SEWARD, Neb. – A pair of teams ranked among the NAIA’s top 15 will challenge the Concordia University volleyball team this week. The Bulldogs will host No. 14 Hastings for their pink-out match on Wednesday before heading to eighth-ranked Dordt on Saturday. The Bulldogs enter the week with a record of 1-3 against the current top 25.
Wednesday, Oct. 10 vs. No. 14 Hastings (12-5, 7-3), 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 13 at No. 8 Dordt (17-2, 10-0), 3 p.m.
The Wednesday match will be covered live by 104.9 Max Country radio and by the Concordia Sports Network.
First-year head coach Ben Boldt’s squad got an injection of confidence in last week’s only outing. Behind 15 kills from sophomore Kara Stark, Concordia toppled Briar Cliff, 26-24, 20-25, 25-19, 25-19, on Oct. 5. It was a much needed win that snapped a seven-match skid and one that keeps hopes alive of qualifying for the eight-team GPAC tournament. With six matches left in the regular season, the Bulldogs (13-7, 3-7 GPAC) are tied with Doane for eighth place in the GPAC, widely regarded as the NAIA’s best volleyball conference. Through rated 11th in the most recent official GPAC poll, Concordia owns a win over 22nd-ranked McPherson College (Kan.).
The schedule over the past week has been light in terms of number of matches. The Bulldogs have played only three times since Sept. 22. Over the past two matches, Stark has put down a combined 29 kills on 60 swings. Her development has added another attacking option to a team that already had many weapons at the disposal of setters Tara Callahan and Kaci Hohenthaner. Additionally, Concordia has been moving up the national leaderboard in the blocks category. The Bulldogs rank 22nd nationally in blocks per set (2.19) after adding 14 in the win over Briar Cliff. Junior Emmie Noyd is the team leader in hitting percentage (.306) and blocks per set (1.09).
The Bulldogs will get another shot at a Hastings, which defeated Concordia in four sets back on Sept. 20. Since then, the Broncos are 3-2 with the losses coming against Dordt and Northwestern, two fellow nationally-ranked squads. Head coach Matt Buttermore’s squad is one of the best blocking teams in the nation, ranking ninth among all NAIA teams in blocks per set (2.47). Emily Lenners averages 1.4 blocks per set (third most in the NAIA). The team’s leading hitter is middle blocker Lucy Skoch, who is averaging 3.64 kills per set and is hitting .281.
If there was an NAIA poll released this week, Dordt would most certainly be ranked higher than eighth. The Defenders rattled off three victories last week, including a four-set triumph over No. 5 Viterbo University (Wis.). Chad Hanson’s squad is a powerful one at the net. Among all NAIA teams, Dordt ranks fourth in kills per set (13.85), ninth in hitting percentage (.261) and 12th in blocks per set (2.39). Star Defender Emma Altena put up 19 kills in the win over Viterbo and is averaging 4.09 kills per set. Ally Krommendyk (1.23 blocks/set) is one of the nation’s top blockers.
Next week will be just a one-match week for Concordia, which will be at College of Saint Mary on Wednesday, Oct. 17.