Bulldogs fall in five-set heartbreak at MCAC-leading Bellevue

By on Oct. 28, 2014 in Volleyball

Bulldogs fall in five-set heartbreak at MCAC-leading Bellevue

BELLEVUE, Neb. – On the road against a program that has made seven-straight national tournament appearances, the Concordia University volleyball team hoped to continue the momentum it built over the weekend. The Bulldogs came up one play short in a 21-25, 25-19, 25-22, 15-25, 16-14 loss to Bellevue University in Bellevue, Neb., on Tuesday night.

Third-year head coach Scott Mattera’s squad fell to 17-10 overall and 9-5 in nonconference outings. Tuesday marked the culmination of Concordia’s regular-season nonconference slate.

“We just didn't play well tonight,” Mattera said. “Credit Bellevue – their goal was to make things awkward for us and they absolutely succeeded in that. We simply could not find a rhythm on offense. Any time we hold a team to .146 (hitting percentage) and have 17 aces we should win big, but our offense simply didn't get it done. We've got to get better and we'll be right back in the gym working on it tomorrow.”

Following five-set GPAC wins over both Briar Cliff and No. 21 Dordt last week, the Bulldogs appeared comfortable in racing out to a 7-2 fifth-game lead after senior Jami Nekoliczak’s third ace of the night. Concordia later served for match point with a 14-12 lead, but the Bruins ran off four-straight points, with the final two coming on back-to-back kills by Beth Walker and Symone Faulkner, to send the Bulldogs to a heartbreaking defeat.

Concordia had put itself into position to grab a road win on the strength of its wicked serve game. The Bulldogs floored three aces early in the fifth set and routinely threw the host Bruins out of system with their aggressive serving. Five different Bulldogs recorded two or more aces: Jocelyn Garcia (5), Michala Maurer (3), Nekoliczak (3), Claire White (3) and Mariah Schamp (3).

After falling behind 2-1 in the match, the Bulldogs responded impressively by dominating the fourth set. During which, Bellevue made 14 attack or service errors, in part due to that Concordia serve game (season high 17 aces) that the Bruins never quite figured out.

However, Concordia failed to duplicate its typically potent offensive attack. The Bulldogs limited Bellevue to a .146 hitting percentage, but hit just .113 themselves. Mattera’s squad began play ranked 23rd in the NAIA with a season hitting percentage of .224.

When times got tight, Bellevue had Faulkner (team high 360 kills entering the match) to lean upon. She equaled a match high with 14 kills, including four big ones in the fifth set to lead the Bruins back. Bellevue entered the night with a record of 19-5 over its previous 24 matches.

White and Paige Getz topped the Bulldogs with 14 kills apiece. White added 12 digs and hit .414 in addition to her three aces. Sophomore Alayna Kavanaugh tossed out 39 assists, freshman Annie Friesen blocked six attacks and senior Carli Smith notched 16 digs. Named GPAC player of the week earlier in the day, sophomore Tiegen Skains registered six kills, including one that set up match point.

The series between the two in-state institutions has included long winning streaks on both sides. Concordia won the first 10 all-time meetings with Bellevue before the Bruins then won 12 of the next 14 matchups entering Tuesday. The Bulldogs have not defeated Bellevue since a straight-sets home win in 1995.

The Bulldogs will return to GPAC play as they head to South Dakota for a weekend getaway. Concordia will take on Mount Marty (10-17, 2-10 GPAC) at 7 p.m. on Friday prior to matching up with Dakota Wesleyan (8-17, 1-12 GPAC) at 4 p.m. on Saturday. The Bulldogs have already defeated both Mount Marty and Dakota Wesleyan at home.