‘Be the woman’ is a phrase Concordia head volleyball coach Ben Boldt tells his team often. Clearly senior middle blocker Emmie Noyd has taken those words to heart. When the Bulldogs really have to have a point, they know they can count on Noyd’s powerful right arm.
The takeoff of the Shelby, Neb., native stands as a major reason why Concordia is ranked 15th in the NAIA and headed to the final site of the NAIA Volleyball National Championship. Just two years ago, Noyd was a sophomore on a team that stumbled to a 9-19 overall record.
Says Noyd, “I was actually thinking of this when we were going into the conference semifinals last week. If you would have told me two years ago that we would be in this position my senior year I wouldn’t have believed you. It really just took hard work and focus. We had to put the work in during spring seasons and stuff like that. I really think the work ethic changed and the atmosphere that all of us have helped create really changed.”
Setter Tara Callahan has spread the ball between five main attacking options, but Noyd is No. 1 on that list. The Shelby-Rising City High School product is enjoying the best season of her life with career high statistical numbers across the board. Her 346 kills are far away the most she’s had in a season and she’s hitting a robust .326 while playing in the NAIA’s best and deepest volleyball league.
The progression of Noyd’s game – and her importance to this team – can be seen in her attack attempts from year-to-year, which have gone from per set averages of 3.64 to 5.06 to 6.82 to 7.81, respectively, over her career. An increased reliance upon Noyd has helped the Bulldogs rank in the top 20 nationally in both hitting percentage (.232) and kills per set (13.53).
“I really think this season why I’ve had success is because one of our top focuses going into each match is to set the middles early and often,” Noyd said. “It’s a focus of our offense all around to have middles be up and ready for the majority of the attacks. I give kudos to Tara Callahan. She’s a top caliber setter and I wouldn’t want anyone else in the nation. Having that mentality for our middles to be set early and often has changed the game for me.”
Noyd has seen a lot in her career. She arrived at Concordia in the fall of 2016. At the time, there seemed to be momentum with the program coming off its first-ever appearance in the national tournament. Noyd played a key role immediately, but things did not go as planned from a team perspective. Then came a coaching change right in the middle of Noyd’s career.
For some veteran players, such a transition can be difficult. There’s a feeling of again having to prove one’s self and having to show the new coaching staff that you belong. As one of the most respected players in the program, Noyd could have impacted her teammates either positively or negatively. Two years later, the jury has reached a conclusion and her influence has been a driving force in leading the program back to prominence.
Said Noyd prior to the start of this season, “Having the Boldts is like the best-case scenario that I could have ever imagined. They have built my love for the game and that will carry on even when I’m done playing on the competitive court.”
It would be hard to find anyone who would appreciate those words more than Ben and Angie Boldt. Said Ben back in August, “She has really embraced our coaching staff. She is going to be somebody that we lean on obviously … When we lose a couple points in a row she’s going to look you in the eye and say, ‘Get me the ball.’ That’s the type of person we want to have out there.”
Even this preseason, Noyd uttered the words “GPAC championship” in discussing what she felt was possible for the 2019 team. Outside of the locker room, almost no one would have anticipated the Bulldogs putting together this type of season. Concordia was picked eighth in the GPAC preseason poll. So why did Noyd and her teammates suddenly believe?
Individually, they took on the idea of being the woman. Tangible results came in the form of an early season win over then 19th-ranked Corban University (Ore.), a key road triumph over then eighth-ranked Midland and generally consistent play and level-headedness. Those are traits that also describe Noyd.
Now the trick is to take what got them to this point and carry it into the national tournament. Ben Boldt thinks his team is capable of raising its game even higher. It twice came up just short in five-set losses to eighth-ranked Jamestown and competed closely with No. 2 Northwestern.
“All the hard work we’ve put in is all paying off,” Noyd said. “That I get to be part of it is so amazing and I’m so grateful that it’s my senior season.”
The wait is on until Noyd and the Bulldogs take the grand stage at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa, for the start of national tournament pool play on Tuesday, Dec. 3.
Says Noyd, “I think it’ll be exciting. There may be some jitters. Our team has done it time and time again. We just go out and fight and are mentally tough. We have the ‘be the woman’ mentality.”