Bulldogs push No. 8 Midland, fall for first time

By Jacob Knabel on Sep. 11, 2018 in Volleyball

SEWARD, Neb. – That second set was a treat for fans of the Concordia University volleyball team. There were some stunned looks on the other side of the net during a stretch of nine Bulldog points in a row. But battle-tested and eighth-ranked Midland responded by elevating its energy level. The Warriors eventually escaped Walz Arena with a 25-19, 15-25, 25-18, 30-28, after surviving a fourth set that could have gone either way.

This is a new feeling for first-year head coach Ben Boldt’s squad, which began the week still undefeated. Concordia is now 12-1 overall and 2-1 in conference play.

“We did a good job there of coming back and competing,” Boldt said. “But I think we left a lot of points on the table. There is a lot that we need to clean up. Overall, I told them, ‘Way to compete.’ It’s a journey. It’s a process. We’re not going to get there overnight. I was happy with their effort.”

The Bulldogs likely had Midland’s respect after that second set. Only one other time this season had the Warriors (11-2, 3-0 GPAC) dropped a set by a double-digit point spread. A narrow 13-11 Concordia lead in that set ballooned to a 22-11 advantage. Concordia point Nos. 15, 16 and 17 came on blocks that occurred on the first Midland attack of those rallies, with Jenna Habegger and Emmie Noyd doing the honors. Kaylie Dengel dropped in ace for the final point of the nine-point string.

Exactly what the Warriors didn’t want was happening – Walz was suddenly on fire and the underdog was believing that an upset was possible. Star Priscilla O’Dowd and Midland regrouped and stemmed the tide impressively in the third set.

Who knows how the night would have turned out had the Bulldogs made just one more play in that fourth set. Sure the Boldts see areas of the team’s game that could use some fine-tuning, but competitive fire wasn’t one of them. Down 20-13, Concordia inserted sophomore Kara Stark into the lineup, seemingly igniting a spark. She immediately put down a kill – and it was on. The Bulldogs rallied all the way back to take a 26-25 lead on Alex La Plant’s kill. Tense moment after tense moment ensued until Taylor Peterson’s kill landed for match point and silenced Walz, and the upset bid.

Boldt credited Midland with winning the serve and pass battle on this night. It’s also not easy to hang with Midland’s array of hitters. Though O’Dowd (11 kills on 25 swings) comes with the most acclaim, Sydney Morehouse (14 kills, .650) did the most damage on this night. The Warriors held advantages of 57-45 in kills, .219 to .188 in hitting percentage and 10-9 in blocks. Midland possesses a first team All-GPAC setter in Jessica Peters (45 assists).

The Bulldogs were led by eight kills apiece from Arleigh Costello, Habegger and Noyd (five blocks). Kaci Hohenthaner (21 assists) and Marissa Hoerman (17 digs) were also statistical leaders for Concordia.

In their final match of the week, the Bulldogs will play a true road match for the first time in 2018 (eight home, five neutral to this point). Bound for Sioux City, Iowa, on Thursday, Concordia will play at Morningside (6-5, 1-1 GPAC) in a match set for a 7:30 p.m. CT varsity first serve. 104.9 Max Country will again have coverage. The Mustangs defeated No. 22 Doane in straight sets on Tuesday.