Berth in GPAC title game on the line Saturday

By Jacob Knabel on Feb. 25, 2021 in Women's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – A fifth-straight appearance in the GPAC tournament final will be on the line on Saturday when the 17th-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team hosts Northwestern. The GPAC semifinal clash will tip off at 3 p.m. CT from Friedrich Arena. The Bulldogs swept the regular season series from the Red Raiders, who have won 12 of their past 13 outings. Concordia defeated Dakota Wesleyan in the quarterfinals while Northwestern routed Midland.

GPAC Semifinals

(17) Concordia (19-7) vs. Northwestern (17-9)
Saturday, Feb. 27 | 3 p.m.
Friedrich Arena | Seward, Neb.
Webcast/Live Stats: Concordia Sports Network
Radio: 104.9 KTMX-FM Max Country
Commentator: Parker Cyza
Buy Tickets:
--Admission: $10 for adults/senior citizens, $3 for K-12; only those with NAIA passes and GPAC student ID’s will be admitted free of charge.


*2020-21 NAIA national rank in parentheses
-NOTE: 203 of 235 NAIA women’s basketball programs have played at least one game this season.

Scoring Offense: 79.0 (22nd)
Scoring Defense: 65.8 (92nd)
FG% Offense: .397 (T-93rd)
FG% Defense: .379 (T-66th)
3-pt FG% Offense: .327 (T-48th)
3-pt FG% Defense: .301 (T-87th)
Free Throw%: .730 (T-45th)
Rebound Margin: 0.00 (102nd)
Turnover Margin: +6.69 (17th)

Scoring Offense: 74.2 (51st)
Scoring Defense: 63.4 (68th)
FG% Offense: .427 (T-35th)
FG% Defense: .380 (T-70th)
3-pt FG% Offense: .357 (15th)
3-pt FG% Defense: .311 (T-123rd)
Free Throw%: .724 (53rd)
Rebound Margin: +4.81 (45th)
Turnover Margin: +1.58 (69th)

Protocols for fans
Concordia home games: Consistent with state directed health measures, Concordia will allow up to 50 percent capacity for its home games. Fans are encouraged to purchase advance tickets online ( Tickets will also be sold at the door, provided capacity limits have not been reached via online sales.
--NOTE: All GPAC events require fans to wear face coverings. To review specific COVID-19 protocols for the GPAC and its member institutions, visit:

Recent action
In Wednesday’s 70-58 GPAC quarterfinal win over Dakota Wesleyan, the Bulldogs raced out to a 32-16 lead before the contest settled into a grinder. The Tigers went 1-for-13 from the field to start the game and finished at 31.0 percent for the night. The Concordia lead shriveled all the way down to two (57-55) in the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs responded with a critical 6-0 run. Three Concordia players reached double figures: Taysha Rushton (19), Rylee Pauli (16) and Sadie Powell (10). The freshmen had a big hand in the win, including Rushton and Powell. Concordia has now beaten DWU four times in the past five GPAC tournaments.

GPAC tournament win streaks
The success in the postseason is another marker of the excellence of Bulldog Women’s Basketball. With Wednesday’s win, Concordia now owns a 13-game GPAC tournament win streak and has won 16 straight GPAC postseason home games. The Bulldogs have not lost a GPAC tournament home contest since the 2013 conference semifinals. Head Coach Drew Olson has been at the controls for six of the program’s seven GPAC tournament championships. Olson is a perfect 6-0 in GPAC postseason title games

GPAC Championship Games, program history
2020 – vs. Hastings | W, 60-49
2019 – vs. Dakota Wesleyan | W, 75-63
2018 – vs. Dakota Wesleyan | W, 90-88
2017 – vs. Dakota Wesleyan | W, 78-77 (OT)
2015 – at Morningside | W, 80-72
2012 – vs. Morningside | W, 73-66
2005 – at Morningside | W, 47-35
2004 – at Morningside | L, 63-76

Freshmen come of age
Olson is especially pleased with the growth of a freshman class that includes star guard Taysha Rushton, starter Bailey Conrad and role players in Kendal Brigham, Sadie Powell and Mackenzie Toomey. Rushton has been a consistent producer throughout her rookie season and is a strong candidate for GPAC Freshman of the Year honors. Her season scoring average of 13.7 is the second highest for a freshman during the Olson era (No. 1 is Quinn Wragge – 14.8 in 2015-16). As for Conrad, the overall numbers don’t tell the full story. She tallied nine points and six assists versus Dakota Wesleyan while continuing to gain Olson’s trust. Meanwhile, Powell put home a career high 10 points in the quarterfinal win. Brigham is back on the varsity roster and appears to be soaring in confidence (4-for-5 from 3-point range over the last two games).

Rising in the ranks; 20-win mark
Concordia is hopeful of earning an automatic bid to the national tournament, but it will most certainly be in the discussion for an at-large berth even if it falls short of that aim. In the new NAIA Coaches’ Poll released on Wednesday, the Bulldogs leapt five spots to No. 17. Concordia checked in at No. 11 in the preseason before falling out of the rankings when it struggled early in the season. Olson’s squad reappeared in the national poll at No. 25 on Jan. 27 before moving up to 22nd on Feb. 10 and then to 17th on Feb. 24. It should be noted that the national rankings do not determine at-large berths to nationals.

On another note, the Bulldogs are one win away from 20 wins, a significant accomplishment during this COVID-19 affected season. Only twice in his previous 14 seasons as head coach has Olson failed to hit the 20-win mark. Olson enters the weekend with a career record of 404-105. Concordia is hoping to reach the national tournament for the 10th consecutive season.

Recent meetings with Red Raiders
The Bulldogs are tasked with attempting to beat Northwestern for the third time this season. In the regular season, Concordia knocked off the Red Raiders, 83-72, in Seward and then, 81-76, in Orange City. In the first battle, Taylor Cockerill piled up 25 points while Taysha Rushton poured in 28 in the second meeting. The two programs have not faced off in the GPAC tournament since 2017 when the Bulldogs blew out Northwestern, 88-51, in the semifinals. However, Northwestern is the program to most recently beat Concordia in Seward in a GPAC tournament game. That happened in the 2013 conference semifinals. Overall, the Bulldogs have won five straight in the series. That run began with the 2019 NAIA Division II national semifinals as part of Concordia’s national title run.

GPAC tournament update
It was a chalky first night of the GPAC tournament as the top four seeds all held serve at home. While the Bulldogs get set to host Northwestern, No. 1 seed Morningside will entertain crosstown rival and fourth-seeded Briar Cliff in the other semifinal. The GPAC championship game will take place on Tuesday, March 2 at the home gym of the highest remaining seed.

GPAC Quarterfinals – Feb. 24
No. 1 Morningside def. No. 8 Jamestown, 84-75
No. 4 Briar Cliff def. No. 5 Dordt, 67-54
No. 3 Northwestern def. No. 6 Midland, 79-54
No. 2 Concordia def. No. 7 Dakota Wesleyan, 70-58

GPAC Semifinals – Feb. 27
No. 4 Briar Cliff at No. 1 Morningside, 3 p.m.
No. 3 Northwestern at No. 2 Concordia, 3 p.m.

Scouting Northwestern
The Red Raiders have rebounded impressively after their 0-6 start to the season. Since the calendar flipped to 2021, Northwestern is 12-2 with the lone losses coming against Concordia and Morningside. Head Coach Chris Yaw’s squad can heat it up from the perimeter, as evidenced by its 3-point shooting percentage of 35.7. The primary shooters to watch out for are Sammy Blum (.440 from 3-point range) and Devyn Kemble (.397 from 3-point range). In conference games only, the Red Raiders posted a scoring margin (+13.1) that rivaled that of Concordia (+14.9). If not for the rough start, Northwestern would likely also be ranked in the top 25.

Looking ahead
The Bulldogs hope to be playing in the GPAC tournament title game next Tuesday (March 2) against either Briar Cliff or Morningside. By next week, the NAIA will also reveal the field for the opening round of the national tournament. The NAIA has scheduled the women’s basketball selection show for 6 p.m. CT on Thursday, March 4.

Projected Starters

Concordia (19-7, 17-5)
G – Taylor Cockerill, Jr. (15.0)
G – Bailey Conrad, Fr. (4.2)
G – Taysha Rushton, Fr. (13.3)
F – Mackenzie Koepke, Jr. (7.5)
F – Rylee Pauli, Jr. (6.7)

Northwestern (17-9, 16-6)
G – Sammy Blum, Sr. (13.7)
G – Devyn Kemble, Jr. (10.0)
F – Molly Schany, Fr. (12.7)
F – Alexis Toering, Jr. (4.9)
F – Taylor Vandervelde, Jr. (7.7)