SEWARD, Neb. – Thirsting to get back into the win column, the 20th-ranked Concordia University volleyball team went Beaver hunting on Friday, which marked day one of the Bulldog Bash inside Walz Arena. The Bulldogs snapped a six-match skid by toppling NCAA Division II opponents, Bemidji State University (Minn.), 25-20, 25-21, 25-23, and Minot State University (N.D.), 25-21, 32-30, 25-15.
By taking out a pair of teams that feature the nickname Beavers, fifth-year head coach Scott Mattera’s squad improved to 3-6 overall. The positive results were the perfect tonic for a team that fell victim to a series of two-point set defeats over its recent losing streak.
“That second set special,” Mattera said of the dramatic 32-30 set that occurred in the match versus Minot State. “That’s exactly what we needed as a team – to just battle and battle and step up. It was different kids every time. That’s who we have to be.”
What Concordia also wants to be is a dangerous attacking team, but yet it came into the night hitting .178 on the year. With setter Alayna Kavanaugh at the controls, the Bulldogs bumped up their hitting percentages to .309 and .286, respectively, in their two victories on Friday. Kavanaugh kept the Beavers off balance by making use of all of her teammates.
Freshman Alex La Plant really got rolling in the day’s final set, burning Minot State for six kills on seven attempts during that segment. She finished with a match high 14 kills. Fellow outside hitter Paige Getz also went for seven more kills in the night cap, running her career total to 1,037. That number moved her up to sixth on the program’s all-time kills list, just ahead of former teammate Claire White.
Getz and company had grown tired of tough luck, so they made their own on Friday.
“We had a meeting and I said, ‘We’ve lost 18 sets in a row. We don’t have anything else to lose.’ Just go out swinging hard in that first game,” Kavanaugh said. “That’s what we did. Having that mindset just gave us lighter shoulders. The change of mindset helped.”
The second set of the Minot State match easily provided the most tension of the day. The Bulldogs failed to put away set point on several occasions and fell behind 30-29 after their own attack error. Concordia followed with a confidence-boosting sequence that included a La Plant kill, a Beaver attack error and a Getz set-clinching kill. La Plant then spurred her squad to a .435 hitting percentage in a scorching third set.
In the back row, it was another solid day for junior Jocelyn Garica, who tracked down 26 attacks. Offensively, senior Taylor Workman was nearly unstoppable versus Bemidji State. She put down eight kills on 10 swings in the day’s first match. A fine team effort was needed to overcome the star power of Bemidji State’s Jessica Yost, who crushed 20 kills and later in the day went over 1,000 kills for her career.
Concordia also featured a strong serve game, totaling 23 aces on the day. Ten of those came from freshman Jenna Eller, who sprayed bullets all day at the Beavers. She entered the day with eight aces on the season.
Both Bemidji State and Minot State opened their 2016 seasons on Friday. Minot State picked up a win over Lindenwood-Belleville (Ill.) and Bemidji State knocked off York College as part of the marathon inside Walz Arena.
The Bulldog Bash continues on Saturday with six more matches (all streamed on the Concordia Sports Network). Concordia is now 3-1 at home this season.
Saturday, Sept. 3
Concordia vs. Lindenwood-Belleville, 9 a.m.
Bemidji State vs. Bethany, 11 a.m.
York vs. Minot State, 1 p.m.
Bemidji State vs. Lindenwood-Belleville, 4 p.m.
Minot State vs. Bethany, 6 p.m.
Concordia vs. York, 8 p.m.