SEWARD, Neb. – For the first time since 2001, the Concordia volleyball program has cracked the preseason national poll. Fifth-year head coach Scott Mattera’s squad checked in at No. 20 in the 2016 Tachikara-NAIA Volleyball Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll, released on Tuesday by the NAIA. Concordia is up two spots from its postseason ranking following the 2015 campaign.
Although the Bulldogs had not appeared in a preseason ranking since the beginning of the millennium, they have begun to make a claim as a top-25 regular. Concordia entered the top 25 on Sept. 22 last season and remained in the rankings for each of the proceeding nine polls. The Bulldogs rose as high as 15th during a season that culminated with the program’s first-ever national tournament appearance.
The 2015 squad was the first Concordia volleyball team to make consistent top-25 appearances since the 2000 edition that shared the GPAC regular-season title. The 2000 team, coached by Becky Ernstmeyer Loewe, found itself inside the top 25 for seven of 10 polls, climbing as high as 12th before finishing at No. 18. Loewe’s group concluded the year at 23-13 overall and 9-1 in the GPAC.
Concordia’s 2016 schedule is loaded with teams that garnered votes in Tuesday’s poll. The Bulldogs are slated to play 11 matches versus nationally-ranked teams (see below). Concordia will play the following top 25 GPAC rivals twice in 2016: No. 5 Hastings, No. 6 Midland and No. 13 Dordt. Last season the Bulldogs were 6-5 against ranked foes.
Concordia was pegged fourth in the GPAC preseason poll released last week by the conference. The Bulldogs picked up one first-place vote.
2016 opponents with national rankings
*2015 record in parentheses
No. 5 Hastings (25-10)
No. 6 Midland (33-4)
No. 8 Eastern Oregon (25-5)
No. 10 MidAmerica Nazarene (28-11)
No. 13 Dordt (25-7)
No. 15 Rocky Mountain (27-9)
No. 16 Westmont (36-8)
No. 24 Northwestern (24-8)