Fourth-ranked Bulldogs come up short in GPAC title tilt

By Jacob Knabel on Nov. 12, 2022 in Volleyball

JAMESTOWN, N.D. – A spirited rally in the first set gave way to another defeat in the GPAC’s northernmost locale. For the second year in a row, the Concordia University Volleyball program has finished as the conference tournament runner up to Jamestown. The second-ranked Jimmies held the Bulldogs to a .171 hitting percentage and won Saturday (Nov. 12)’s GPAC championship clash in four sets, 21-25, 25-19, 25-20, 25-17, inside Newman Arena. In three all-time GPAC tournament championship match appearances as a program, Concordia is still trying to get over the hump.

Head Coach Ben Boldt’s squad will enter the national tournament at 23-5 overall. Since joining the GPAC, Jamestown has had the Bulldogs’ number.

“We were staying aggressive, but Jamestown was making plays defensively,” Boldt said. “We weren’t able to get the ball down in some late-game situations. They played really well and I thought we played better than we have in the past (in this arena). We have to figure out a way to get a couple more points.”

Unfortunately, Concordia was unable to ride the momentum it built in the first set. The Bulldogs went on a thrilling 10-1 run to turn a 20-15 disadvantage into a 25-21 set victory. During that surge, Camryn Opfer hammered out three of her team high 13 kills for the day. Concordia hit .289 in that opening set but couldn’t sustain it. The Bulldogs proceeded to hit .065, .211 and .139, respectively, over the final three sets.

The Jimmies (31-2), champions of the GPAC regular season and postseason, had a lot to do with it. Jamestown’s terrific trio on Saturday was hard to handle. Kalli Hegerle, Anna Holen and Lexi Olson each enjoyed big statistical matches. Holen paced all players with 20 kills on .405 hitting from the outside. Hegerle added 14 kills (.462) and 15 digs and Olson came through with 14 kills and a .407 hitting percentage. Now No. 1 in the NAIA in hitting percentage, the Jimmies attacked at a .333 clip on Saturday.

Opfer was joined in double figures in the kill department by teammate Ashley Keck (10) while Carly Rodaway (nine) was just shy of that mark. Other statistical leaders were Bree Burtwistle in assists (42), Rebecca Gebhardt in digs (21) and aces (two) and Morgan Nibbe in blocks (four). Jamestown was able to limit star middle Gabi Nordaker to six kills (.130) and two blocks.

Now Concordia can take a breather and reassess things moving into the national tournament. The Bulldogs have proven they can hang right with anyone in the country. The accomplishments to date speak for themselves. The postseason route so far has included GPAC tournament wins over No. 12 College of Saint Mary and No. 3 Midland.

Said Boldt, “To have an opportunity to play for the GPAC championship is an awesome honor. If we want to achieve the goals we have as a team, we have to be in this match. We have to figure out who we are in this match. I continue to see our team learn and get better. Their mentality after this one is to come back stronger the next time. It was awesome to have the opportunity to play this one.”

The Bulldogs will now await Monday’s announcement of the NAIA National Championship Opening Round pairings. Concordia is anticipating hosting an opening round match on Saturday, Nov. 19. The Bulldogs are set to make their fourth straight national tournament appearance and fifth in the history of the program. Action at the final site (Sioux City, Iowa) of the national tournament is slated to begin on Nov. 30.