2024 First/Second Round Preview: Concordia’s final journey begins in Seward versus Benedictine

By Chase Benton on Mar. 11, 2024 in Women's Basketball

2024 Concordia WBB Press Guide (PDF)

SEWARD, Neb. – Lose and your season is over. The final 64 teams are set, and the Bulldogs have clinched a spot to host the first two rounds of the NAIA national championship inside Friedrich Arena. Selected to start in the Naismith quadrant, No. 3 seed Concordia will clash with No. 14 seed Benedictine College (Kan.) on Friday (Mar. 15). No. 6 seed Columbia College (Mo.) will face No. 11 seed Wayland Baptist in the following game. The final 16 teams remaining in the field advance to the final site, Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.

First/Second Round Info (March 15-16)
-Host: Concordia University, Nebraska
-Site: Friedrich Arena (Seward, Neb.)
-Tickets: https://www.cune.edu/athletics/tickets
--Cost: $10 for adults, $5 for K-12 students
-Live Radio: https://ruralradio.com/maxcountry/
-Live Streaming Link: https://team1sports.com/cune/
-Live Stats: Presto Stats

Game Schedule

2024 NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship Bracket (PDF)

Friday, March 15: (3) Concordia (25-6) vs. (14) Benedictine (20-11), 6 p.m. CT

Friday, March 15: (6) Columbia (27-4) vs. (11) Wayland Baptist (22-8), 8 p.m. CT

Saturday, March 16: First round winners, 4 p.m. CT
(winner advances to the final site)

By the numbers

·       In its first 22 appearances at the national championships, Concordia has posted a record of 38-20 with seven journeys to at least the national semifinals (three national championship game appearances). The Bulldogs are 15-7 in first-round games. All of the program’s national tournament berths have come since 1992 – the same year the NAIA split into two divisions for basketball. The 2019-20 season marked the final one featuring two divisions. The 2019-20 squad had garnered the No. 1 overall seed in a tournament that was shut down in the middle of the first round due to COVID-19.

·       Head Coach Drew Olson has been at the controls for each of Concordia’s past 16 national tournament appearances (including 2024). His record at the national tournament now stands at 27-13 with five trips to the final four, including three national championship game appearances (2015, 2018, 2019). The program raised its first-ever national championship banner in March 2019 when it defeated No. 2 Southeastern University (Fla.), 67-59. Olson has won more national tournament games than any coach in school history (men’s or women’s programs). The national championship team of 2018-19 returned to campus for the 2023-24 team’s Jan. 20 win over Briar Cliff. The program celebrated the fifth-year anniversary of winning the national title.

·       Nine of the 15 players on Concordia’s national tournament roster have prior national tournament experience. That list includes Kendal Brigham, Abby Heemstra, Abby Krieser, Sadie Powell, Taysha Rushton, Reece Snodgrass, Hanna Spearman, Mackenzie Toomey and Kristin Vieselmeyer. Rushton played an instrumental role in the 2021 run to the national quarterfinals and has appeared in six games at the national tournament in her career. She’s averaged 16.2 points (97 total points) in those contests with a high of 27 in the 73-67 win over fourth-ranked Marian University (Ind.) in ‘21. Rushton also poured in 26 points in last season’s 77-50 win over Columbia College (Mo.) in the first round of the tournament. The seniors have gone a combined 3-3 at the national tournament from 2021 through 2023.

·       Five players from the seventh-ranked Concordia Women's Basketball team received recognition as 2023-24 All-GPAC players. Taysha Rushton grabbed her fourth straight First Team All-GPAC and was joined by senior Sadie Powell. Abby Krieser landed on the Second Team All-Conference and Kendal Brigham and Mackenzie Toomey were tabbed with Honorable Mention All-GPAC accolades. Rushton (1,869) and Powell (1,026) have both reached the 1,000-point career mark as the two have averaged double digits this year with 15.2 and 11.7, respectively.

·       The game between the Bulldogs and Ravens will feature two of the top-15 winningest active coaches in the NAIA. Chad Folsom, head coach of the Ravens, has a 487-252 record with a 65.8 winning percentage. Benedictine has gone to the national tournament for eight out of the last 12 years (2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2021, 2022, 2024). Drew Olson has an all-time record of 469-139, earning a win percentage of 77.1. The native of Omaha, Neb., had the lowest number of seasons (16) it took to be inside the top 15 at the beginning of 2023-24 basketball season. This will be the second time in program history these two teams have faced. The Ravens took the first bout 62-58 in the opening round of the national tournament on March 11, 2022.

·       The winning ways continue as Wayland Baptist has the most wins (1,768) in program history inside the NAIA. With the first year of the program starting in 1948-49, the Flying Queens have over 600 more wins than the next program at this level of women’s collegiate basketball. This will be their 31st national tournament appearance, having made it to the final site two out of the last five years.

·        Despite having a younger program, Columbia College has made the NAIA national tournament 20 out of 23 years (including 2024) since its start in women’s basketball. James Arnold, in his second year, has continued the tradition of postseason play and will be a tough matchup for anyone having only conceded four games all season. Earning a sixth seed, the second game in Seward is set to be a good one against Wayland Baptist.

Concordia site breakdown

(3) Concordia University
Overall Record: 25-6
Location: Seward, Nebraska
Conference: Great Plains Athletic Conference
Head Coach: Drew Olson
RPI: 13th
SOS: 33rd
O-PPG: 81.0
D-PPG: 64.6
All-Conference: Taysha Rushton (first team); Abby Krieser (second team); Sadie Powell (first team); Kendal Brigham (honorable mention); Mackenzie Toomey (honorable mention).

(6) Columbia College
Overall Record: 27-4
Location: Columbia, Missouri
Conference: American Midwest Conference
Head Coach: James Arnold
RPI: 19th
SOS: 111th
O-PPG: 75.0
D-PPG: 55.7
All-Conference: Mallory Shetley (first team); DeLaney Horstman (first team); Abby Backes (third team); Lexi Miller (sixth woman of the year); Allison Stiers (third team).

(11) Wayland Baptist
Overall Record: 22-8
Location: Plainview, Texas
Conference: Sooner Athletic Conference
Head Coach: Jason Cooper
RPI: 47th
SOS: 83rd
O-PPG: 74.0
D-PPG: 64.6
All-Conference: Linda Brice (third team); Bobbie Fouquet (honorable mention); Megan Nestor (first team, defensive player of the year).

(14) Benedictine College
Overall Record:  20-11
Location:  Atchison, Kan.
Conference:  Heart of America Conference
Head Coach: Chad Folsom
RPI: 66th
SOS: 86th
O-PPG: 70.1
D-PPG: 65.1
All-Conference: Lauryn Dubbert (second team); Jennifer Jacobs (second team); Kennedy Nicholson (honorable mention); Aaliyah Raines (honorable mention).

Final site

The hopeful destination for the Bulldogs remains the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. The final 16 teams left standing will advance to that location for action from March 21-26. Sioux City first became the women’s basketball national championship host for division II in 1998. It was awarded as the host location for the NAIA’s one and only division beginning in 2021. Additional information about the NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship can be found via the NAIA website HERE.