SEWARD, Neb. – The fight Doane brought to the Concordia University Volleyball team is a show of the strength and depth of the GPAC. Though currently situated outside of GPAC tournament placement territory, the Tigers made the Bulldogs sweat it out. Senior Marissa Hoerman (match high 19 digs) led a defensive performance that helped Concordia edge the visitors, 25-22, 25-23, 25-23, inside Walz Arena on Thursday (Oct. 29).
The win streak has grown to five for Head Coach Ben Boldt’s squad, which is guaranteed to finish in the top three of the final GPAC regular season standings. The Bulldogs improved to 12-3 in the GPAC with one match remaining this fall.
“They were scrappy and forced us to earn it,” Boldt said. “That’s why we play. We had a couple timeouts late and my message to them was – this is what we signed up for. It’s 24-23. Who’s going to get the next point? That’s what you want to play for. I trust that our players are going to give everything they’ve got. We have to continue to be the woman in big moments.”
Doane is playing at a higher level than it did when Concordia handily defeated the Tigers in Crete on Sept. 16. Doane (4-10, 2-10 GPAC) scrapped on Thursday while limiting the Bulldogs to a .129 hitting percentage. The Tigers edged in front in the third set, 18-17, before Concordia seemingly restored order. Leading 24-23, Boldt took a timeout before watching junior Arleigh Costello put away match point with a kill.
The close nature of each set may serve the Bulldogs well moving forward. They always had a response in clutch situations. Kalee Wiltfong pounded a kill for set point in the first set and Costello did the same to polish off the second and third sets. It wasn’t always the prettiest night on the attack. Concordia totaled 40 kills, but 86 of its attacks resulted in either a dig or error.
The stat sheet looked remarkably similar at the end of the night:
· Hitting percentage: DU .130, CUNE .129
· Kills: CUNE 40, DU 36
· Digs: DU 64, CUNE 61
· Blocks: CUNE 6, DU 3
The Bulldogs were just a bit tighter in their serving and passing. Tara Callahan finished with 35 assists, nine digs and two aces. Gabi Nordaker topped the team in kills (10) and blocks (five). Four others had seven or more kills: Costello (nine), Camryn Opfer (seven), Kara Stark (seven) and Wiltfong (seven; .438 hitting percentage). In addition to her stellar work in the back, Hoerman added two aces.
As usual, Wiltfong garnered attention with the fastball she throws across court. She also brings a high level of energy each time out. Said Boldt, “I thought Kalee Wiltfong did a really good job. Her energy was contagious and we need a lot more of that. I was really proud of her and her mentality tonight.”
Doane got a team high 10 kills from Kennedy Scheele, who also notched 10 digs. Katie Ellard also recorded 19 digs. The Tigers have a familiar face on their bench in graduate assistant coach Claire White, a key figure on Concordia’s 2015 national tournament qualifying squad.
Boldt’s crew has now completed season sweeps of Midland, College of Saint Mary and Doane. Concordia owns a record of 7-0 this season against in-state opponents.
The Bulldogs will have a chance to complete an unbeaten regular season against in-state foes next Tuesday (Nov. 3) when they will play at Hastings (7-6, 6-5 GPAC). First serve from Lynn Farrell Arena is set for 7:30 p.m. CT. Concordia won the first meeting at home in straight sets.