SEWARD, Neb. – The season has started at a slow trickle in terms of the quantity of matches being played. The lack of a tune-up heading into conference action did not seem to bother the Concordia University Volleyball Team last week at Midland. The Bulldogs took care of the longtime nemesis in a straight-sets decision, 25-19, 25-21, 25-23, in Fremont. Now Concordia prepares to face two more in-state GPAC foes with Doane on Wednesday and Hastings on Saturday.
*Prior to attending Saturday’s match, fans should review Concordia’s protocols for fans HERE. Fans are required to wear face coverings while within campus venues.
Head Coach Ben Boldt’s program has now won back-to-back trips to Fremont dating back to last season. Based on the final 2019 standings, it was a battle between the league’s third- and fourth-place squads. Freshman Gabi Nordaker starred in her collegiate debut, striking for 12 kills (no errors) and six blocks. Other statistical leaders included Tara Callahan (39 assists), Marissa Hoerman (24 digs) and Kara Stark (12 kills). The Bulldogs outhit the Warriors, .248 to .168, and held a slight blocking advantage, 9-7. Callahan, Hoerman, Stark and Camryn Opfer are each returning All-GPAC performers.
A look around the GPAC and NAIA landscapes shows a wide variance in regards to the number of matches being contested. Most teams in the conference have played three or more matches with Mount Marty having already played eight times. Several other NAIA leagues have postponed fall sports until the spring. Of the 193 NAIA volleyball programs listed on the official qualification plan, 72 have begun their 2020-21 seasons with at least one match. The NAIA national championship tournament will not begin until April 2021.
Doane has won three of its first four matches having claimed victories over Morningside, MidAmerica Nazarene University (Kan.) and Mount Marty. In action this past Saturday, the Tigers fell at the hands of College of Saint Mary in four sets. Last season Concordia took all three meetings from Doane, including the matchup in the GPAC tournament quarterfinals. The Tigers have a first-year head coach in Jenna Jones, a former Nebraska Wesleyan University assistant and All-American at the University of Nebraska-Kearney. The team’s leading attacker so far has been 5-foot-6 Kennedy Scheele (51 kills).
Hastings owns a win over College of Saint Mary, which qualified for the 2019 national tournament. The Broncos are looking to bounce back from a down season in 2019 (11-15 overall record). Head Coach Alexandra Allard is in her second season leading the program. Hastings has been stout at the net averaging 3.1 blocks per set in the early going. Lucy Skoch is averaging 1.5 blocks per set individually. Prior to Saturday, the Broncos will host Midland on Wednesday. Hastings won the 2016 NAIA national championship.
Following this week’s action, Concordia will look forward to hosting Mount Marty on Sept. 23 prior to visiting College of Saint Mary on Sept. 26.