SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University volleyball team appears to be getting closer to hitting its stride. Good timing. The next five matches for the Bulldogs will all come against teams ranked in the top 15 of the NAIA preseason coaches’ poll. Up next is Wednesday’s tilt at No. 4 Midland. The Warriors are coming in hot, having won seven in a row after an 0-3 start to their 2017 campaign.
Sixth-year head coach Scott Mattera’s squad is fresh off a 3-2 week that could have easily been 5-0. Concordia missed out on an opportunity to upset 20th-ranked Bellevue University. The Bulldogs failed on three match point chances and eventually fell in five sets. They recovered nicely by winning three of four matches at the annual Bulldog Bash. Included in those three victories were wins over NCAA Division II foes Chadron State College and Missouri Southern State University.
An adjustment phase was to be expected after the program graduated one of its all-time best setters (Alayna Kavanaugh) and three hitters who combined for nearly 3,000 career kills (Paige Getz, Tiegen Skains, Taylor Workman). In recent outings, Mattera has been encouraged with the emergence of young talents such as Tara Callahan (353 assists), Marissa Hoerman (51 digs), Alex La Plant (107) and Anna Lund (41 kills, 15 blocks). They are still getting acclimated along with upperclassmen like seniors Jocelyn Garcia (1,465 career digs) and Annie Friesen (495 career kills).
Eighth-year head coach Paul Giesselmann has built a powerful program in Fremont. A national semifinalist in 2016, the Warriors feature junior middle Priscilla O’Dowd, who is hitting .429 with 115 kills and 34 blocks. Midland has played seven of its first 10 matches against teams that are either nationally ranked or receiving votes. The Warriors have won each of the last four meetings with Concordia since the Bulldogs interrupted Midland’s undefeated season (22-0) in 2015. In likely the most significant win of Mattera’s tenure at Concordia, the Bulldogs topped the Warriors in five sets on Oct. 14, 2015.
Concordia will have the weekend off. It will return to action next Wednesday (Sept. 13) with a short ride to Crete for a battle at No. 15 Doane. The Bulldogs will later host 13th-ranked Northwestern on Sept. 16.