Stark, classmates enjoy happy senior day

By Jacob Knabel on Oct. 24, 2020 in Volleyball

SEWARD, Neb. – The end is not necessarily near, but the Concordia University Volleyball program enjoyed celebrating a transformational group of seniors on Saturday (Oct. 24). In honor of eight seniors, the Bulldogs made quick work of Morningside, 26-24, 25-15, 25-16, inside Walz Arena. That result completed a 3-0 week for Concordia, which got a dominant performance from senior outside hitter Kara Stark to cap it off.

Third-year Head Coach Ben Boldt’s squad pushed its record to 10-3 in the GPAC. Wins this week over College of Saint Mary, Briar Cliff and Morningside have put the Bulldogs in good position for a top-three spot in the final conference regular-season standings.

On Saturday evening, Boldt gushed about Stark’s 15-kill outing. Said Boldt, “Kara took it to another level today with the purpose she had when she was attacking and how the ball was coming off her hand. She really had control of it tonight. When it clicks like that, that’s the moment that you love as a coach. It’s fun to see them play well.”

The Mustangs (7-8, 6-6 GPAC) have been a bit up-and-down, but they owned strong wins at Dakota Wesleyan and over Dordt. Based on the grinder that took place in the first set (both teams hit below .100) on Saturday, it appeared as though Morningside might provide a significant push. Concordia proceeded to heat up and then emphatically put the match away by collecting 15 kills against two errors in the third set. The Bulldogs outhit the Mustangs, .238 to .082, for the match.

A native of Frisco, Texas, Stark had plenty of family members on hand to support her. Stark put on a show for them by smoldering to the tune of a .519 hitting percentage. She ensured that her teammates and families could get to their postgame festivities in a timely fashion by going for seven kills in the third set.

“It was just so fun,” Stark said. “We’ve all been talking as seniors that it’s crazy it’s been four years already, but we still get to keep going into the spring – so we’re so excited for that. We approached (today) as a chance to celebrate together and with our team. We came in ready to play.”

It has not been uncommon in recent years for a Concordia point to result from a Marissa Hoerman dig – Tara Callahan set – Stark kill sequence. All three are now seniors who have played prominent roles in the program’s rise. On senior day, Callahan notched 34 assists and four blocks while Hoerman paced both sides with 14 digs. Fellow senior Tristin Mason contributed 11 digs.

In addition, the Bulldogs held fairly significant advantages in service (six aces and six errors compared to three aces and eight errors for Morningside) and in blocking (9-3). The Mustangs entered play ranked 28th nationally in hitting percentage (.203). Their leading attacker, Krista Zenk (six kills, five errors) was held in check.

“Senior day can go one way or the other,” Boldt said. “You can get distracted and have your focus in other places. Angie and I were talking about how that was one of the more focused warmups we have seen from our team. I think our team really wanted to rally around our senior group. They did a good job of doing that.”

Kalee Wiltfong added eight kills in the middle for Concordia while Arleigh Costello had seven and Gabi Nordaker and Camryn Opfer chipped in with five apiece. Nordaker also earned credit for six block assists. Hoerman dropped in a trio of aces.

The run of home matches will continue on Wednesday when the Bulldogs will host College of Saint Mary (7-8, 2-8 GPAC) at 7:30 p.m. CT. Concordia defeated the Flames in Omaha this past Tuesday.