Oh so close

By Jacob Knabel on Aug. 26, 2016 in Volleyball

BUTTE, Mont. – The early-season grind continued for the 20th-ranked Concordia University volleyball program on Friday as part of the first day of the Big Sky Volleyball Challenge hosted by Montana Tech. It was a day of heartbreak for the Bulldogs, who dropped straight-sets decisions to both the University of Great Falls (Mont.) and Carroll College (Mont.). Each of the final five sets on Friday were decided by just two points.

Still, fifth-year head coach Scott Mattera has reason to believe his group is on the verge of a breakout. Things just haven’t clicked thus far for Concordia (1-3).

“When you come and play great teams that’s going to happen every once in a while,” Mattera said. “Clearly we’re not happy with it. We didn’t expect to be 1-3 right now, but we’re also figuring out a lot of stuff. It’s a learning experience. When you come in Aug. 12 (for preseason) and you have six matches in the next two weeks, you just go. We are really, really close.”

In Friday’s capper against Carroll, the Bulldogs held advantages late in every set. Concordia led 21-18 in the first, 24-23 in the second and 22-20 in the third. But every time, Paige Montgomery (14 kills), Holly Morehouse (12 kills) and the Saints emerged with big points down the stretch.

Those efforts allowed Carroll to overcome another solid performance from budding freshman Alex La Plant. She hammered 10 kills on just 14 swings with no errors. Paige Getz, who climbed to 988 kills for her career, totaled 19 kills on the day.

Fittingly, Concordia’s opening match on Friday ended when the Argos’ Tiffany Marks and Korie Milan combined on a block of Tiegen Skains. Denials were the story of the contest. Great Falls used a block advantage of 14-2 to wipe out the Bulldogs in straight sets. The Bulldogs were stifled in the opening set, hitting -.100 before settling for a hitting percentage of .076 for the match.

Junior defensive specialist Jocelyn Garcia cleaned up in the back row with a combined 31 digs over Friday’s six sets. On the attack, Concordia heated up from .076 in the first match to .250 in the day’s second contest. Middles Emmie Noyd (seven kills on 14 attacks vs. Great Falls) and Taylor Workman (eight kills on 17 swings vs. Carroll) both had one terrific statistical match.

The Big Sky Challenge will offer two more Concordia matches on Saturday. The Bulldogs will be up early for a 9 a.m. MT first serve with No. 8 Eastern Oregon. They then finish the weekend by taking on No. 15 Rocky Mountain (Mont.) at 1 p.m. MT.

More consistent play and a couple of breaks could help get the Bulldogs in the win column before leaving Montana.

“We show flashes of being really, really good,” Mattera said. “It’s little stuff execution-wise. We need more reps, we need more practice and we need to play together a little bit longer. It’s not the result we wanted on the scoreboard, but we are all really hopeful.”