SEWARD, Neb. – It was the ultimate test on Saturday (Feb. 4) to see just how far this Concordia University Women’s Basketball team had grown. In many ways, the Bulldogs passed the test while taking fourth-ranked Dordt to the wire in what ultimately resulted in a 76-69 victory for the Defenders. Offensive rebounding proved critical for Dordt, which started the contest in an immediate 7-0 hole.
Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad had been 10-1 over its previous 11 GPAC outings. Concordia (16-8, 12-6 GPAC) won’t panic after being narrowly outdueled by the top team in the conference standings.
“It was a great game,” Olson said. “Dordt showed why they’re leading the league and why they were in the national championship game last year. They’re tough – they’re battle-tested and they just found ways to claw back into the game. They made the plays at the end of the game. We just didn’t do all the little things we needed to do to beat a great team today.”
The Defenders may be one of the few teams nationally that could interrupt the roll the Bulldogs have been on since the calendar flipped to 2023. A key stretch on Saturday came right after halftime when Dordt turned a 42-37 deficit into a 48-42 lead thanks to an 11-0 surge that featured six points from Janie Schoonhoven. The Defenders never trailed again, although they needed virtually all 40 minutes to put the game away.
Concordia closed within two (71-69) with 2:27 left when Taysha Rushton drained a pair of free throws. Some hard-nosed Defender defense and an offensive rebound by Karly Gustafson off a missed foul shot in the final minute helped Dordt move to 23-1 overall (17-1 GPAC). The final field goal of the game for the Bulldogs came on Sadie Powell’s trey at the 6:00 mark of the fourth quarter. Clutch plays down the stretch and a 38-30 rebound advantage made the difference for the Defenders.
Said Olson, “Today it was them outrebounding us. I thought we did a really good job in the first half, but down the stretch, we’d get them to miss and they get the offensive rebound. Then they’d miss a free throw and get another offensive rebound. Those things add up, but I love how hard our team played. We played a really good basketball team and played a great game. I know our team’s going to respond.”
The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native Powell enjoyed one of her better offensive games of the season in making her first five shots from the floor on the way to a team high 18 points (4-for-5 from 3-point range). She was followed in double figures by Abby Krieser (16) and Rushton (14). Powell also paced the team with seven rebounds and three steals. Off the bench, Kendal Brigham supplied nine points, three assists and three rebounds. Abby Heemstra also added eight points and three boards.
Even without last year’s GPAC Player of the Year Ashtyn Veerbeek, Dordt possesses star powerin the form of Bailey Beckman (game high 24 points) and Karly Gustafson (17 points and seven rebounds). Schoonhoven notched a double-double (13 points and 10 rebounds). The Defenders were not fazed by the full-court press as they committed only nine turnovers. They also shot a rock-solid 44.3 percent (27-for-63) from the floor. On the other end, Concordia never went away while knocking down 17-of-20 free throw attempts.
The Bulldogs will be on the road on Wednesday for a short drive to Crete, Neb., where they will take on Doane (13-11, 7-11 GPAC) at 6 p.m. CT. Concordia won this season’s first meeting, 72-55, in Seward and has won each of the last 13 meetings (and 22 of the last 23) with the Tigers. Olson owns a career record of 27-6 versus Doane.