Bulldogs shock No. 2 Midland in road pulse pounder

By on Oct. 15, 2015 in Volleyball

Bulldogs shock No. 2 Midland in road pulse pounder

FREMONT, Neb. – Second-ranked Midland entered Wednesday night’s battle undefeated and just one victory away from a program record winning streak. But the 17th-ranked Bulldogs were nails on the road, rallying back from a 2-1 deficit to snatch one of the more meaningful victories in the history of the Concordia University volleyball program. The Bulldogs won it in five, 25-23, 19-25, 14-25, 25-23, 15-11, inside the jam-packed Event Center in Fremont, Neb.

The win moved Concordia to 5-2 this season against ranked opponents. The Bulldogs, who had not defeated a top 10 opponent since a four-set victory over No. 9 Hastings on Aug. 29, 2007, are now 20-5 overall and 8-2 in conference play.

“I have nothing intelligent to say right now other than, wow,” said fourth-year head coach Scott Mattera. “I'm so proud of these girls. For us to beat the No. 2 team in the country by out-blocking them and defending like crazy is simply amazing.”

Wednesday’s exhilarating victory came 18 days after Concordia knocked off No. 11 Northwestern on the road in similar fashion. In a déjà vu moment, junior Tiegen Skains completed the upset at Midland (22-1, 9-1 GPAC) with a game-winning kill from the right side just as she did in Orange City. In near disbelief, senior Claire White crumpled to the floor, then quickly rose up to join her bear-hugging Bulldog teammates at center court.

Or maybe White fell to the floor simply because she’d given all she could. Said Mattera, “We knew it was going to be an all-out battle and we are exhausted because we left it all out there.”

Fittingly, Concordia’s defensive effort led the charge in the fifth set. The Bulldogs finished with a season best 23 blocks behind stout middles Annie Friesen (three block solos, nine assists) and Taylor Workman (one block solo, nine assists). Concordia denied four Warrior attacks in the fifth set and held them to a negative hitting percentage (.105 overall on the night).

After trailing 6-4 in the fifth, the Bulldogs went on a 4-0 run initiated by a Skains kill and a combined block by Skains and Friesen. Concordia never surrendered the lead the rest of the way en route to ending Midland’s home winning streak of eight and overall win streak of 22.

A Bulldog victory seemed especially improbable after head coach Paul Giesselmann’s squad gained a 2-1 set advantage following a dominant third game for the Warriors that saw them outhit Concordia, .268 to .024. During that stretch, Midland appeared in total control as KC Heimann bombed six of her match high 21 kills.

Mattera’s squad faced more adversity in the fourth set after it squandered a 14-7 lead. Midland came all the way back to earn an 18-16 advantage while following the lead of Heimann and middle Priscilla O’Dowd. The crowd roared as Concordia called timeout. The Bulldogs regrouped, then went up 21-18 only to see the lead melt away again. In response, Friesen pounded a kill and Midland committed an attack error to force the pulse-pounding fifth set.

In an evenly contested match, Concordia only slightly outhit the Warriors, .110 to .105. Workman topped the Bulldogs with 12 kills to go along with her 10 blocks. Friesen notched 11 kills and Paige Getz added 10. Junior setter Alayna Kavanaugh dished out 43 assists. Jocelyn Garcia had 23 digs and White 21. There were only five combined service aces in a well-played defensive white-knuckler.

The Warriors had not lost a match since a four-set defeat to Concordia University-Irvine at last year’s NAIA national tournament. Concordia has pulled within one game of both Midland and No. 13 Dordt atop the GPAC standings.

The Bulldogs now have a week off from competition before returning to action next Wednesday (Oct. 21) when they host College of Saint Mary (junior varsity at 6 p.m.; varsity at 7:30 p.m.). The match will feature a pink out in conjunction with breast cancer awareness month. Fans can support the cause by purchasing this year’s pink “block out breast cancer” T-shirt for $10. Shirts can be picked up in the student life office or the student success center, both located in the Janzow Campus Center.