SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University volleyball team grabbed the final spot in the GPAC tournament pairings and will now get another shot at a highly-ranked opponent. As the No. 8 seed in the bracket, the Bulldogs now brace for Saturday’s trip to top-seeded Hastings for the conference quarterfinal round. Just two years ago, eighth-seeded College of Saint Mary upset No. 1 Dordt in a GPAC quarterfinal shocker.
Sixth-year head coach Scott Mattera’s squad has new life after finishing the regular season with records of 9-18 overall and 3-13 in conference play. A three-win stretch between Oct. 18-21 allowed Concordia to sneak into the postseason.
The Bulldogs suffered a four-set loss at fifth-ranked Midland in last season’s opening GPAC tournament match. The previous season, the 2015 Concordia team topped No. 17 Northwestern and College of Saint Mary on the way to a GPAC tournament championship appearance and a berth to the opening round of the national tournament. The Bulldogs have advanced past the quarterfinals twice under Mattera (2014 and 2015).
Mattera knows his team will have to play razor-sharp in order to extend its season beyond Saturday. The Broncos (22-2) have suffered just two losses with one coming on Wednesday night at Doane in the regular-season finale. Defending national champion Hastings boasts a GPAC player of the year candidate in Katie Placke, who averages 3.3 kills and 5.4 assists per set. She is hitting .339 this season for a Bronco squad that shared the conference regular-season title with Dordt and Northwestern.
Concordia put up a fight in its four-set home loss to 11th-ranked Midland on Wednesday. The Bulldogs nearly rallied back from a 19-11 deficit in the second set before dropping it, 25-23. Behind Emmie Noyd (12 kills), Concordia forced a fourth set though it eventually suffered yet another defeat against a ranked foe. The Bulldogs have played a top 20 schedule among NAIA teams this fall.
Concordia’s balanced attack features seven different players with more than 100 kills on the season: Alex La Plant (242), Jenna Habegger (216), Kelsey Baarck (138), Annie Friesen (113), Anna Lund (109) and Tara Callahan (103). Both Callahan and Lund are freshman. The same is true for freshman libero Marissa Hoerman, who has racked up 220 digs and has passed served receive at 93.4 percent clip.
Saturday’s match can be seed live online via Hastings’ Stretch Internet portal. The winner will advance and play either fourth-seeded Midland (18-8) or fifth-seeded Morningside (18-11) in the GPAC semifinals next Wednesday (Nov. 8).
2017 GPAC Volleyball Tournament
Saturday, Nov. 4 – Quarterfinals
No. 8 Concordia (9-18, 3-13) at No. 1 Hastings (22-2, 14-2), 5 p.m.
No. 5 Morningside (18-11, 10-6) at No. 4 Midland (18-8, 11-5), 7 p.m.
No. 6 Doane (17-11, 9-7) at No. 3 Dordt (27-5, 14-2), 7 p.m.
No. 7 Briar Cliff (18-8, 8-8) at No. 2 Northwestern (27-3, 14-2), 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 8 – Semifinals
No. 4/5 vs. No. 1/8, time TBA
No. 3/6 vs. No. 2/7, time TBA
Saturday, Nov. 11 – Championship