GPAC play to open with two clashes inside Friedrich Arena

By Jacob Knabel on Nov. 9, 2020 in Women's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – There has been no easing into the 2020-21 season in terms of the quality of opponents faced by the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team. The Bulldogs suffered two rare home losses over the weekend while hosting Dakota State University (S.D.) and No. 20 Carroll College (Mont.) at the annual Cattle Classic. Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad will be back inside Friedrich Arena twice this week as Midland and Northwestern visit Seward for the start of GPAC play.

This Week

Tuesday, Nov. 10 vs. Midland (3-0), 6 p.m.
Live Webcast/Stats | 104.9 Max Country

Saturday, Nov. 14 vs. Northwestern (0-2), 2 p.m.
Live Webcast/Stats

The results at the Cattle Classic were not what Concordia has come to expect, but some growing pains are not unusual for such a youthful team. In game No. 1, Olson started three freshmen: Kendal Brigham, Bailey Conrad and Taysha Rushton. Olson is excited about the potential of all three of those rookies. Rushton showed off some of that potential while scoring a combined 24 points over last week’s two games. It wasn’t just inexperience that surfaced last week. The Bulldogs are confident they will shoot more efficiently from the perimeter (15-for-70 from 3-point range at the Cattle Classic) moving forward.

Concordia may be in the process of redefining itself, but there is no question about who will be the go-to player. Taylor Cockerill made a successful return to the court last week. Her two-game totals included 56 points, 19 rebounds, seven steals and five assists. Cockerill’s 33 points versus Dakota State represented the second-highest single-game total of her career. Cockerill enters this week with 974 career points, putting her 26 away from becoming the program’s 30th member of the 1,000-point club. Cockerill led the 2018-19 national championship team in scoring with an average of 15.4 points per game. Returning starter Mackenzie Koepke averaged 8.2 points last season. She returned to the lineup this past Saturday after missing the season opener.

The back-to-back home losses came after the Bulldogs went 63-1 at home over the 2016-17 through 2019-20 seasons. Olson believes the tough competition in the early going with strengthen his team as the season moves on. In some ways, this 2020-21 season feels a little like 2015-16 after Concordia graduated a loaded senior class that helped the program to a national title game appearance. That ’15-16 squad managed to reach the national tournament with the emergence of then freshman Quinn Wragge. Ranked 11th in the NAIA this preseason, the Bulldogs likely need to get out to a good start in the GPAC in order to remain in the top 25.

Midland is 3-0 with wins over two 2020 NAIA national tournament qualifiers – Bellevue University and Kansas Wesleyan University. Eighth-year Head Coach Shawn Gilbert’s program has hopes of making a leap forward after a 12-19 record in 2019-20. In the most recent outing, the Warriors rallied from a double-digit deficit to win at Bellevue, 77-69, behind 27 points from junior guard Lexis Haase. Midland was picked ninth in the GPAC preseason poll. The program graduated Amanda Hansen (1,364 career points) after last season, but has played well to being the season.

Northwestern has started the season in similar fashion as Concordia. The Red Raiders lost to both Sterling College (Kan.), 78-71, and Grand View University (Iowa), 75-66, while hosting their own classic this past weekend. Tenth-year Head Coach Chris Yaw’s program missed out on the national tournament last season when it went 17-11 overall. Northwestern has been picked to finish fourth in the GPAC. The go-to scorer for the Red Raiders is senior guard Sammy Blum (954 points), who is also nearing 1,000 career points. She has shot 40.7 percent from 3-point range in her career.

In next week’s action, Concordia is slated to play three times – at Peru State College on Nov. 16, at Doane on Nov. 18 and versus No. 8 Dordt on Nov. 21. The contest at Peru State will be the final nonconference matchup of the 2020-21 regular season.

Projected Starters

Concordia (0-2)
G – Taysha Rushton, Fr. (12.0)
G – Kendal Brigham, Fr. (5.5)
G – Taylor Cockerill, Jr. (28.0)
G – Mackenzie Koepke, Jr. (6.0)
F – Rylee Pauli, Jr. (4.0)

Midland (3-0)
G – Lexi Kraft, So. (7.7)
G – Lexis Haase, Jr. (14.0)
G – Sam Shepard, Jr. (8.3)
F – Katy Gathje, Sr. (11.3)
F – Makenna Sullivan, Sr. (9.0)

Northwestern (0-2)
G – Sammy Blum, Sr. (15.0)
G – Devyn Kemble, Jr. (6.0)
F – Molly Schany, Fr. (9.0)
F – Alexis Toering, Jr. (9.0)
F – Taylor Vandervelde, Jr. (7.0)