Nordaker stars in five-set heartbreaker

By Jacob Knabel on Sep. 25, 2021 in Volleyball

SEWARD, Neb. – Just like the loss the 19th-ranked Concordia University Volleyball team suffered at College of Saint Mary, one critical play at the right time could have swung the result on Saturday (Sept. 25). The Flames showed their mettle on the road by fending off two potential match points in the fourth set while winning, 19-25, 29-27, 20-25, 26-24, 15-12, inside Friedrich Arena. No. 17 College of Saint Mary has twice defeated the Bulldogs in five sets this season.

The defeat snapped a five-match win streak for Head Coach Ben Boldt’s squad. Concordia (9-6, 4-3 GPAC) has played eight matches against teams that were ranked in NAIA top 25 at the time of first serve.

“It was a very even, high-level match,” Boldt said. “It wasn’t about errors necessarily, it was about making plays. There were a couple plays where they get an arm under a ball and they continue to play. We have to continue to keep our composure during those times and not get out of the things that we train to do. That was the margin for error in the fourth set when we had a chance to put it away.”

A kill by Kalee Wiltfong in the fourth set provided a 24-22 lead and a chance for the Bulldogs to end it right there. It’s fair to say that the Flames are a gritty bunch. With the help of Concordia attack errors, CSM rattled off the final four points of the fourth set. Then in the fifth set, Dani Prusha and Rosa Reed-Bouley emerged with kills for point Nos. 14 and 15, respectively. The Flames had held off Concordia in a match characterized by strong defense and prolonged rallies.

CSM had to overcome a starring performance from Bulldog middle Gabi Nordaker, who totaled 22 kills and nine blocks. Camryn Opfer (14) and Kalee Wiltfong (14) also produced double figures in kills. Setter Tara Callahan piled up 57 assists, 21 digs and three aces. Callahan was one of five Concordia players with at least 10 digs with her having been joined by Opfer (23), Rebecca Gebhardt (17), Tatum Kuti (15) and Cassidy Knust (14).

Across the board, the Flames (16-2, 6-1 GPAC) were just a little bit better. They owned advantages of .184 to .160 in hitting percentage, 71-66 in kills, 112-102 in digs and 16-13 in blocks. Kamryn Williams topped the visitors with 15 digs. Makenna Freeman paced her side with eight blocks. Meanwhile, Rachel Cushing accumulated a match high 37 digs. It’s been a big week for CSM, which also knocked off No. 1 Midland in five sets on Wednesday.

With the match on the line, Concordia hit a solid .267 in the fifth set. However, the Flames earned nearly all of their points by pounding 13 kills to just two errors. Boldt said afterwards that his group is still learning how to ‘Be the Woman’ in those critical moments. The Bulldogs have dropped each of their four five-set matches so far this season.

Concordia will get another shot at Midland (16-2, 5-2 GPAC) on Wednesday when the two sides will meet in Fremont at 7:30 p.m. CT. After back-to-back losses, the Warriors toppled Mount Marty on Saturday. Prior to this season’s loss to Midland, the Bulldogs had won each of the previous three series meetings.