Leu shines in debut as Bulldogs roll past Sterling

By Jacob Knabel on Nov. 3, 2023 in Women's Basketball

SEWARD, Neb. – It was vintage Concordia University Women’s Basketball on Friday (Nov. 3) as Head Coach Drew Olson unleashed a pack of hungry Dawgs. Freshman Sammy Leu caught fire early and the speed and quickness of No. 17 Concordia overwhelmed 2023 national qualifying Sterling College (Kan.), 95-70. The rout took place as part of day one of the 24th annual Cattle Classic inside Friedrich Arena.

Olson has begun his 18th season leading the Bulldogs, who are fresh off a 2022-23 campaign that saw them reach the NAIA national tournament second round. Olson has his most experienced roster since the 2019-20 season.

“I thought we did a lot of really good things, especially defensively,” Olson said. “The pace we played at tonight is good. I just love how hard we played throughout. We have a team that has a lot of confidence because of the returners. We also have a lot more depth and I think the length defensively helps us play the style we want to play.”

The Wahoo High School alum Leu couldn’t have scripted much better of a collegiate debut. She drained her first five shots from the floor, including four from 3-point range. The rookie poured in a game high 20 points in leading a squad teeming with depth. While going 14 deep, Concordia wreaked havoc with its gnats-at-a-picnic full-court pressure. That tenacity resulted in 29 Warrior turnovers. The frenetically paced contest featured 50 first-quarter points (30-20 Bulldog lead).

Olson’s starting lineup included familiar faces in guards Abby Krieser, Taysha Rushton and Mackenzie Toomey and forwards Sadie Powell and Kristin Vieselmeyer. The backcourt set the tone in this one. Off the bench, Kendal Brigham filled the stat sheet with nine points, seven assists and three steals. The dynamic Rushton added 13 points and three assists and Krieser contributed 11 points and five rebounds. In addition to her 20 points, Leu supplied five rebounds and three steals.

Said Olson of Leu, “She’s a great player, a really confident player. She knows what her strengths are, and she can really shoot it. She does a lot of other really good things too with her defense and her length. We’re really excited to have her.”

The lead ballooned to as many 35 points late in the third quarter. To Sterling’s credit, it got back within 19 midway through the fourth quarter. Kali Briar helped give the Warriors a fighting chance with her 17 points on 6-for-10 shooting. When they needed to, the Bulldogs turned the heat back up. Freshman Raelyn Kelty put the finishing touches on the victory with a three-point play in the final minute.

This was also the season opener for Sterling, which finished last season at 26-6 overall and reached the national round of 32. Two years earlier, the Warriors crashed the party at the Cattle Classic and handled Concordia, 84-66. This time around, they fell victim to an ultra-aggressive foe that swiped 18 steals. Korynn Clason (14) and Kayla Morris (11) joined Briar in double figures.

The Bulldogs’ acts of thievery included three steals apiece from Powell and Vieselmeyer. A sophomore from Holyoke, Colo., Vieselmeyer tacked on 10 points as each of the starters tallied at least eight points. Six different Concordia players drained at least one triple. The Bulldogs shot 41.7 percent from the field overall and 28.9 percent from 3-point range.

The Cattle Classic will resume on Saturday. In a 2 p.m. CT tipoff, Concordia will meet up with No. 5 Marian University (Ind.). Led by reigning national player of the year Ella Collier, the Knights defeated No. 8, 78-69, on Friday at the Cattle Classic. Concordia and Marian went head-to-head in a memorable national round of 16 clash won by the Bulldogs in 2021.