Volleyball seeks upset of top-seeded Northwestern in GPAC semifinal

By on Nov. 12, 2014 in Volleyball

Volleyball seeks upset of top-seeded Northwestern in GPAC semifinal

SEWARD, Neb. – Coming off perhaps its best performance all season, the Concordia University volleyball team is set to trek to Orange City, Iowa, tonight (Wednesday) to take on top-seeded and seventh-ranked Northwestern. First serve is slated for 7:30 p.m. from the Bultman Center.

While the task of blemishing Northwestern’s undefeated home record seems daunting (and it is), the Bulldogs appear to be playing well at the right time. The Concordia volleyball program has not knocked off the Red Raiders since 2005, but it’s been a season of “first time since …” for third-year head coach Scott Mattera’s squad.

“We played our best game against Hastings and we just have to do the same against Northwestern,” freshman Jocelyn Garcia said. “They’re a great team. We know it’s not going to be easy from here, but we’re going to put our best work in.”

So about all those “first time since” mentions for the Bulldogs. The 2014 team is the first to …

  • Finish in the top four of the league standings since 2001
  • Post 20 wins in a season since 2007
  • Beat a ranked team since 2007 (2014 Bulldogs have three wins over ranked foes)
  • Win at Morningside since 2003
  • Defeat rivals Hastings and Doane since 2007
  • Win a GPAC tournament game since 2008

A win at Northwestern would be as impressive an accomplishment as any of the aforementioned feats, but the Red Raiders pack a punch. Behind star senior outside hitter Kaitlin Floerchinger, Northwestern ranks seventh among all NAIA teams with a .271 hitting percentage. Floerchinger is a beast on the attack (4.1 kills/game – 15th in the NAIA) and possesses a wicked serve (eighth in the nation with 0.57 aces/game). She is complimented nicely by one of the nation’s top setters in Brooke Fessler.

As team, Norhwestern also ranks 11th nationally in kills per game (13.58), 12th in aces per game (2.02) and 38th in blocks per game (2.05).

Concordia counters with a steadily improving defensive game led by reigning GPAC defensive player of the week Carli Smith in the back row. The Bulldogs also own one of the top offensive teams in the NAIA, headlined by junior Claire White (3.2 kills per game). Among all 219 NAIA volleyball teams, Mattera’s squad ranks 22nd in aces per game (1.83), 23rd in kills per game (13.03) and 43rd in hitting percentage (.212).

In the only regular-season meeting between Concordia and Northwestern, the Red Raiders won, 25-18, 25-19, 25-20, by outhitting the Bulldogs, .333 to .204. Floerchinger enjoyed a big afternoon with 11 kills (24 attempts) and nine digs. White paced Concordia with 16 kills and eight digs.

“We’re going in with the same attitude (that we had versus Hastings). We don’t want to come back with any regrets,” Mattera said at Tuesday’s Concordia booster club gathering. “We can play them. We know we have to be cleaner than the first time around.”

Concordia (20-11)
Hitting %: .212 (4th in GPAC)
Kills/set: 13.0 (2nd)
Aces/set: 1.8 (2nd)
Blocks/set: 1.8 (7th)
Digs/set: 13.1 (10th)
Individual leaders
Kills: Claire White – 365 (3.2/game)
Assists: Alayna Kavanaugh – 1,161 (10.3/game)
Digs: Carli Smith – 399 (3.5/game)
Blocks: Mariah Schamp – 82 (0.7/game)
Aces: Claire White – 52 (0.5/game)
Hitting %: Mariah Schamp – .298 

Northwestern (29-3)
Hitting %: .271 (1st)
Kills/set: 13.6 (1st)
Aces/set: 2.0 (1st)
Blocks/set: 2.1 (5th)
Digs/set: 15.4 (6th)
Individual leaders
Kills: Kaitlin Floerchinger – 447 (4.1/game)
Assists: Brooke Fessler – 1,258 (11.1/game)
Digs: Alexis Bart – 520 (4.6/game)
Blocks: Payton Samuelson – 99 (0.9/game)
Aces: Kaitlin Floerchinger – 63 (0.6/game)
Hitting %: Payton Samuelson – .375