Bulldogs preparing for second chance at No. 1 Midland

By Jacob Knabel on Sep. 27, 2021 in Volleyball

SEWARD, Neb. – In the only outing of the week, the 19th-ranked Concordia University Volleyball team will get another shot at top-ranked Midland. The two sides will square off from the Wikert Event Center in Fremont, Neb., at 7:30 p.m. CT on Wednesday. The Warriors got the best of the Bulldogs in straight sets in Seward on Sept. 8. Entering the week, Head Coach Ben Boldt’s squad has won five of its last six matches.

Wednesday, Sept. 29 at No. 1 Midland (16-2, 5-2), 7:30 p.m.
--Live Webcast | Live Stats | 104.9 Max Country
*NOTE: The junior varsity match scheduled for Wednesday has been canceled. It will be varsity only at Midland.

Info for fans: Midland is currently requiring face coverings inside the Wikert Event Center. However, fan attendance will not be limited. Advance tickets can be purchased online HERE – or at the admissions entrance.

Concordia (9-6, 4-3 GPAC) came within an eyelash of pushing its win streak to six. In last week’s action, the Bulldogs cruised past Mount Marty, 25-16, 25-19, 25-14, in Yankton, S.D., while outhitting the home team, .360 to .021. Erica Heinzerling and Carly Rodaway paced Concordia with 11 kills apiece. Three days later, the Bulldogs let two match point opportunities slip away in what amounted to a five-set home loss to No. 17 College of Saint Mary. The Flames managed to overcome a big performance from Concordia middle Gabi Nordaker (22 kills and nine blocks). Tara Callahan contributed 57 assists, 21 digs, four blocks and three kills.

The recent five-match win streak marked the sixth time under Boldt that the program has strung together five or more wins in a row. The longest win streak during Boldt’s tenure (2018 to the present) was 12 in both 2018 and 2019. The Bulldogs began both of those seasons with 12-0 starts before finally suffering a defeat. In addition, last season’s national quarterfinalist squad put together a win streak of eight (snapped with a loss in the GPAC tournament semifinals).

New conference ratings were posted to the NAIA website on Monday. Concordia slipped one spot to seventh in the poll, as a show of the GPAC’s strength. Midland, now ranked second in the GPAC behind Jamestown, will no longer be ranked No. 1 in the NAIA by the time first serve rolls around on Wednesday. The Warriors took a slight hit with back-to-back GPAC road losses – at Doane and College of Saint Mary. For the Bulldogs, their streak of appearing in 15 straight national polls may be on the line.

Despite a couple of recent defeats, Head Coach Paul Giesselmann’s squad has put together an impressive résumé that includes six wins over top 25 opponents. Nationally, Midland ranks seventh in kills per set (14.14) and 10th in hitting percentage (.252). A major engine that powers the Warriors is setter Hope Leimbach, who ranks third in the NAIA in assists per set (12.16). Leimbach frequently tees the ball up for one of the nation’s top outside hitters in Taliyah Flores, who averages 3.94 kills per set. Concordia had won three consecutive series meetings with Midland until this season’s contest in Seward.

The Bulldogs will get back to playing two matches next week (after having this weekend off). They will be at Doane on Oct. 6 before hosting fifth-ranked Dordt on Oct. 9.