Balanced Bulldogs earn season sweep of Mustangs

By Jacob Knabel on Jan. 19, 2023 in Women's Basketball

WATCH: Bulldogs ring victory bell

SEWARD, Neb. – For the first time since the 2019-20 season, the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team has earned a regular season sweep of perennial powerhouse Morningside. Five different Bulldogs reached double figures in paving the way for a 74-60 victory over the Mustangs on Thursday (Jan. 19). Concordia led by as many as 18 points and put it on ice with two fourth quarter treys from Megan Belt.

Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad has won seven of its last eight GPAC outings and has moved to 11-7 overall (9-5 GPAC). Olson saw this effort as one of the Bulldogs’ best performances of the season to date.

“I think we’re really progressing,” Olson said. “We played a great basketball game today. It was one of our better games, just for a full 40 minutes. Morningside had a great run in the third quarter but how we responded is a huge sign of the team we have become.”

Abby Krieser and a gritty backcourt are leading the way for Concordia's middle-of-the-season surge. Krieser had already pilfered three steals in the opening half as Morningside was flustered into 12 turnovers. Not so surprisingly for a program used to winning, the Mustangs had a run in them that slashed the deficit all the way down to two (48-46) in the third quarter. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native Sadie Powell dropped in six points during the ensuing 13-1 spurt that put the Bulldogs back in control.

Concordia simply makes it a chore to find any halfcourt rhythm because of the effort expended in breaking its press. A couple of Morningside starting guards combined for just as many turnovers as points. As a team, the Mustangs were limited to 36.2 percent shooting (21-for-58) while finishing with 21 giveaways. Krieser ended the night with four steals and was matched by Powell’s four thefts. In addition, Mackenzie Koepke blocked three shots. In the face of that tenacity, Morningside struggled through a seven-minute scoreless drought in the second quarter.

Said Olson of the team’s defensive effort, “Just really good focus. They understood what they needed to do with who they guarded but also as a collective group. They did a phenomenal job throughout that game. The number of people who stepped up and hit big shots was awesome.”

Added Krieser, “We’re really aggressive and we play like we’re on a string. Our press is working well and we work really well together. We’ve been able to turn a lot of our steals into transition points.”

The five Bulldog double-figure scorers were Abby Heemstra (12), Taysha Rushton (12), Krieser (11), Powell (10) and Kristin Vieselmeyer (10). Heemstra paced Concordia with seven rebounds while Rushton stuffed the stat sheet with six assists, five rebounds and two steals. Off the bench, Vieselmeyer was ultra-efficient in making 2-of-3 shots from 3-point range and all four attempts from the foul line. Belt closed like Mariano Rivera with two late triples. The Bulldogs’ 41.9 percent shooting (26-for-62) was enough to get the job done.

Morningside (12-7, 7-6 GPAC) was led in scoring by Sophia Peppers (15), Alexis Spier (14) and Lily Vollertsen (11). Peppers added 10 rebounds in recording the double-double. Off the bench, Ella Wragge, younger sister of former Concordia All-American Quinn Wragge, appeared in 12 minutes. The Mustangs had won six straight series meetings over the Bulldogs prior to this season.

The Bulldogs are in the midst of a five-games-in-10-days stretch that will continue on Saturday with a road trip to No. 15 Northwestern (14-4, 9-3 GPAC). Tipoff from the Bultman Center in Orange City, Iowa, is set for 2 p.m. CT. Concordia will attempt to avenge the 72-56 loss it endured at the hands of the Red Raiders on Dec. 3. Northwestern owns a 7-2 home mark on the season.