Freshies upstage Waldorf in season opener

By Jacob Knabel on Aug. 20, 2016 in Volleyball

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia volleyball program garnered a No. 20 national ranking in large part because of the players it brought back from the 2015 national qualifier. But on Saturday the rookies proved ready for prime time. Freshman Alex La Plant enjoyed a big day in leading the Bulldogs to a snappy 25-15, 25-23, 25-11 season-opening victory over Waldorf University (Iowa) in front of the home fans.

Concordia has now won four-straight season openers under head coach Scott Mattera, who is beginning his fifth year at the helm of the program. He liked much of what he saw on Saturday.

“We had a lot of young kids out there, but you wouldn’t have known they were young kids,” Mattera said. “Our older kids took care of them. It was really cool to see. Our execution was OK. It wasn’t crisp, but it was good for seven days of practice. Waldorf plays unbelievably hard.”

The Warriors (0-2) provided a push in the second set with three-straight points that slashed a 24-20 Concordia advantage down to 24-23. The Bulldogs called timeout and then went to Paige Getz, who promptly delivered with a kill to put her side in command.

Getz and two freshmen – La Plant and middle Emmie Noyd – collected eight kills apiece for a decidedly balanced squad. No single hitter attempted even 20 attacks for the Bulldogs, who torched Waldorf with a .342 hitting percentage while dropping in 12 aces.

La Plant gave her best effort when Concordia needed it most – in that second set when she had four kills from the outside. A standout for Willowbrook Volleyball Club in Texas, La Plant looked nothing like a freshman. She even chipped into the dance party that broke out between the second and third sets as “Cotton Eye Joe” blared over the sound system.

La Plant and the rookies made up for the absence of junior Annie Friesen, who sat out as a precaution.

“Level of play wasn’t a huge adjustment because I was very fortunate to be at a very good club in Texas,” La Plant said. “But it was definitely a big mental thing. I had to prepare myself to be ready to play. I’ve had all these girls help me out. It’s a support system. It’s been great.”

No Friesen. No problem – at least on Saturday. Taylor Workman added another seven kills (13 attempts) and Tiegen Skains pitched in four (10 attacks). Honorable mention All-Americans in 2015, Alayna Kavanaugh (31 assists) and Jocelyn Garcia (11 digs) were steady as usual against their foe from the North Star Athletic Association. The Warriors went 9-29 overall in 2015.

Concordia answered some of its biggest question marks on Saturday after it graduated several senior role players from last year’s squad.

“We did lose a lot of seniors, but we had an idea of what was coming in,” Mattera said. “I have to throw out Alex. She played six rotations and hit .615 on the outside. That’s crazy – and she hit really well out of system. Really happy with that. And obviously Jenna Eller, another freshman, drew some eyeballs today, too.”

La Plant was one of six Bulldogs to make their varsity debuts versus Waldorf. The list included Raymi Marquardt, who played on the junior varsity as a freshman last year. Eller, a rookie from David City, Neb., racked up five aces and six digs. Meanwhile, Noyd collaborated on four of the team’s eight total blocks.

Concordia hit .342 while holding Waldorf to an .056 clip. The Warriors posted a hitting percentage in the red in the final set that saw the Bulldogs cruise to victory.

Concordia will return to Walz on Tuesday when it hosts Peru State College (3-1). First serve is set for 7 p.m. The match will be available via the Concordia Sports Network and 104.9 Max Country.