Trips to GPAC's top-two rated teams next on docket

By Jacob Knabel on Oct. 9, 2017 in Volleyball

SEWARD, Neb. – A road win over a team like Hastings or Northwestern would do a lot to lift the spirits of a Concordia University volleyball team still hunting for its first conference victory of 2017. Such opportunities await the Bulldogs this week as they aim to avenge home losses to the fourth-ranked Broncos and third-ranked Red Raiders. Concordia has gotten used to playing ranked teams. Nine of its 14 losses have come against teams that were either ranked or receiving votes at the time the matches occurred.

This week’s schedule
Wednesday, Oct. 11 at No. 4 Hastings (16-1, 8-1 GPAC)
Saturday, Oct. 14 at No. 3 Northwestern (21-1, 8-0 GPAC)

Though the Bulldogs (5-14, 0-9 GPAC) dropped six of seven sets when they played Northwestern and Hastings back-to-back in mid-September, four of those set losses came by two points. The closest Concordia has come to knocking off a ranked team happened back on Aug. 30 when it had three different match point opportunities before falling to No. 20 Bellevue University in five sets. In terms of quality wins, the Bulldogs boast a pair of victories over NCAA Division II squads.

The youth movement continues within the program. Sixth-year head coach Scott Mattera and his staff believe that freshman Anna Lund can be a part of a revival down the stretch. One of the team’s top overall athletes, Lund has taken on more responsibilities on the outside in recent action. She put down 10 kills against Doane. It marked the third time this season she has recorded double digits in kills. The native of Rochester, Minn., has dropped 66 kills this season.

Concordia has also put a lot of trust in fellow rookies Tara Callahan (8.8 assists/set) and Marissa Hoerman (123 digs) and sophomores Alex La Plant (2.6 kills/set) and Emmie Noyd (team best .276 hitting percentage). The Bulldogs hope Hoerman can soon return from injury.  Hoerman sat out last week’s straight sets home defeat to No. 23 Doane. In her place, sophomore Harlie Himmelberg filled the libero role.

Hastings was knocked off its perch atop the national rankings after it lost in five sets against Northwestern on Sept. 30. The defending national champions remain a serious player in the race for a conference title. They possess one of the GPAC’s best and most versatile players in Katie Placke, who is hitting .377 while also averaging 5.4 assists per set. The Broncos sport national rankings of second in blocks per set (2.9), 12th in hitting percentage (.250) and 30th in kills per game (13.1).

Northwestern features an even more powerful attack with impressive national rankings of third in hitting percentage (.327) and third in kills per game (14.4). The ringleader behind that firepower is middle Anna Kiel, who scorched Concordia with 19 kills in the season’s first meeting on Sept. 16. After finishing 18-17 overall last season, the Red Raiders have moved back into the elite category under the direction of head coach Kyle Van Den Bosch.

Wednesday’s match at Hastings will be carried on 104.9 Max Country with Frank Greene on the call. Both of this week’s contests can be viewed live via Stretch Internet (Hastings webcast | Northwestern webcast).

Following this week, the Bulldogs will get cozy at home with four matches in a row set to take place inside Walz Arena. The home stand begins with College of Saint Mary on Oct. 18 in what will be a pink out match.