HASTINGS, Neb. – On most nights on the road in the GPAC, it’s going to take your absolute best to emerge with a victory. It seems as if the Concordia University volleyball team is getting closer to figuring out how to pull out one of those signature conference wins. A triumph at 2016 national champion Hastings on Thursday night (Sept. 20) would have raised some eyebrows, but the host Broncos were too much in a 25-21, 22-25, 25-22, 25-20 decision that unfolded inside Lynn Farrell Arena.
First-year head coach Ben Boldt’s squad has dropped four in a row, but progress can be measured in ways that go beyond wins and losses. Thursday’s performance marked a step forward for the Bulldogs (12-4, 2-4 GPAC), as compared to Tuesday’s home loss to Doane.
“I thought we played a better game than we did on Tuesday,” Boldt said. “We were competing. We blocked well. Our defense was decent. We made some good adjustments. We lost the serve and pass battle. They served tougher than we passed. I think that was the story of the game.”
Concordia put some pressure on Hastings (9-3, 4-1 GPAC) by taking the second set. During that stretch, the Bulldogs mustered their best work on the attack, hitting .387 with four kills coming from Jenna Habegger and another three delivered by Emmie Noyd. Sophomore Kara Stark ended the second set with a kill to end any hope the Broncos had of making Thursday’s match a quick one.
Concordia made the third set a nailbiter and trailed it by just one (23-22) late in the action. The Bulldogs also jumped out to a 7-2 advantage in the fourth set. That fourth set has been a tough hurdle so far in conference play. But up against a team that went 12-1 at home in 2017, Concordia is going to put this one into proper perspective.
“I was much happier with tonight’s performance,” Boldt said. “We have to refocus and get right back at Northwestern. For us, our belief is coming. Right now we’re in a tough stretch, but I like how we’re progressing as a team.”
Hastings entered the evening as one of the top 10 blocking teams in the nation (2.47 per set). The Bulldogs were even with the Broncos in blocks (9-9). Superior passing helped Hastings earn advantages of 57-44 in kills and .194 to .168 in hitting percentage. Lucy Skoch put down a match high 12 kills for the Victors. Claira Thede dropped in four of the nine Bronco aces.
Stark has factored more and more into the equation for Concordia of late. She had a career high 11 kills on Thursday. Noyd was the team’s most efficient attacker, hitting .474 with nine kills. Freshman Morgan Nibbe was in on five of the team’s nine blocks. Marissa Hoerman led the Bulldogs with 12 digs.
Another ranked conference opponent is coming up on Saturday when the Bulldogs will be back inside Walz Arena for homecoming Saturday. Concordia will welcome No. 15 Northwestern (13-4, 4-1 GPAC) to Seward for a 5 p.m. CT first serve. On Thursday, the Red Raiders protected their home court with a straight-sets win over Dakota Wesleyan.