SEWARD, Neb. – The opening set was one to forget for the Concordia University volleyball team, but it responded by righting itself in the second and third games. It just wasn’t enough to pull an upset of a 14th-ranked Hastings squad that invaded Walz Arena on Wednesday night (Oct. 10). Spurred by two hot-hitting outsides, the Broncos made it an early night by a score of 25-13, 26-24, 28-26.
There were examples on Wednesday of why the two programs are positioned where they are currently. First-year head coach Ben Boldt’s squad was unable to seal the deal in the second and third sets.
“It was good to see us get back into the groove a little bit there,” Boldt said. “I told the team that we don’t want to feel like we left something out there on the table. After the first set, that was the feeling for everybody. It was good to see them respond though. We had set point in both of those sets (second and third). Hastings does a really good job of running fast-go on the outside. It’s tough to put your block in the right spot. They executed better than we did.”
The Bulldogs managed only four kills in the opening set, but then improved to eight and 14 kills, respectively, over the final two sets. Not much comes easy on the attack against Hastings, which entered the night ranked eighth nationally in blocks per set (2.47) behind star middle blocker Emily Lenners. A 6-foot-1 junior Lenners got in on five of her team’s six blocks in the first set.
The Broncos (13-5, 8-3 GPAC) also showed off some offensive flair with the production they got from Sage Meyer (match high 18 kills) and Lucy Skoch (12 kills), who both hit .348 or better for the night. As a team, Hastings outhit Concordia, .250 to .009. The Bulldogs were held to negative hitting percentages in both the first and second sets.
All that considered, Concordia had its chances to at least make it a four-set conflict. The Bulldogs had a 24-23 lead in the second set before watching the Broncos notch the next three points. Then in the third, Concordia owned advantages of 24-23, 25-24 and 26-25. A beast all night, Meyer put down the 26th and 27th points for the Broncos before a Bulldog attack error brought the match to a close.
Said Boldt, “Our team is growing up. In that last set, we had freshman-freshman-sophomore in the front row. They’re figuring it out. They’re young. It’s great for them to get in these situations and to try to figure it out. Sometimes we were good and sometimes we just couldn’t get the kill. That’s where we’re at as a team right now.”
The block of Hastings was effective at neutralizing some of Concordia’s top offensive weapons. Emmie Noyd (six kills, three blocks) and Kara Stark (six kills) were the team co-leaders in kills. The Bulldogs were much better defensively after allowing Hastings to hit .423 in the first set. Harlie Himmelberg and Alex La Plant recorded seven digs apiece. Kaylie Dengel topped both teams with three aces.
The most challenging test yet this season may come Saturday at eighth-ranked Dordt (18-2, 11-0 GPAC). The Defenders remained perfect in conference play by taking out Jamestown in straight sets on Tuesday. Saturday’s first serve is set for 3 p.m. CT from Sioux Center, Iowa.