NAIA Final Site Preview: Concordia vs. Providence

By Jacob Knabel on Mar. 18, 2024 in Women's Basketball

2024 Concordia WBB Press Guide (PDF)

SEWARD, Neb. – The Bulldogs are headed back to Sioux City. It wasn’t easy, but the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team found a way to win twice at home while hosting first and second round action of the 2024 NAIA National Championship tournament. Those victories have earned Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad a spot in the round of 16 as the remaining field convenes at the Tyson Events Center, a venue that has crowned a women’s basketball national champion each year since 1998 (with the exception of the 2020 COVID year). Of the 23 national tournament appearances in program history, 19 have culminated in Sioux City. As part of the 2024 national round of 16, the third-seeded Bulldogs will take on second-seeded University of Providence (Mont.) at 3 p.m. CT on Thursday.

NAIA Round of 16

Concordia (27-6) vs. Providence (24-8)
Thursday, March 21 | 3 p.m. CT
Tyson Events Center | Sioux City, Iowa
Webcast: NAIA Network (fee required)
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
Radio: 104.9 KTMX-FM Max Country
Commentators: Parker Cyza / Devin Smith
Buy Tickets: LINK

Request Media Credentials: To request media credentials, fill out the form linked HERE.


*2023-24 NAIA national rank in parentheses

(3) Concordia
Scoring Offense: 80.5 (17th)
Scoring Defense: 64.3 (106th)
FG% Offense: .434 (34th)
FG% Defense: .385 (83rd)
3-pt FG% Offense: .340 (26th)
3-pt FG% Defense: .293 (90th)
Free Throw%: .782 (6th)
Rebound Margin: -4.0 (181st)
Turnover Margin: +8.7

(2) Providence
Scoring Offense: 65.9 (125th)
Scoring Defense: 60.0 (31st)
FG% Offense: .426 (49th)
FG% Defense: .385 (83rd)
3-pt FG% Offense: .278 (157th)
3-pt FG% Defense: .320 (183rd)
Free Throw%: .745 (30th)
Rebound Margin: +3.7 (64th)
Turnover Margin: -0.2

Tyson Events Center Info
From 1998 through 2020, the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City served as the host site for the NAIA Division II national tournament. Beginning in 2021, the venue became the final destination for all of NAIA women’s basketball as the association shifted to one division. According to the Tyson Events Center website, the venue holds 10,000 seats and hosts more than 140 events each year. The Tyson Events Center is home to the Sioux City Musketeers hockey team and the Sioux City Bandits arena football team.

2024 NAIA First/Second Rounds
The first and second rounds of the 2024 NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship were contested at 16 host sites scattered across the country. For the first time in program history, Concordia served as one of those host sites. The third-seeded Bulldogs were joined in Seward by sixth-seeded Columbia College (Mo.), 11th-seeded Wayland Baptist University (Texas) and 14th-seeded Benedictine College (Kan.). In the first matchup held inside Friedrich Arena, Concordia escaped with a 67-57 overtime win over Benedictine. In regulation, the Bulldogs found themselves down 43-36 with fewer than eight minutes to play. A key trey by Taysha Rushton and a defensive stop in the final seconds allowed Concordia to force an overtime session that it controlled. Sadie Powell finished with a game high 23 points and was joined in double figures by teammates Taysha Rushton (16) and Kendal Brigham (15). Both teams shot 34.2 percent or worse from the floor. The next day, the Bulldogs won in less dramatic fashion as they pulled away from Wayland Baptist by a count of 80-62. The top scorers for Concordia were Brigham (18), Krieser (16), Rushton (14) and Powell (11) while Mackenzie Toomey came off the bench to contribute nine points. The Bulldogs performed much better offensively in shooting 45.2 percent from the floor and 37.9 percent from 3-point range.

First/Second Round Results
3/15 – (3) Concordia 67, (14) Benedictine 57 (OT)
3/16 – (3) Concordia 80, (11) Wayland Baptist 62

National tournament history
This marks the 23rd all-time national tournament appearance for Concordia. The Bulldogs are 40-20 all-time in national tournament games with seven journeys to at least the national semifinals (three national championship game appearances). The Bulldogs are 16-7 in first-round games. All of the program’s national tournament berths have come since 1992 – the same year the NAIA split into two divisions for basketball. The 2019-20 season marked the final one featuring two divisions. The 2019-20 squad had garnered the No. 1 overall seed in a tournament that was shut down in the middle of the first round due to COVID-19. Nine of the 15 players on Concordia’s national tournament roster owned in-game national tournament experience prior to the 2024 tournament. That list includes Kendal Brigham, Abby Heemstra, Abby Krieser, Sadie Powell, Taysha Rushton, Reece Snodgrass, Hanna Spearman, Mackenzie Toomey and Kristin Vieselmeyer. Rushton played an instrumental role in the 2021 run to the national quarterfinals and has appeared in eight games at the national tournament in her career.

Rushton and seniors make return to Tyson
All four of the senior players on the roster appeared at the Tyson Events Center in 2021 when the Bulldogs upset fourth-ranked Marian University (Ind.), 73-67, in the round of 16. Taysha Rushton’s 27 points in that game remain a career high for her on the national stage. Rushton also poured in 26 points in last season’s 77-50 win over Columbia College (Mo.) in the first round of the tournament. In eight career national tourney games, Rushton has averaged 15.9 points (127 total points). Rushton and fellow seniors Kendal Brigham, Sadie Powell and Mackenzie Toomey have gone 5-3 at the national tournament game while appearing at nationals in each of their four years as Bulldogs.

16th national tournament trip for Olson
Head Coach Drew Olson has been at the controls for each of Concordia’s past 16 national tournament appearances (including 2024). His record at the national tournament now stands at 29-13 with five trips to the final four, including three national championship game appearances (2015, 2018, 2019). The program raised its first-ever national championship banner in March 2019 when it defeated No. 2 Southeastern University (Fla.), 67-59. Olson has won more national tournament games than any coach in school history (men’s or women’s programs). The national championship team of 2018-19 returned to campus for the 2023-24 team’s Jan. 20 win over Briar Cliff as the program celebrated the fifth-year anniversary of winning the national title. Olson became the program’s fifth coach to lead Concordia to the national tournament when he made his first appearance in 2008. Past coaches to take the Bulldogs to nationals were Todd Voss (three), Mark Lemke (two), Micah Parker (one) and Carl Everts (one). Voss guided two squads that reached the national semifinals. Earlier this season, Olson surpassed his former college coach, Grant Schmidt, for the most head coaching victories in the history of Concordia Athletics. Schmidt went 445-276 while leading the Bulldog Men’s Basketball program from 1989 through 2012. Olson earned win No. 446 on Nov. 15, 2023, as Concordia routed Morningside, 86-62

GPAC makes statement
The GPAC has made a statement through the first two rounds of the national tournament. All six of the conference’s national qualifiers won their first-round games and five of them advanced to the final site. Concordia will be joined in Sioux City by conference rivals in No. 1 Dordt, No. 7 Briar Cliff, No. 7 Dakota Wesleyan and No. 12 Jamestown. The Bulldogs have played 11 games this season against teams that have reached the final site. That number includes Concordia’s matchup with top-ranked Marian University (Ind.), whose only loss came at the hands of the Bulldogs – 75-62 at the Cattle Classic. Concordia is the GPAC’s most recent national champion having won the NAIA Division II title in 2019. Dordt advanced to the 2022 NAIA national championship game and was the runner up.

Scouting Providence
Providence earned a bid to the 2024 national tournament as the Frontier Conference champion. The Argos proceeded to earn a spot at the final site with victories over Eastern Oregon University, 67-57, in the first round and over Reinhardt University (Ga.), 80-69, in the second round. Providence has played one GPAC opponent this season. It fell to Jamestown, 71-63, in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Dec. 18. The Argos are led by 14th-year Head Coach Bill Himmelberg, who entered this season with 255 career wins with the program. This year’s squad features four all-conference players: Ashlee Maldonado (first team), Keanna Salave’a (first team), Maddy Dixon (second team) and Monique Carter (all-defensive team). The numbers suggest that Providence would prefer a slower tempo than Concordia. The Argos average 65.9 points while allowing 60.0 points per game. Maldonado paces the team with a scoring average of 17.8 points. Providence is making its eighth all-time national tournament appearance and is 8-6 on the national stage.

NAIA Bracket
The 16-team NAIA bracket can be viewed HERE. The winner between Concordia and Providence will advance to play in the national quarterfinals against either No. 1 Marian or No. 12 Jamestown at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Game times for the Bulldogs, should they continue to advance, are listed below. The 2024 national tournament will conclude with the national championship game on Tuesday, March 26.

Game schedule for Concordia, if it continues advancing:

·        Thursday, March 21 vs. (2) Providence, 3 p.m.

·        Saturday, March 23 vs. TBD, 1 p.m. (quarterfinals)

·        Monday, March 25 vs. TBD, 6 p.m. (semifinals)

·        Tuesday, March 26 vs. TBD, 7 p.m. (championship)

Projected Starters

Concordia (27-6)
G – Kendal Brigham, Sr. (11.4)
G – Abby Krieser, Jr. (9.4)
G – Taysha Rushton, Sr. (15.2)
F – Sadie Powell, Sr. (12.0)
F – Kristin Vieselmeyer, So. (5.3)

G – Monique Carter, Fr. (5.9)
G – Ashlee Maldonado, Grad (17.8)
G – Kolby Pimperton, Jr. (6.2)
F – Maddy Dixon, Sr. (11.5)
F – Keanna Salave’a, Fr. (12.8)