With a seat at the table, Bulldogs look ahead to No. 5 Dordt

By Jacob Knabel on Nov. 1, 2018 in Volleyball

SEWARD, Neb. – Here they are with a seat at the table. Considering how things felt in the aftermath of a straight-sets loss on Oct. 17, this feels pretty good. A solid showing over the final three matches of the regular season allowed the Concordia University volleyball team to sneak into the GPAC tournament as the No. 8 seed. The reward is a trip to Sioux Center, Iowa, to take on top-seeded and fifth-ranked Dordt in the quarterfinals.

Frank Greene will make the journey to call the action for 104.9 Max Country. First serve on Saturday is set for 7 p.m. CT from De Witt Gymnasium.

Even at the point when head coach Ben Boldt’s squad celebrated match point in Wednesday’s win at Doane, it still did not know if it had qualified for the conference tournament. Late on Wednesday, the GPAC announced that the Bulldogs had earned the No. 8 seed based on percentage of sets won tiebreaker criteria. As it turned out, Concordia needed to defeat Doane in either three or four sets. The Bulldogs got it done in three.

In the latest victory, sophomore Kara Stark sizzled, hitting a cool .500 while pounding 15 kills onto the blacktop at the Haddix Center. As a team, the Bulldogs outhit Doane, .292 to .182. The victory came on the heels of a near victory in a five-set defeat at No. 12 Midland. A few days before that, Concordia toppled Morningside in four sets in its final home appearance of the 2018 season. It could be argued that the three-match stretch is as good as any the program has put together within conference play since its national tournament season of 2015.

The roster sizes shrink to 16 in the postseason. The Boldts may look for contributions up and down that roster. They used 15 players at Doane. It seems Concordia has found the right combinations to improve its serving and passing games. At setter, Tara Callahan has settled in and has quarterbacked and offense that is humming again. Callahan tossed up 39 assists at Doane. As a team, the Bulldogs racked up 46 kills while getting revenge for a September home loss to the rival Tigers. The victory means the careers of seniors Kelsey Baarck and Jenna Habegger live on for at least one more match.

The task will be tall on Saturday. Dordt polished off a 16-0 GPAC regular season last week with a home win over Dakota Wesleyan. Part of that perfect conference run was a straight-sets home victory (25-10, 27-25, 26-24) triumph over Concordia on Oct. 13. Among all NAIA teams, the Defenders rank third in kills per set (14.0), eighth in blocks per set (2.46) and ninth in hitting percentage (.254). Dordt boasts a nationally top 15 ranked player in assists (Jamie De Jager), blocks (Ally Krommendyk) and kills (Emma Altena) per set.

Saturday’s winner will advance to play in the GPAC semifinals on Wednesday, Nov. 7 and play either fourth-seeded Midland or fifth-seeded Jamestown.

2018 GPAC Volleyball Tournament

Saturday, Nov. 3 – Quarterfinals
No. 8 Concordia (15-11, 5-11) at No. 1 Dordt (24-2, 16-0), 7 p.m.
No. 5 Jamestown (21-7, 10-6) at No. 4 Midland (21-5, 13-3), 7 p.m.
No. 6 Morningside (13-13, 7-9) at No. 3 Hastings (18-5, 13-3), 7 p.m.
No. 7 Doane (13-16, 5-11) at No. 2 Northwestern (22-6, 13-3), 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Nov. 7 – Semifinals
No. 1/8 vs. No. 4/5, 7 p.m.
No. 3/6 vs. No. 2/7, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 10 – Championship
Time – 7 p.m.