ORANGE CITY, Iowa – The Concordia University volleyball team has passed each of its tests so far. While playing away from home for the first time in 2018, the Bulldogs won in straight sets over both Waldorf University (Iowa) and Baker University (Kan.) at the Red Raider Classic in Orange City, Iowa, on Friday (Aug. 24). Concordia topped Waldorf, 25-19, 25-20, 25-22, and Baker, 26-24, 25-18, 25-17.
First-year head coach Ben Boldt’s squad has won its first nine sets of the season in the process of moving to 3-0. It’s the program’s first 3-0 start to a season since 2015. It’s also worth noting that Baker defeated the Bulldogs in straight sets inside Walz Arena almost exactly a year ago.
Afterwards, Boldt assessed both positives and shortcomings from another early season measuring stick. Said Boldt, “Our reading people on the other side of the net needs to get better, especially defensively. I’d like to see some better blocking numbers. Our digging numbers are all right, but blocking-wise we need to get better. I thought our serving was pretty good. We got them out of system a lot and didn’t have too many service errors. That was a bright spot in my head. Jenna Habegger did a really good job managing games and I was really proud of the way she played.”
A senior from Pawnee City, Neb., Habegger has looked comfortable at outside hitter after playing on the right side for most of her career prior. Over the season’s first three matches, Habegger has totaled 34 kills while hitting a sizzling .414. She put up a combined 25 kills on Friday, including 12 versus Waldorf and 13 versus Baker.
Habegger was part of a cast of characters that helped the Bulldogs rally in the opening set in the night cap against the Wildcats of Baldwin City, Kan. Concordia somehow outlasted Baker in that first set despite 17 Wildcat kills. The work of sophomore Marissa Hoerman in the back row certainly helped the cause. She wound up with 15 digs in the victory.
“Our offense was good, but we let them have 17 kills in the set,” Boldt said. “They were hitting the ball really hard. It was tough to stop them so we had to make some adjustments. It was nice to see us get a gritty win.”
Junior Alex La Plant enjoyed a nice second match in tandem with Habegger. La Plant floored 12 kills on her 27 swings in helping put away Baker. Also on the attack, freshman Arleigh Costello chipped in seven kills in Friday’s opener, which got underway at 2:30 p.m. central time. That attack was again facilitated by setter Kaci Hohenthaner, who has 82 assists over the season’s first three outings.
Boldt also made mention of sophomore Kara Stark, who celebrated a birthday by swatting three kills versus Waldorf. A couple of them came late in sets to help stamp out a potential Warrior rally.
So far, Habegger’s emergence has been the biggest story. Said Boldt, “You can throw a high ball up to her and not worry that she’s going to make an error. With a lot of players, you can throw a high ball and you don’t know where it’s going. She’s getting kills in system and keeping them in play when it’s out of system. She’s doing what we’re asking her to do in terms of managing the game.”
On paper, the weekend’s biggest test will come Saturday. Concordia and MidAmerica Nazarene University (Kan.) will go head-to-head at 11 a.m. in Orange City. The Pioneers went 24-10 overall in 2017. For live stats of Saturday’s match, click this LINK at game time.