Mighty attack drives volleyball to 9-1 start

By on Sep. 10, 2015 in Volleyball

Mighty attack drives volleyball to 9-1 start

By Jake Knabel, Director of Athletic Communications

Prove it. That’s essentially the message delivered to the Concordia University volleyball team that found itself positioned sixth in the GPAC rankings despite an 8-1 record entering the week. Prove it is exactly what the Bulldogs and their powerful offensive attack did on Wednesday night against No. 19 Hastings.

The victory over a top-20 opponent validated the legitimacy of a budding program that already appeared to have established itself last season. With one hiccup against Benedictine College being the exception, Concordia has been dominant, wiping out opponents with one of the nation’s most efficient and crowd-roaring attacks.

It’s no wonder the student body has embraced these Bulldogs. They play fast and they end points quickly. Consider that, among all NAIA teams, the Bulldogs rank fourth in kills per game (14.1), sixth in assists per game (12.9) and sixth in hitting percentage (.281).

With returning first team all-conference setter Alayna Kavanaugh at the controls, the Bulldogs hit .296 versus a Bronco squad that had already played five top 25 teams (3-2 in those matches) and had limited its opponents to a collective .152 hitting percentage behind stonewalling blockers.

Said Mattera after defeating Hastings in straight sets, “When you go up against a team that’s that good of a blocking team and we don’t get blocked that often – huge props to Alayna. She was mixing it beautifully. It really kept them off balance.”

Even more encouraging, senior outside hitter Claire White played like an All-American on Wednesday after sitting out for two wins on Sept. 5. She didn’t simply just amass statistics (match high 16 kills), she floored the big tallies, including point Nos. 23, 25 and 26 as the Bulldogs rallied back in the third set.

When White was sidelined, opponents still had to deal with junior outside Paige Getz, who is enjoying her best season. She leads the Bulldogs with 123 kills after a monster weekend that netted her Bulldog Booster Club Athlete of the Week recognition.

Not enough firepower, you say? Well there’s also Tiegen Skains (72 kills, 2.0 kills/set) on the right side, Annie Friesen (.455 hitting percentage) in the middle and a host of other options. Fall asleep and Kavanaugh will dump one into the corner for a kill of her own.

“We’ve been working really hard at mixing the flow and getting the ball to everyone, not just certain people,” said Kavanaugh after a pair of wins in Chicago on Aug. 28. “I think it’s paying off.”

On Wednesday five different players attempted nine attacks or more. Aware of where the hot hands were located, Kavanaugh went to the outsides most often where White and Getz delivered a combined 28 kills on 56 swings. For the first time all season, Friesen hit below .316 in a match. But with this depth, everyone is allowed an off night.

“It’s awesome right now,” White said in a postgame interview with Max Country radio on Wednesday. “It’s easy to play together when you’re up like that, but I think as a team we fight really well and we come back really well together. We have it figured out right now.”

The togetherness of an experienced squad has helped produce four wins over ranked opponents since the beginning of the 2014 season. During that time, the Bulldogs are 3-1 versus Hastings, 2-0 versus Doane and 1-0 versus Dordt. However, they are currently looking up at all three in the conference and national polls. “I think that motivated us a lot,” White said.

Walz is rocking again, mammoth Bulldog kills are pelting the floorboards and there are plenty of feel good vibes to go around, but most of the goals set by this program are still out there. Concordia volleyball last captured a conference title in 2000 and last cracked the national top 25 in 2001.

“It was our first GPAC game of the year and it feels like that was hard work,” White said. “But we have a lot more to go.”