Upset bid comes up one point short at No. 12 Midland

By Jacob Knabel on Oct. 27, 2018 in Volleyball

FREMONT, Neb. – The Concordia University volleyball program will know it has really turned a corner when and if it can get over the hump in matches like the one that played out in Fremont, Neb., on Saturday (Oct. 27). With two sets already in hand, the Bulldogs led the third 25-24 while seemingly on the brink of what could have been a stunning straight-sets upset of 12th-ranked Midland. But the Warriors roared back to win it on their home court, 20-25, 22-25, 27-25, 25-14, 15-7.

First-year head coach Ben Boldt’s squad put together a good showing this week. It won in four sets over Morningside on Wednesday before pushing Midland to five sets. Concordia is now 14-11 overall and 4-11 in conference play.

“We came out and played well,” Boldt said. “We served pretty tough and we passed well in those first three sets. Our offense was playing pretty well and defensively we were sticking to our game plan. It was good execution in the first part of the match. Midland really upped their game in the fourth set especially. They started serving really, really tough. We couldn’t get into a rhythm offensively.”

A perennial national qualifier, the Warriors (21-4, 13-2 GPAC) have made a living out of finding ways to win. With Concordia leading 25-24 in the third set, Midland went to Sydney Morehouse for an attack that glanced off the Bulldog block and out of bounds for a crucial kill. The Warriors then won it with a kill apiece delivered by Taylor Petersen and Jenny Bair.

Concordia was nearly Midland’s equal with an effective attack of its own. Going up against a Warrior squad ranked 20th nationally in blocks per set, the Bulldogs hit .275, .300 and .289, respectively, over the match’s first three sets. On the outside, senior Jenna Habegger floored a team high 16 kills while hitting .400. Kara Stark (13), Kelsey Baarck (10) and Emmie Noyd (10) also each reached double figures in kills.

The Bulldogs have arguably made their biggest leap forward of the season since a disappointing performance at College of Saint Mary on Oct. 17. Perhaps Concordia is showing hints of where it is headed in the future.

“The last week since that match we’ve been pretty focused,” Boldt said. “It’s good to see them respond in that way. I really wish we could have gotten the result for them today. We’re going to get back at it on Monday, get refocused and then get after Doane on Wednesday.”

Midland, which will end its regular season at No. 14 Hastings on Wednesday, is still in a fight to secure the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament. The Warriors got a match high 18 kills from Petersen on Saturday. Star middle blocker Priscilla O’Dowd chipped in 13 kills, seven digs and five blocks. Morehouse (.550 hitting percentage) was the team’s most efficient attacker and notched 12 kills.

Midland had a big edge in the service game with 11 aces to the Bulldogs’ two. The Warriors also had advantages in hitting percentage (.257 to .216), kills (69-59) and blocks (12-10).

Concordia and Doane will get things started at 7:30 p.m. CT in Crete on Wednesday. The Tigers dealt the Bulldogs a four-set defeat in Seward on Sept. 18. As of now, Concordia still has a mathematical chance of qualifying for the eight-team GPAC tournament, but it must win at Doane.

“Honestly we’re starting to click,” Boldt said. “I really feel for the first time we’re starting to get it and not get too high or get too low. We’re intensely focused. We almost had it today.”