SEWARD, Neb. – Up against two of the nation’s top blockers, the Concordia University offensive attack had its work cut out for it. No. 12 Midland (22-7, 12-4 GPAC) used a strong defensive effort to limit the Bulldogs to a .089 hitting percentage as the visitors claimed a 25-17, 20-25, 25-20, 25-20 win inside Walz Arena on Wednesday night.
Third-year head coach Scott Mattera’s squad concludes the regular season at 19-11 overall and 10-6 in GPAC play. Tuesday’s loss means Concordia slots into the GPAC tournament as the No. 4 seed. The Bulldogs will host fifth-seeded Hastings (19-10, 9-7 GPAC) at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday in a quarterfinal match.
“We’ll get this thing figured out. It’s not the end of the world,” Mattera said. “We still have a playoff match on Saturday. We’ll learn from this.”
Concordia had a shot to claim the No. 3 seed by topping the Warriors, but the Bulldogs hit under .100 in three of the four sets, struggling to gain any traction on the attack.
With the match tied at one apiece, the Bulldogs led 15-11 in the third set with a chance to swing the contest in their favor. Midland got a kill by star Heather Pribyl on the next rally to initiate a Midland spurt of five-straight points. The Warriors took control and ended the third on a 14-5 run with set point coming on another Pribyl kill.
While stifling blockers Pribyl and Krystina Koepke posted three and four blocks, respectively, the defensive work of Darcy Barry (14 digs), Megan Farley (14 digs) and Molly Pettit (11 digs) stood out on this night. With that trio doing its thing in the back row, 96 of Concordia’s 157 attacks resulted in either Midland digs or Bulldog attack errors.
“We’ve got to put the ball away. That’s all there is to it,” Mattera said. “Honestly, we just didn’t get it done. Part of that’s passing, part of that’s setting and part of that’s hitting. We just need to clean it up. We didn’t play bad. The effort was OK. We fought most of the time.”
The Warrior attackers scorched out of the gates, hitting .348 in the opening set behind five kills (eight attempts) from Ashlee Harms. She finished second on the team with 11 kills to Pribyl’s 12.
For the Bulldogs, junior Claire White turned in another solid statistical performance. She did her part in game 4 with four kills on 11 swings. She ended up with 13 kills and 13 digs. Meanwhile, sophomore Paige Getz led the team in kills (15), sophomore Alayna Kavanaugh dished out 38 assists and senior Carli Smith paced Concordia with 22 digs.
Another key for Midland on Wednesday was its ability to deal with the Bulldogs’ typically unforgiving serve game. The Warriors held Concordia to a season low one ace (Smith). The Bulldogs had averaged nearly 12 aces per match over their previous three outings.
In a ceremony prior to first serve, Concordia honored its eight seniors. Among that group, Smith and Mariah Schamp have made the biggest statistical contributions. Schamp has 837 kills and 262 blocks over her 451 sets played during her four-year career as a starter. Smith has collected 1,744 digs over 410 career sets played.
It will be time to turn the page on Saturday when Hastings rolls into town. The Bulldogs and Broncos split two regular-season matches with the home team coming out on top in both instances. Mattera hopes for a rebound performance.
“We have to take care of our side of the net,” Mattera said. “It doesn’t matter who’s on the other side anymore. We’re at that level where if we play clean, we can beat anybody. We just didn’t play clean volleyball tonight.”