evening.
Head Coach Ben Boldt’s squad is two-thirds of the way through a successful week of GPAC play. The Bulldogs stand at 9-3 with one more match left on the weekend.
“We’re getting there,” Boldt said. “Our theme this week is to have an edge. We’re really trying to define – what does an edge mean? Is it a rah-rah thing? For us, it’s to have a purpose out there. We don’t need to be spinning without any purpose. We need to have clean digs, clean blocks and clean attacks. To make the game simple is important for us right now. I think we’re getting there.”
Concordia trailed 4-1 to open up the first set, but for the most part, it was in control of the night. Over the three sets, the Bulldogs posted solid hitting percentages of .158, .212 and .323, respectively. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs were solid defensively (the Chargers hit .092 for the match). Concordia collected six blocks and Marissa Hoerman cleaned things up in the back row with a match high 15 digs.
Hoerman and company handled the Briar Cliff serve (two aces) quite well in helping set up for some powerful attacks by the likes of Camryn Opfer. The Seward High School product powdered one of her six kills off the face of a Charger early in the second set. Set-point swings were delivered in the first set by Kalee Wiltfong in the first and Kara Stark in the third.
Now boasting more than 1,200 career digs (top five in program history), Hoerman is a steadying influence as part of the senior class. Said Hoerman, “We as a team decided we needed to get tougher and so we went through a tougher week of practice and a tougher week of holding each other accountable. We upped our standard and elevated our play. We just decided to be tougher and not take it from other teams.”
Due in part to the wealth of matches Briar Cliff (8-12, 3-9 GPAC) had played, it entered the night with several individuals ranked near the top of the NAIA in overall totals. Grace Hanno (No. 1 nationally in total kills) floored only five kills (nine errors) and hit in the red. Abbie Ericson topped the Chargers with six kills.
On the other side of the net, the Bulldogs had five players with six or more kills: Arleigh Costello (11), Gabi Nordaker (eight), Stark (eight), Opfer (six) and Wiltfong (six). Tara Callahan piled up 35 assists while contributing to three blocks. Hoerman added a match best three aces. Tatum Kuti and Tristin Mason also pitched in with two aces apiece.
Concordia may have lost its chance on competing for a GPAC regular-season title, but there’s still so much to play for – including a potential bid to the national tournament in the spring. The class of five seniors that has helped boost the program will be honored on Saturday.
Said Boldt, “Again, it’s about having an edge and having a purpose with what we’re doing. We’re not just up there swinging as hard as we can. There’s a difference between that and being a smart attacker … We’re getting towards the end of our regular season. It’s important that we push through to the finish and keep our purpose through that.”
The Bulldogs will host Morningside (7-7, 6-5 GPAC) at 4 p.m. CT (junior varsity at 2:30) on Saturday. The senior day festivities will take place prior to the varsity match.