|Nov. 1||Bellevue University (Neb.)||Seward, Neb.||W, 77-71||1-0|
|22nd annual Cattle Classic: Nov 5-6|
|Nov. 5||Sterling College (Kan.)||Seward, Neb.||L, 66-84||1-1|
|Nov. 6||(13) Dakota State University (S.D.)||Seward, Neb.||W, 88-80||2-1|
|Nov. 13||*Briar Cliff University||Sioux City, Iowa||L, 68-74||2-2, 0-1|
|Nov. 17||*Midland University||Seward, Neb.||W, 93-52||3-2, 1-1|
|Nov. 20||*(16) Dordt University||Sioux Center, Iowa||L, 60-69||3-3, 1-2|
|Nov. 23||*University of Jamestown||Seward, Neb.||W, 69-67||4-3, 2-2|
|Nov. 27||(3) Wayland Baptist University (Texas)||Plainview, Texas||W, 76-66||5-3|
|Dec. 1||*(10) Morningside College||Sioux City, Iowa||L, 83-89||5-4, 2-3|
|Dec. 4||*(12) Northwestern College||Seward, Neb.||W, 84-82 (OT)||6-4, 3-3|
|Dec. 8||*Mount Marty University||Seward, Neb.||W, 88-53||7-4, 4-3|
|Dec. 11||*Hastings College||Hastings, Neb.||W, 91-69||8-4, 5-3|
|Hawaii Surf N Hoops Classic: Dec. 18-19|
|Dec. 18||(1) Campbellsville University (Ky.)||Honolulu, Hawaii||L, 57-64||8-5|
|Dec. 19||(3) Thomas More University (Ky.)||Honolulu, Hawaii||L, 67-84||8-6|
|Jan. 1||*Doane University||Seward, Neb.||W, 76-70 (OT)||9-6, 6-3|
|Jan. 5||*Mount Marty University||Yankton, S.D.||W, 83-58||10-6, 7-3|
|Jan. 8||*Dakota Wesleyan University||Seward, Neb.||W, 90-58||11-6, 8-3|
|Jan. 12||*College of Saint Mary||Seward, Neb.||W, 87-58||12-6, 9-3|
|Jan. 15||*University of Jamestown||Jamestown, N.D.||L, 51-65||12-7, 9-4|
|Jan. 19||*(8) Morningside College||Seward, Neb.||L, 62-68 (OT)||12-8, 9-5|
|Jan. 22||*(14) Northwestern College||Orange City, Iowa||L, 68-74||12-9, 9-6|
|Jan. 26||*Hastings College||Seward, Neb.||L, 60-68||12-10, 9-7|
|70th Concordia Invitational Tournament: Jan. 28-29|
|Jan. 28-29||*EVENT CANCELED*||Seward, Neb.|
|Feb. 2||*Midland University||Fremont, Neb.||W, 101-57||13-10, 10-7|
|Feb. 5||*Dordt University||Seward, Neb.||L, 69-76||13-11, 10-8|
|Feb. 9||*Doane University||Crete, Neb.||W, 74-63||14-11, 11-8|
|Feb. 12||*College of Saint Mary||Omaha, Neb.||W, 98-73||15-11, 12-8|
|Feb. 16||*Briar Cliff University||Seward, Neb.||W, 62-43||16-11, 13-8|
|Feb. 19||*Dakota Wesleyan University||Mitchell, S.D.||L, 67-71||16-12, 13-9|
|Feb. 23||Dakota Wesleyan (GPAC Quarterfinals)||Mitchell, S.D.||L, 52-68||16-13|
|March 11||Benedictine College (Kan.) (Opening Round)||Bowling Green, Ky.||L, 58-62||16-14|
|No.||Varsity Roster||Pos.||Ht.||Year||Hometown||Previous School|
|00||Mackenzie Toomey||G||5-9||Fr.||Lincoln, Neb.||Lincoln Southeast HS|
|2||Bailey Conrad||G||5-7||Fr.||Tea, S.D.||Tea Area HS|
|3||Taylor Farrell||G||5-7||So.||Omaha, Neb.||Millard West HS|
|4||Taysha Rushton||G||5-4||Fr.||Midland, Texas||Monterey HS|
|5||Abby Krieser||G||5-8||Fr.||Lincoln, Neb.||Lincoln North Star HS|
|10||Hanna Spearman||G||5-8||Fr.||Gretna, Neb.||Gretna HS|
|12||Lauren Baker||G||5-9||Fr.||Fremont, Neb.||Archbishop Bergan HS|
|13||Abby Heemstra||F||5-11||Fr.||Rock Valley, Iowa||Rock Valley HS|
|14||Chloe Schumacher||F||6-2||Jr.||Lincoln, Neb.||Malcolm HS|
|15||Abby Aplaca||G||5-8||Sr.||Waipahu, Hawaii||Punahou / Concordia-Portland|
|21||Mackenzie Koepke||G||6-1||Jr.||Lincoln, Neb.||Lincoln Lutheran HS|
|25||Rylee Pauli||F||5-10||Jr.||Omaha, Neb.||Millard South HS|
|32||Kendal Brigham||G||5-4||Fr.||Wahoo, Neb.||Wahoo HS|
|34||Hailey Kleinschmit||F||5-11||Fr.||Norfolk, Neb.||Norfolk HS|
|35||Sadie Powell||F||6-0||Fr.||Cedar Rapids, Iowa||John F. Kennedy HS|
|42||Kayla Luebbe||F||6-1||So.||Bee, Neb.||Seward HS|
|55||Taryn Tracy||G||5-5||Fr.||Hickman, Neb.||Norris HS|
|No.||JV Roster||Pos.||Ht.||Year||Hometown||Previous School|
|4||Reece Snodgrass||G||5-6||Fr.||West Point, Neb.||West Point Beemer HS|
|5||Taryn Tracy||G||5-5||Fr.||Hickman, Neb.||Norris HS|
|10||Skylar Kreifels||F||5-9||Fr.||Lincoln, Neb.||Lincoln East HS|
|11||Koryn Vangilder||F||6-0||Fr.||Saint Peters, Mo.||Lutheran HS|
|12||Hanna Spearman||G||5-8||Fr.||Gretna, Neb.||Gretna HS|
|13||Cami Small||F||5-10||Fr.||Elkhorn, Neb.||Elkhorn South HS|
|14||Lydia Hodges||G||5-8||Fr.||Papillion, Neb.||Papillion La Vista South HS|
|20||Jayla Policky||G||5-6||Fr.||Milford, Neb.||Milford HS|
|24||Carolyn Esh||G||5-6||Fr.||Loveland, Colo.||Loveland Classical Schools|
|25||Jane Neuhaus||F||5-10||Fr.||Tomball, Texas||Concordia Lutheran HS|
|30||Lydia Dose||G||5-7||Fr.||Hampton, Neb.||Hampton HS|
|32||Shelby Hoffman||G||5-6||Fr.||Grover, Colo.||Pawnee HS|
|34||Hailey Kleinschmit||F||5-11||Fr.||Norfolk, Neb.||Norfolk HS|
|35||Charli Earth||F||6-0||Fr.||Winnebago, Neb.||Fremont HS|
|Brynna Bruxellas||G||5-8||Fr.||Falls City, Neb.||Falls City HS|
|Elayne Poppe||G||5-7||Fr.||Lincoln, Neb.||Lincoln Lutheran HS|
Drew Olson, Head Coach (16th Year)
Tae'lor Purdy-Korell, Assistant Coach
Kaitlyn Hodgins, Graduate Assistant Coach
Oct. 15, 2021
2020-21 Record: 22-9 overall, 17-5 GPAC (2nd); reached NAIA national quarterfinals.
Head Coach: Drew Olson (407-107, 15 years; 13 national tournament appearances; 12 GPAC regular season/tournament titles; five national semifinal advancements, including two runners up; 2019 national champions).
Returning Starters: G Bailey Conrad; F Mackenzie Koepke; F Rylee Pauli; G Taysha Rushton.
Other Key Returners: G Abby Aplaca; G Taylor Farrell; F Kayla Luebbe; F Sadie Powell; F Chloe Schumacher; G Mackenzie Toomey.
Key Newcomers: G Lauren Baker; F Charli Earth; F Abby Heemstra; F Hailey Kleinschmit; G Abby Krieser.
Key Losses: Taylor Cockerill; Rebecca Higgins.
2020-21 GPAC All-Conference: Taylor Cockerill (First Team); Taysha Rushton (First Team); Mackenzie Koepke (Honorable Mention); Rylee Pauli (Honorable Mention).
2020-21 NAIA All-Americans: Taylor Cockerill (Honorable Mention).
In terms of overall roster experience, the Concordia University Women’s Basketball program finds itself in a more advanced state as compared to this time a year ago. Gone is All-American Taylor Cockerill, but Head Coach Drew Olson’s program has never lowered its standards no matter how many All-Americans may have graduated the previous May. Taysha Rushton returns as the next big thing after helping lead the Bulldogs to last season’s NAIA national quarterfinals.
Olson seems to have a team better equipped to hit the ground running once the season starts. Rushton is the leader of a blossoming backcourt while the frontcourt will have some legit low-post scoring options. As a major plus, 11 players from last season’s national tournament roster are back this winter.
“It’s been a lot of fun so far,” said Olson of preseason practice. “We have some new players that add to the returning group that can really help us. I think we have a lot of really good depth. We’re excited to see what our team becomes. It’s different right now because we haven’t played against anybody outside of ourselves. We’re really looking forward to some scrimmages and learning more about our team.”
If there’s anything that’s been learned about Concordia in 15 years under Olson’s guidance, it’s that it just does not rebuild. It may have looked like a down season when the Bulldogs dropped their first three games of last season, but it was just part of the process of finding a new identity. Eventually, that happened and Concordia defeated every opponent it saw over the final 15 games, with the exception of Morningside. The upset of fifth-ranked Marian University (Ind.) at the national tournament represented last season’s most thrilling moment.
No doubt the program will miss Cockerill, one of the heroes of the 2018-19 national championship season. Her leadership and competitive fire were just as important as her scoring ability. From a positive perspective, four starters return with Rushton being joined in that group by backcourt mate Bailey Conrad and four-year members of the program in Mackenzie Koepke and Rylee Pauli. Part of the task for upperclassmen like Koepke and Pauli was to introduce young players like Conrad and Rushton to the program’s winning culture.
Said Pauli, “Each team I’ve been on has been unique and different in some way. I feel like this year we have a lot of talent up and down the roster. It’s a lot about the relationships we build and being able to trust each other on the court. I feel like that has a lot to do with our success throughout the last few seasons.”
Rushton’s rookie season demands a closer look. The 5-foot-4 native of Midland, Texas, averaged 14.4 points while draining 73-of-213 (.343) attempts from 3-point range on her way to First Team All-GPAC honors. At times, Rushton completely took over games, like she did when she poured in 24 points at Morningside in the GPAC tournament championship game and when she racked up 27 points in the national tourney win over Marian. She can also be a major pain for the opposition as a defensive pest. It’s scary to think that Rushton’s college career is just getting going.
Said Olson, “There’s not a lot of change. She was an awesome player last year and she’s an awesome player this year. She’s just a fighter – super tough – and an incredible shooter. She finds different ways to score. I love to see her defensive intensity. She’s going to be another big-time player for us.”
The backcourt has a chance to be stellar – not just because of Rushton. Also a second-year player, Conrad’s growth just over the course of her freshman season was obvious. Thankfully, Conrad returned to health in time for preseason after suffering an injury in the national quarterfinal matchup with Morningside. In addition, there’s excitement about the development of Mackenzie Toomey, who made an immediate impact as a freshman.
The depth in the backcourt is further enhanced by the presence of returnees Abby Aplaca (former starter at Concordia University, Portland), Kendal Brigham and Taylor Farrell. The Bulldogs may not have made it out of the NAIA opening round last season if it wasn’t for Farrell, who knocked down three treys to help sink Loyola University (La.). Farrell is a career 41.5 percent shooter from 3-point range.
Koepke can play inside and out due to her length and athleticism. She’s totaled 757 points and 181 treys in her first three collegiate seasons. Koepke’s Concordia journey has coincided with the careers of four-year classmates in Pauli and Chloe Schumacher. Pauli moved into a starting role last season and responded affirmatively. Her most memorable outing was the 17-point performance versus Marian. Also in the frontcourt, Kayla Luebbe and Sadie Powell are on the rise. Luebbe is virtually impossible to stop when she catches it on the block. As for Powell, she appears to be line in for a strong second college season.
Pauli sees this season as another opportunity to make lasting memories with close friends. Said Pauli, “Basketball is so much fun, but basketball is so much better when you can play with your best friends. Experiencing those big wins like the national championship was awesome. It’s always something I’ll remember and something we strive for every season. I want all the freshmen and underclassmen to get that feeling that I had too. Being able to play with your friends is an awesome thing.”
Olson will wait until he sees them in game action to lavish any praise upon the freshmen, but he’s confident he pulled in a group that will help maintain the program’s high standards. A freshman to keep an eye on is 5-foot-11 Abby Heemstra, who arrived in Seward via Rock Valley Community High School in northwest Iowa. A number of other freshmen are capable of seeing early minutes.
In other words, Concordia will be able to hit teams with second and third waves of high-quality reserves – or “special forces.” Said Olson of the competition in practice, “It’s been very intense. We’ve had some really good practices with ultra-competitive people. When you have two-three teams that can really go at each other it’s going to raise the level of play. Iron sharpens iron and I think we have that.”
Last season saw the fusion of the two divisions of the NAIA. Despite the increased competition (and the graduation of All-Americans Grace Barry and Philly Lammers), the Bulldogs remained an elite program. Concordia’s biggest hurdle last season wound up being GPAC rival Morningside, which accounted for four of its nine losses. Olson and company are looking forward to contending for another potential conference title, hosting CIT and making a trip to Hawaii.
Of course the Bulldogs aspire to get back to Sioux City, Iowa, location of the national tournament’s final site. Said Olson, “I felt like it was a fun challenge (going to one division) because there are so many more good teams. In years past when we were a dominant top five team going into the national tournament, you knew there were probably six-to-eight teams that could win in all. Last year there were probably 16-to-20 that could. It just made it a little bit more of a challenge and more fun. We know that we’re going to be in the mix again, so we’re excited about that challenge.”
Added Pauli, “We’re looking forward to having more of a normal season this year and getting to go on those fun trips. Last year it was hard not going out as much. We’re excited to be able to go to Hawaii and face some good teams on those trips.”
Concordia will open its season by hosting Bellevue University on Nov. 1. Later that same week, the Bulldogs will also put on the annual Cattle Classic (Nov. 5-6).
Oct. 20, 2021
SEWARD, Neb. – After placing second in the GPAC in 2020-21, the Concordia University Women’s Basketball program landed in exactly that same spot in the 2021-22 GPAC Women’s Basketball Preseason Coaches’ Poll released on Wednesday (Oct. 20). The Bulldogs earned 110 points and one first-place vote in the poll. The preseason NAIA National Coaches’ poll is scheduled to be unveiled next Wednesday (Oct. 27).
Under the direction of Head Coach Drew Olson (16th season), Concordia has won a combined 12 GPAC championships. Prior to last season, the Bulldogs swept GPAC regular season and postseason titles in four straight campaigns. After graduating a decorated senior class in 2020, the Bulldogs reloaded last season behind star guards Taylor Cockerill and Taysha Rushton while making a push to the NAIA national quarterfinals.
The 2021-22 squad will again lean upon the explosive scoring abilities of Rushton, who is joined by returning starters in Bailey Conrad, Mackenzie Koepke and Rylee Pauli. Concordia brings back 11 players from last season’s national tournament roster. The Bulldogs finished 2020-21 at 22-9 overall with four of the losses coming at the hands of GPAC favorite Morningside. Two of those defeats came down to buckets in the final seconds. The highlight of the campaign was the win over fifth-ranked Marian University (Ind.) in the NAIA national round of 16.
For a detailed season preview, click HERE.
2021-22 GPAC Preseason Poll
1. Morningside – 121 (11)
2. Concordia – 110 (1)
3. Dordt – 90
4. Northwestern – 87
5. Briar Cliff – 85
6. Jamestown – 72
7. Dakota Wesleyan – 71
8. Midland – 50
9. Hastings – 41
10. College of Saint Mary – 23
10. Doane – 23
12. Mount Marty – 19
Oct. 27, 2021
SEWARD, Neb. – A national quarterfinal finish last season has spring-boarded the Concordia University Women’s Basketball program into the top 10 of the 2021-22 NAIA Preseason Coaches’ Poll. In the poll released on Wednesday (Oct. 27), the Bulldogs checked in at No. 9 with 398 points. As for the GPAC preseason poll announced last week, Concordia was placed second behind defending conference champion Morningside.
This marks the 14th-straight year that Head Coach Drew Olson’s program has garnered a national top 25 ranking in the preseason. Both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 squads started and ended their seasons with NAIA Division II No. 1 national rankings. Beginning with last season, the NAIA merged the two divisions into one. The Bulldogs finished last season at 22-9 overall. They were slotted at No. 11 nationally in the preseason and were ranked 17th heading into the national tournament. The NAIA did not produce a postseason women’s basketball poll.
Olson’s program has taken up residence in the NAIA national poll. Dating back to the start of the 2011-12 season, Concordia has appeared inside the top 25 in 102 of the past 103 NAIA coaches’ polls. During Olson’s tenure, the Bulldogs have appeared at No. 1 in 16 separate polls. Over the past four completed national tournaments, Concordia has reached at least the national quarterfinals each time with the highlight being the national title in 2019. Olson’s teams have advanced to the national semifinals a total of five times.
The 2021-22 squad will again lean upon the explosive scoring abilities of Taysha Rushton, who is joined by returning starters in Bailey Conrad, Mackenzie Koepke and Rylee Pauli. Concordia brings back 11 players from last season’s national tournament roster. The highlight of the campaign was the win over fifth-ranked Marian University (Ind.) in the NAIA national round of 16.
Based on the preseason poll, the Bulldogs will play seven regular season games against top 25 opponents: No. 2 Thomas Moore, No. 3 Campbellsville, No. 6 Morningside (twice), No. 8 Wayland Baptist, No. 13 Dakota State and No. 18 Sterling. GPAC foes Dordt and Northwestern are both listed as receiving votes.
Concordia will open the 2021-22 campaign next Monday (Nov. 1) by hosting Bellevue University at 7 p.m. CT. The Bruins received votes in the NAIA preseason poll.
Preseason rankings under Olson
Final end of season rankings under Olson
Oct. 31, 2021
SEWARD, Neb. – The 22nd annual Cattle Classic is set to tip off on Friday afternoon inside Walz Arena. The basketball classic features a total of four men’s games and four women’s games over the course of the two-day extravaganza. The event, co-sponsored by Concordia and Cattle Bank & Trust, raises money and food for the Blue Valley Community Action's Food Pantry. Pac N Save of Seward will match all canned food donations.
Fans are encouraged to bring canned goods in exchange for admission. Ten canned items will get an adult a weekend pass. Complete admission information for the Cattle Classic can be found HERE. Tickets will not be sold online for this particular event.
Monday (Nov. 1) vs. Bellevue: Before tipping things off at the Cattle Classic, Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad will open the season on Monday versus in-state Bellevue University. The Bruins began their 2021-22 campaign this past week with a 71-59 home win over Peru State College. Elexis Martinez led a group of five double-figure scorers with 12 points. Dave Denly is in his sixth season leading the program at Bellevue, which is coming off a 17-7 overall record last season. This will be the first time Concordia and Bellevue have ever played one another. The Bruins had their first season of competition in 2016-17.
Live webcasts/stats: Concordia Sports Network
Friday, Nov. 5
Saturday, Nov. 6
The Women’s Field
All four teams in the field are ranked in the NAIA preseason coaches’ poll:
· No. 9 Concordia
· No. 13 Dakota State
· No. 18 Sterling
· No. 25 Taylor
Head Coach: Drew Olson, 16th season
2021-22 Record: 0-0
2020-21 Record: 22-9
Conference: Great Plains Athletic Conference
Location: Seward, Nebraska
Top Player: Taysha Rushton becomes the go-to scorer this season with Taylor Cockerill having graduated. Rushton earned First Team All-GPAC accolades as a freshman in 2020-21 while averaging 14.4 points per game and shooting 35.9 percent from 3-point range (73-for-213). Rushton has the ability to be the next in a long line of All-Americans who have paraded through the program.
Overview: Concordia appeared at No. 2 in the GPAC and No. 9 in the NAIA in the preseason polls released over the past week-and-a-half. The Bulldogs must replace Cockerill, but they return four starters and have a talented young backcourt led by Rushton. Mackenzie Koepke and Rylee Pauli are veterans who will be leaned upon while freshman Abby Heemstra appears ready to make an immediate impact in the frontcourt. Like any other year, Concordia expects to contend for the GPAC title and make a run at the national tournament.
Dakota State University
Head Coach: David Moe, 5th season
2021-22 Record: 3-1
2020-21 Record: 27-4 (advanced to national quarterfinals)
Conference: North Star Athletic Association
Location: Madison, South Dakota
Top Player: 5-foot-10 Jessi Giles is in her fourth season in the program and has been a catalyst behind the rise of the Trojans. Giles stayed in her hometown of Madison, S.D., to play at Dakota State, where she has piled up more than 1,400 career points. She’s averaging 22.5 points per game so far this season after being named a 2020-21 NAIA First Team All-American.
Overview: Dakota State appeared at No. 13 in the NAIA preseason poll after advancing to the national quarterfinals last season. The 27 wins recorded in 2020-21 by the Trojans represented a program record for a single season. With Giles leading the way, Dakota State is the favorite again in the North Star Athletic Association. Entering the week, the Trojans’ one loss this season came at the hands of No. 19 Clarke University (Iowa). For the second year in a row, former Bulldog Elsie Aslesen will go against Concordia at the Cattle Classic.
Head Coach: K.C. Bassett, 8th season
2021-22 Record: 0-0
2020-21 Record: 30-1 (advanced to national round of 16)
Conference: Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference
Location: Sterling, Kansas
Top Player: Honorable Mention All-American point guard Bailey Bangert will be leaned upon as the leader of the Warriors. Bangert averaged 13.6 points and 3.68 assists per game last season. The native of Kingman, Kan., enters this season having racked up 1,246 career points.
Overview: K.C. Bassett was named the 2021 United States Marin Corps/WBCA NAIA Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year after guiding Sterling to an undefeated regular season (22-0 in Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference play). The Warriors went 30-0 before falling at the hands of Dakota State in the NAIA national round of 16. Sterling graduated Third Team All-American Kylah Comley from last season’s team but is currently ranked 18th in the NAIA. In the KCAC preseason coaches’ poll, the Warriors were picked second behind Tabor College (Kan.).
Head Coach: Jody Martinez, 5th season
2021-22 Record: 1-2
2020-21 Record: 19-7
Conference: Crossroads League
Location: Upland, Indiana
Top Player: Senior guard Lauren James garnered NAIA Third Team All-America honors last season while filling the stat sheet with averages of 15.6 points, 4.6 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game. She also is a career 43.9 percent shooter from 3-point range. James has averaged 11.3 points through this season’s first three games.
Overview: Taylor was pegged third in the preseason within the rugged Crossroads League, which includes perennial powers in Marian University (Ind.) and Indiana Wesleyan University. A veteran coach on the NAIA scene, Jody Martinez has accumulated more than 500 career wins. So far this season, the Trojans are 1-2 with a win over Madonna University (Mich.) and losses to No. 20 Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.) and Trinity Christian College (Ill.). The Cattle Classic will be a homecoming for Seward native Gretchen Moll, a Lincoln Lutheran High School alum.
Nov. 1, 2021
SEWARD, Neb. – While making its 2021-22 debut, the ninth-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team started hot before settling into a wire-to-wire battle with Bellevue University. Star guard Taysha Rushton poured in a career high 32 points and the Bulldogs overcame some impressive shot-making by the Bruins in what amounted to a 77-71 win on Monday (Nov. 1). A plus-13 turnover margin for Concordia played a significant role in the outcome.
Some may recall that Head Coach Drew Olson’s program began last season at 0-3 before things eventually came together for a run to the national quarterfinals. Though it has a fairly youthful roster, Monday’s starting backcourt of Rushton, Bailey Conrad and Mackenzie Toomey is equipped with the experience of last season’s surge.
Said Olson, who is beginning his 16th season leading the program, “That was a lot of fun. It’s just good to play a really good team like Bellevue and come out with a win. I’m really excited about it … I thought we played well defensively. The press kind of got to them a little bit, but we have to be a little bit sharper in it. Second half I thought we really did a nice job in the halfcourt. We’re getting better. It’s the first game.”
Many visitors to Friedrich Arena have wilted after getting down early as Bellevue did on Monday. Rushton and company led 10-1 less than three minutes into action, but the Bruins regrouped and trailed by just a point at halftime. Even when the Bulldogs pushed their lead to 10 (74-64) with under 3:30 remaining in the game, Bellevue never quit. A three-point play by Asha Scott and a trey from Laura Jurek made it 74-70 with 2:38 left. Neither team registered a field goal the rest of the way and Concordia got the W.
It’s certainly true that this edition of the Bulldogs will have a different identity with All-American Taylor Cockerill having graduated. There will be nothing to hold back Rushton, who went 10-for-26 from the floor (3-for-11 from 3-point range) and 9-for-11 from the foul line in the season opener. The Midland, Texas, native can get it done on both ends of the floor.
“It was us coming together in this first game and learning each other,” Rushton said. “This whole preseason we’ve worked on knowing each other’s strengths and ways to attack the opponent’s weaknesses. I feel like this first game we finally clicked together and figured that out.”
Conrad is back to form after suffering an injury at the national tournament last season. She posted a line of six points, eight assists and five rebounds without a single turnover. While playing in her first ever collegiate game, 5-foot-11 Abby Heemstra (Rock Valley, Iowa) notched 11 points, four rebounds and two steals. Off the bench, Kayla Luebbe contributed nine points on 4-for-6 shooting while Sadie Powell (seven points, four rebounds) and Taylor Farrell (five points, four rebounds) also chipped in as reserves. The most experienced player in the starting five is Rylee Pauli, who recorded four points, six rebounds and two steals.
Bellevue (1-1) hung tough by shooting 48.0 percent (24-for-50) from the floor. The Bruins knocked down 10 treys, including a half-courter by Taeha Pankey to beat the halftime buzzer. Elexis Martinez paced Bellevue with 16 points and 12 rebounds while Faith Ross added 15 points. The Bruins had a slight advantage in rebounding, 37-33, but could not overcome their 19 turnovers.
Said Olson of Rushton, “She’s pretty good at basketball. Thank goodness for her because she kept us going when we struggled to score in that second quarter. She’s really special on both ends.”
The Bulldogs will remain at home to host the 22nd annual Cattle Classic this Friday and Saturday. The opponents will be No. 18 Sterling College (Kan.) and No. 13 Dakota State University (S.D.). For the complete Cattle Classic schedule, click HERE.
Nov. 5, 2021
SEWARD, Neb. – After a slow start the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team was unable to come back from an early deficit in Friday night’s (Nov. 5) loss to No. 18 Sterling College (Kan.). In their opening game at the 22nd annual Cattle Classic, the ninth-ranked Bulldogs fought back hard but ultimately fell 84-66. The Warriors two offensive stars were just too much for Concordia’s defense to handle.
Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad falls to 1-1 in the early season. Olson hopes this will serve as a learning experience.
“It’s good for us to learn what it takes to be a great team,” Olson said. “Tonight was not good for us because Sterling did some awesome things. Defensively they were really good and we didn’t respond well. I thought we did compete in the second half and fought back, but when you dig yourself a 25-point hole it’s a mountain to climb. I thought we fought to get it down to eight, but you exert so much energy to get to that point. We couldn’t sustain it to get all the way back into the game.”
Coming off her stellar 32-point performance, Taysha Rushton led the Bulldogs in scoring with 19 points and five rebounds. Rylee Pauli had herself a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds. The Concordia bench was very productive in the loss, scoring 22 of the Bulldogs’ 66 points. Shooting struggles were an issue for Concordia, which shot 28.9 percent from the field compared to the Warriors’ 42.2 percent. Sterling also knocked down 8-of-23 (.348) shots from 3-point range and went 22-for-28 (.786) from the foul line.
Bailey Albright and Taya Wilson caused issues for the Bulldog defense all night. Albright scorched the nets with 24 points and Wilson powered in a game high 25. Albright was also 3-for-9 on 3-pointers on Friday. With that dynamic duo leading the way, the Warriors (1-0) blitzed Concordia from the opening tip. It was 24-9 after one quarter and Sterling led by as many as 26 points (41-15) in the second quarter. The Bulldogs chiseled their deficit down to eight (52-44) in the third quarter before Sterling responded with a soul-crushing spurt of its own.
Concordia will wrap up the weekend tomorrow afternoon (Nov. 6) as they take on 13th-ranked Dakota State University (S.D.). This contest will be the final game on the women’s side of the Cattle Classic. The Bulldogs fell in last year’s meeting with the Trojans. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. CT from Friedrich Arena. All four women’s teams at the Cattle Classic are ranked in the NAIA top 25.
Nov. 6, 2021
SEWARD, Neb. – After struggling in a loss to a strong opponent on Friday, the ninth-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team responded in a way that isn’t so surprising for those who have followed the program. There was a bit of a revenge factor in play on Saturday (Nov. 6) with the Bulldogs determined not to let Dakota State beat them on the home court for a second year in a row. The dynamic post duo of Abby Heemstra and Rylee Pauli powered an 88-80 Cattle Classic win over the 13th-ranked Trojans.
Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad is going to take a little time to gel as an entire unit, but it proved it can play with a highly ranked opponent on Saturday. Concordia is 2-1 on the season.
“Those were two really, really good teams,” Olson said. “That felt like a national tournament slugfest. I’m really proud of our players for responding to yesterday. They met the challenge and really stepped up and made big-time plays. Rylee Pauli was amazing. She’s just so good on both ends of the floor. I was really happy to see a lot of our players stepping up. We need more contributions outside of Taysha (Rushton).”
It’s time to put some respect on Pauli’s name. She’s a pain to play against because her motor never stops. The Millard South High School alum just missed another double-double while posting 16 points, nine rebounds and four steals on Saturday. Alongside her, Heemstra is growing up quickly. The freshman from Rock Valley, Iowa, collected 19 points and eight rebounds while providing a strong inside presence.
Even so, Dakota State (4-3) led for most of the first three quarters (lead as large as eight points) until Rushton drained a triple at the close of the third stanza. It seemed to be the spark the Bulldogs needed. It jump-started a 16-3 run that put Concordia up 12 (70-58). The Bulldogs were in control from that point on while claiming a much-needed win after Friday’s 84-66 loss to No. 18 Sterling College (Kan.).
Said Olson, “I think our players did an incredible job finishing every quarter. That was a big emphasis just to compete and win every quarter. I though our kids did a great job of that … We didn’t shoot well in the two games at the Cattle Classic, but I know it’s going to come.”
Concordia owned a plus-nine advantage in turnovers, helping it overcome 6-for-27 shooting from 3-point range. Rushton poured in 17 points and grabbed six rebounds. Sadie Powell (11) and Mackenzie Toomey (10) also reached double figures in scoring while Kayla Luebbe chipped in with eight points.
The Trojans got 15 points apiece from Jessi Giles, Courtney Menning and Savannah Walsdorf. Former Bulldog Elsie Alsesen posted five points on 1-for-7 shooting. Last season, Dakota State visited for the Cattle Classic and walked away from Seward with a 94-82 win over Concordia.
The Bulldogs will return to action next Saturday (Nov. 13) for their GPAC opener with Briar Cliff. Tipoff from Sioux City, Iowa, is slated for 5 p.m. CT. The Chargers are 1-1 with a win over Dickinson State University (N.D.).
2021 All-Cattle Classic Team
Bailey Albright, Sterling
Emma Hendrixson, Sterling
Lauren James, Taylor
Taysha Rushton, Concordia
Savannah Walsdorf, Dakota State
Nov. 11, 2021
SEWARD, Neb. – The ninth-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team will have had a week off from game action by the time the ball is tipped off in Sioux City, Iowa, on Saturday. After just three nonconference outings, Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad will venture into GPAC play while taking on Briar Cliff. Most recently, the Bulldogs split a pair of matchups with ranked opponents at the 22nd annual Cattle Classic (Nov. 5-6).
By the numbers
· The early season schedule should have the Bulldogs well-prepared for the start of conference play. Each of their first three opponents are either ranked or receiving votes in the NAIA national poll. Concordia has defeated Bellevue University (RV), 77-71, and No. 13 Dakota State University (S.D.), 88-80, while having been defeated by No. 18 Sterling College (Kan.), 84-66. The Bulldogs are 2-1 despite shooting percentages (36.6 from the floor and 25.8 from 3-point range) that should rise as the season transpires. As usual, Concordia forces many more turnovers than it commits. It owns a positive turnover margin of plus-20 (55-35) through three outings.
· One thing is clear early on – Taysha Rushton will have the green light to fire away. The Midland, Texas, native might already be one of the most dynamic scorers in all of the NAIA. She poured in a career high 32 points in the season opener and followed it up with 19 points versus Sterling and 17 versus Dakota State. As a freshman in 2020-21, Rushton averaged 14.4 points (34.3 percent from 3-point range) and was named First Team All-GPAC. She’s now in a leadership role in the backcourt with Taylor Cockerill having graduated.
· Olson has raved about Rylee Pauli, who is in her fourth season in the program. The Millard South High School alum has progressed steadily throughout her career and earned a starting role last season. Pauli responded by averaging 7.2 points and 5.2 rebounds in 2020-21 and should be in for even better this winter. Through three games, she’s averaging 10.0 points and 9.3 rebounds while playing the third most minutes on the team. Pauli starred in last season’s national tournament win over Marian University (Ind.) in a contest that saw her post 17 points and six rebounds.
· Along with Pauli and Rushton, the starting lineup this season has featured guards Bailey Conrad and Mackenzie Toomey and forward Abby Heemstra. Four of the five starters are in either their first or second seasons within the program (with Pauli being the exception). Heemstra has immediately earned a starting spot following a successful high school career at Rock Valley Community High School. Heemstra’s play was a big factor in the win over Dakota State. She notched 19 points and eight rebounds. Conrad quickly returned to the lineup after the injury she suffered in the national quarterfinals last season. She’s racked up 25 assists already this season.
· Morningside will begin conference play as the favorite in the GPAC, but the race just might be wide open. The Mustangs have dropped two games out of league play already. The consistency of Concordia’s program has been rather impressive. Over the past 10 years, the Bulldogs have not placed any lower than fourth in conference regular season standings. During that time period, Concordia has claimed six GPAC regular season championships, including four in row from the 2016-17 through 2019-20 seasons.
Briar Cliff made a large leap forward from 2019-20 to 2020-21, improving its overall records from 11-19 to 17-10. The Chargers tied for fourth place in the GPAC last season under first-year head coach Brita Hand. Briar Cliff boasts one of the GPAC’s best players in Konnor Sudmann, who is averaging 13.8 points through this season’s first four games. So far, the Chargers have beaten Dickinson State University (N.D.) and No. 20 Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.) and were defeated by No. 13 Dakota State and Saint Xavier University (Ill.). Briar Cliff was picked fifth in the GPAC preseason poll.
GPAC play will continue as the Bulldogs host Midland on Nov. 17 and then travel to play at Dordt on Nov. 20.
Nov. 13, 2021
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – The ninth-ranked Concordia University Women's Basketball team battled back from a 14-point deficit late in the fourth quarter but ultimately was unable to complete the comeback on Saturday (Nov. 13) night. The Bulldogs fell to Briar Cliff, 74-68, dropping their first conference game of the young season. Concordia cut the defict to six multiple times in the second half, however, the Chargers mounted a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter and held off the visitors.
Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad fell to 2-2 overall (0-1 GPAC) with the loss. Olson thought that his team had opportunities to turn the tide of the game, but could not capitalize.
Said Olson, “Briar Cliff shot incredible in the first half. I thought we had a few players really compete hard to keep us in the game. We had chances in the second half but just never capitalized. A lot of missed opportunities in transition and too many missed free throws. Briar Cliff is a good team and tough to beat on the road. We need to get better.”
Taysha Rushton led Concordia in scoring with 16 points and added three rebounds and three assists. Taylor Farrell was the only other Bulldog to reach double figures in the loss, accumulating 10 points in the contest. Farrell also went 2-for-3 from beyond the arc. Kayla Luebbe made 4-of-5 shots from the field, scoring nine points in the process. Rylee Pauli did her best cleaning up rebounds, leading the team with six. Briar Cliff owned a slight edge in rebounds, 27-24.
For the Chargers, they climb to 3-2 overall (1-0 GPAC). They had three different players reach double figures on Saturday. Madelyn Deitchler led all scorers with 20 points and was two rebounds shy of a double-double. She also went 7-for-8 from the field. Cadence Davis tossed in 17 herself and Elaina Martinez had 10 points. Their efforts helped Briar Cliff overcome a minus-eight turnover margin.
Last season, Concordia regrouped after dropping its GPAC opener and went on to go 17-5 in conference play, placing second in the GPAC standings.
The Bulldogs will return to Fredrich Arena for their first home conference matchup of the year on Wednesday night. Concordia will welcome Midland (3-1, 0-0 GPAC) to town for a 6 p.m. CT tipoff. The two sides split last season’s two meetings with the road team winning in both instances.
Nov. 15, 2021
SEWARD, Neb. – The first full week of conference action will showcase the ninth-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team at home versus Midland and on the road against Dordt. Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad hopes to rebound from a 74-68 loss at Briar Cliff this past weekend. Concordia is 2-2 thus far with victories over Bellevue University and No. 13 Dakota State University (S.D.). The Bulldogs moved back to No. 4 in the official GPAC ratings released on Monday.
By the numbers
· Concordia has yet to fire on all cylinders, but that was also the case early last season when it started out 0-3 before regrouping and eventually reaching the NAIA national quarterfinals. Through the first four games of this season, the Bulldogs are averaging 74.0 points per game while shooting 37.9 percent from the floor, 27.1 percent from 3-point range and 65.6 percent from the foul line. In contrast, opponents have averaged 76.5 points and have shot 47.7 percent from the field, 39.1 percent from beyond the arc and 72.7 percent from the free throw line. Concordia possesses a plus-7.0 average turnover margin.
· Through four games, Rushton ranks 23rd nationally in scoring average at 21.0 points per game. Her shooting percentages figure to rise from where they currently stand – 32.4 percent from the field and 26.8 percent from 3-point range. Rushton’s 32 points in the season opener versus Bellevue represented a career high. Rushton could challenge for the highest single season scoring average during Olson’s tenure (which began with the 2006-07 season). Bailey Morris’ average of 19.3 points in 2013-14 is the current high during Olson’s time leading Concordia.
· A key offensively is to continue to develop scoring options beyond Rushton. So far, there’s been plenty of balance. Five Bulldogs other than Rushton are averaging 6.5 points or more, including Abby Heemstra (10.5), Rylee Pauli (9.0), Kayla Luebbe (7.8), Sadie Powell (6.8) and Taylor Farrell (6.5). Perimeter shooting has always been a component of the program’s success. Last season’s team ranked eighth nationally with an average of 10.1 treys per game. Concordia has missed out on having another dependable option with Mackenzie Koepke sidelined.
· Four GPAC conference games took place over the weekend. Winning teams included Briar Cliff, College of Saint Mary, Doane and No. 6 Morningside. The reigning GPAC champion Mustangs have suffered two defeats already, but they began league play with a 73-63 win over Dakota Wesleyan. Under Olson’s direction, the Bulldogs have won a combined 12 GPAC titles over the past 10 seasons. Most impressively, Concordia swept GPAC regular season and postseason titles from 2016-17 through 2019-20. No other program in conference history has achieved a four-year GPAC sweep such as that one.
Midland sits at 3-1 and is coming off a 73-65 win over Dickinson State University (N.D.). The Warriors also played an exhibition at the University of Nebraska. Head Coach Shawn Gilbert is in his ninth season at the helm of the program. The team’s top scorer so far this season has been Erin Prusa (12.3 ppg). Midland is averaging 73.3 points and allowing 58.8 points per game.
Dordt has been on a nice run that features wins over No. 13 Dakota State University (S.D.) and No. 4 Marian University (Ind.). Former Nebraska Cornhusker Ashtyn Veerbeek is a GPAC Player of the Year candidate and is averaging 19.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game. Head Coach Bill Harmsen led the program to its first-ever national tournament appearance in 2018-19. The Defenders also qualified for nationals in 2019-20 before missing out last season. Currently ranked second in the GPAC, Dordt could crack the NAIA top 25 on Wednesday.
As part of Thanksgiving week, the Bulldogs will host Jamestown on Nov. 23 before venturing to Plainview, Texas, to play No. 8 Wayland Baptist University on Nov. 27.
Nov. 17, 2021
SEWARD, Neb. – Following both of this season’s defeats, the 21st-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team has bounced back in a big way. In Wednesday (Nov. 17)’s GPAC home action, the Bulldogs shot a blistering 50 percent while overwhelming Midland, 93-52, inside Friedrich Arena. On this evening, star guard Taysha Rushton got plenty of help in the scoring department.
Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad effectively rebounded from a 74-68 loss at Briar Cliff over the weekend. Concordia moved to 3-2 overall (1-1 GPAC).
“Our players just came ready to play and had great focus, great energy,” Olson said. “Thankfully we hit some shots – that always makes a huge difference. But really, I just thought we were a little bit more focused. I think this group is getting better and growing up a little bit. It’s awesome to see.”
By halftime, the Bulldogs had built a commanding advantage thanks to dominant first and second quarters. Rushton poured in 12 of her game high 17 points in the opening quarter as Concordia raced to a 54-28 lead at the break. Like vintage Bulldog teams, this edition can hit the opponent with waves of reinforcements. It was a fine night off the bench for Sadie Powell, who turned in a line of 15 points (6-for-6 from the field), six rebounds, three assists and two steals.
This was the best Concordia’s offense has operated so far this season. Rushton had no trouble beating her opponent off the dribble – or letting open teammates fire away from beyond the arc. Taylor Farrell knocked down her first three attempts from beyond the arc while helping fuel the blowout. Six different Bulldogs drilled at least one 3-point field goal, including Kendal Brigham (4-for-5 on 3-point attempts). As a team, Concordia went 13-for-26 from distance.
Brigham is part of a large group of second-year players that will have a lot to say about how far this season goes. Said Brigham, “We have a really big class, and they’re really fun to play with. I think we play really well together.”
It was a different story on the other end of the floor. The Bulldogs were solid in their halfcourt defense while limiting Midland (3-2, 0-1 GPAC) to 15-for-61 (.246) shooting from the field. Only Peyton Wingert (15 points) managed to reach double figures for the visitors. In addition, the Warriors were outclassed on the boards, 48-37, and had a minus-five margin in turnovers.
All game, the Bulldogs used their athleticism in getting just about whatever shots they wanted. Bailey Conrad (14) and Abby Heemstra (12) also reached double figures for the home team. Conrad and Rushton dished out four assists apiece. The shots were going to start falling eventually.
Said Olson, “Our decision making was a little bit better in terms of what’s the shot we really want. When you hit shots it always kind of frees up the game for each player. You gain confidence from each other … I thought Sadie and Bailey played well and Taysha as always. Kendal had a great game too. It’s just really good to see them grow and continue to get better.”
For the second Saturday in a row, the Bulldogs will be headed to northwest Iowa. Concordia and No. 16 Dordt (5-2, 0-1 GPAC) will go head-to-head at 4 p.m. CT from Sioux Center, Iowa. The Defenders struggled through a rough conference opener on Wednesday, falling, 83-64, at No. 12 Morningside. The Bulldogs defeated Dordt twice last season.
Nov. 20, 2021
SIOUX CENTER, Iowa – Despite offensive inconsistencies, the 21st-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team went wire-to-wire on the road with No. 16 Dordt on Saturday (Nov. 20). Ultimately, 5-for-19 shooting from 3-point range and a major disadvantage from the foul line led to a Bulldog loss, 69-60, in Sioux Center, Iowa. Defender standout Hayden Heimensen led all scorers with 22 points.
Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad had shot the lights out three days earlier in the win over Midland. Concordia stands at 3-3 overall and at 1-2 in league play.
“It was two good teams and Dordt was great defensively,” Olson said. “We really struggled offensively in the second half. Some of it is on us. We need to have better spacing and flow, and we have to step up and hit shots. In our losses we haven’t. We have to keep getting better. I thought we had incredible fight, especially early on. We were down in the first quarter and fought back to take the lead. We have to figure out how to fight like that for all four quarters, especially against a good team on the road.”
The Bulldogs were forced to play catch-up most of the second half after enduring a third-quarter drought. Concordia managed only seven points during a third period that stretched Dordt’s halftime lead from two to eight (51-43). The Bulldogs remained within striking distance in the final quarter, but never could cut the deficit to fewer than six points. The Defenders went 23-for-34 (.676) from the foul line while holding off Concordia.
The size and length of Dordt is a problem for each of its opponents. The Defenders did not make a single 3-point basket in the second half, but they didn’t need one thanks to the work inside of Ashtyn Veerbeek (20 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots) and Karly Gustafson (eight points and 21 rebounds). Dordt enjoyed an advantage of 48-39 on the boards. A transfer from the University of Nebraska, Veerbeek figures to be a strong candidate for GPAC Player of the Year honors this season.
Concordia may have been able to overcome its shortcomings in rebounding had it made more shots. The Bulldogs went 22-for-70 (.314) from the floor. Only Taysha Rushton (6-for-21 shooting) reached double figures for Concordia. On the interior, Abby Heemstra posted nine points and 11 rebounds. Kendal Brigham provided a spark in scoring nine points in the first half while dependable veteran Rylee Pauli chipped in seven points and seven rebounds. Lauren Baker and Bailey Conrad contributed six points apiece.
“Kendal did a great job in giving us a spark and Abby had some great moments in the second half,” Olson said. “Lauren Baker is coming along and is going to be really good. I think we have a team that can beat anyone in the country, but we need to have more consistency throughout our rotation.”
On the plus side, Dordt went just 6-for-24 from the floor in the second half while struggling to crack the Bulldog zone. The Defenders (6-2, 1-1 GPAC) got more points from the free throw line than they did on field goals (19-12) over the final 20 minutes.
As part of Thanksgiving week, the Bulldogs will host Jamestown (4-2, 1-1 GPAC) on Tuesday with tipoff set for 6 p.m. CT from Friedrich Arena. Concordia has won each of the past 12 meetings with the Jimmies, a streak that dates back prior to Jamestown joining the GPAC. The Jimmies were in action at Midland on Saturday night.
Nov. 21, 2021
SEWARD, Neb. – There will be no break during Thanksgiving week as the 21st-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team looks forward to hosting Jamestown and then embarking upon a journey down to Texas. As part of a challenging nonconference slate, Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad will go up against No. 3 Wayland Baptist University on Saturday. It’s been an up-and-down run early this season as the Bulldogs stand at 3-3 overall (1-2 GPAC).
By the numbers
· In the NAIA coaches’ poll released last week, Concordia slid back to 21st after being ranked ninth in the preseason. The GPAC has strong representation with three other conference teams landing in the top 25: No. 12 Morningside, No. 16 Dordt and No. 17 Northwestern. In addition, Briar Cliff is receiving votes. Based on the rankings, the Bulldogs have plenty of major tests coming up before New Year’s Day. Not only will Concordia play at No. 3 Wayland Baptist this Saturday, it also has nonconference matchups scheduled with No. 2 Campbellsville University (Ky.) and No. 4 Thomas More University (Ky.) as part of a trip to Hawaii prior to Christmas.
· The journey to Texas will be a bit of a homecoming for second-year guard Taysha Rushton, a native of Midland, Texas, roughly 165 miles from the campus at Wayland Baptist. The Bulldogs are more than happy that Rushton chose to venture outside The Lone Star State to play college basketball. Rushton is averaging 19.2 points and 3.7 rebounds per game this season, coming off First Team All-GPAC accolades in 2020-21. Her 32 points in the season opening win over Bellevue University represent a career high.
· There were contributions made up and down the roster in the 93-52 victory over Midland. Six Bulldogs poured in at least nine points: Rushton (17), Sadie Powell (15), Kendal Brigham (14), Bailey Conrad (14), Abby Heemstra (12) and Taylor Farrell (nine). Brigham and Farrell went a combined 7-for-9 from 3-point range as two of six Concordia players to make at least one 3-point basket. Through six games, the Midland win marked the best offensive performance for the Bulldogs, who turned in season highs for field goal percentage (.500), 3-point field goal percentage (.500) and made 3-point field goals (13).
· The 3-3 record is a product of Concordia still struggling for consistency. Following the win over Midland, the Bulldogs were unable to continue their hot shooting. Concordia slipped to 31.4 percent shooting from the floor at Dordt and lost, 69-60. Rushton put up 14 points (6-for-21 from the floor) as the lone Concordia player in double figures. Meanwhile, the likes of Hayden Heimensen (22 points), Ashtyn Veerbeek (20 points) and Karly Gustafson (21 rebounds) were too much to handle. The Defenders were able to keep the Bulldogs at arm’s length while making 23-of-34 attempts from the foul line.
· There’s an adjustment period that has followed life without All-American Taylor Cockerill. While averaging 19.2 points, Rushton has established herself as the clear go-to player. Four others are averaging at least 6.0 points: Heemstra (10.5), Powell (7.8), Pauli (7.3), Farrell (6.5) and Conrad (6.3). Conrad has been the team’s top passer, averaging 5.8 assists per game. Meanwhile, Pauli tops the team in rebounding at 7.8 per game.
Once again, Concordia alum Thad Sankey will be on hand as head coach of Jamestown. Sankey has gone head-to-head with the Bulldogs many times having spent five seasons as head coach at Concordia University, Ann Arbor before heading to North Dakota in the summer of 2018. So far in league play, Jamestown has come up empty on the road with losses at College of Saint Mary and at Midland. The Jimmies did claim a 78-75 overtime home win over Dakota Wesleyan on Nov. 17. The top players for Jamestown are Hannah DeMars (13.6 ppg) and Kia Tower (12.0 ppg). A win at Friedrich Arena is the type of resume builder the Jimmies could use in their efforts to return to the national tournament.
Wayland Baptist will have had a week between games by the time it hosts Concordia on Saturday. The 8-0 start for the Pioneers includes two wins over ranked opponents: No. 19 Clarke University (Iowa) and No. 23 Loyola University (La.). Head Coach Jason Cooper’s program reached the opening round of the national tournament last season. Through eight games, Kaylee Edgemon (19.9 ppg) and Jenna Cooper (18.4 ppg) have paced the team in scoring. Wayland Baptist is outscoring its foes, on average, 79.3 to 66.9.
Two more ranked opponents are coming up on next week’s slate as the Bulldogs will be at No. 12 Morningside on Dec. 1 before hosting No. 17 Northwestern on Dec. 4.
Nov. 23, 2021
SEWARD, Neb. – It wasn’t a thing of beauty but at night’s end, the 21st-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team had added to the win column. After visiting Jamestown erased a seven-point deficit in the final two minutes, star guard Taysha Rushton kissed the game winner off the glass as time expired, lifting the Bulldogs to a 69-67 home victory on Tuesday (Nov. 23). Concordia pulled it out despite shooting a rough 26.3 percent from the floor in the first half.
Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad continues to alternate wins and losses each time out in the early going. Concordia has moved to 4-3 overall and to 2-2 in league play.
“Jamestown is a tough team,” Olson said. “They’ve had some good wins. At the end there, we were trying to get the ball to (Rylee) Pauli and get (Mackenzie) Toomey on a handoff to the rim. Toomey made the right decision – Bailey (Conrad) finds Taysha and thankfully the backboard was there for us.”
The Jimmies made two critical plays down the stretch that gave them a chance for the road win. In the final minute, Noelle Josephson struck for three points the old-fashioned way and Hannah DeMars clutched up with the game-tying trey with 9.5 seconds left on the clock. The Bulldogs then called timeout to draw up a play and to advance the ball to halfcourt.
When the ball finally wound up in Rushton’s hands at the top the circle, she took one dribble with her right hand and threw up a runner from just outside the free throw line. The thing about a big-time shot-maker like Rushton is that she always believes the next one is going down.
Said Rushton, “That last minute Jamestown was making a run back at us, so the whole time I was just thinking to keep my composure and keep my teammates’ composure as well. Last seconds – I just went and got the ball and threw up a prayer, really. I didn’t even know if it was going in. When I saw it go in, it was just pure excitement and joy.”
Sure that moment was fun, but much of the game was like pulling teeth. It was a sluggish first half for Concordia, which found itself down by as many as 11 points. Behind DeMars (17 points and eight rebounds), the Jimmies were up for the challenge. They didn’t even blink when the Bulldogs had seemingly taken control in the fourth quarter. A three-point play by Kayla Luebbe pushed Concordia’s lead to 55-47 with seven minutes to play.
There’s something to be said for the ability of the Bulldogs to find a way, even on a night when they shot 32.9 percent (23-for-70) from the floor and netted only four 3-point field goals. Rushton paced all scorers with 20 points (6-for-7 on free throws). Luebbe added 11 points off the bench and Toomey filled the stat sheet with nine points, seven rebounds and three steals. Pauli chipped in with six points and nine rebounds and Hailey Kleinschmit came through off the bench with eight points.
Said Olson, “I’m really proud of our team. I thought we showed a lot of heart and toughness because we were definitely not at our best mentally, physically and performance-wise. The second half, we kind of found a way. It feels really good to pull one out. You need some of those games during a season when you’re not at your best, but you still win.”
This was another installment of Olson versus former Concordia Men’s Basketball teammate Thad Sankey, who is in his fourth season as head coach at Jamestown. To this point, Olson has won each meeting. The Jimmies are now 4-4 overall (1-3 GPAC).
After celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday, the Bulldogs will hit the road for a clash with third-ranked Wayland Baptist University (8-0). Tipoff from Plainview, Texas, is set for 11 a.m. CT on Saturday. The journey south will serve as a homecoming of sorts for Rushton, a native of Midland, Texas.
Nov. 27, 2021
PLAINVIEW, Texas – The shots were falling early for a Concordia University Women’s Basketball team that claimed a significant résumé building victory on Saturday (Nov. 27). Native Texan Taysha Rushton and the 21st-ranked Bulldogs built a first-half lead as large as 18 points on the way to a 76-66 upset of third-ranked Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas. Off the bench, Taylor Farrell supplied 17 points in helping fuel the victory.
The Queens got within six points in the second half, but Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad always had an answer. This one was not quite as dramatic as Tuesday’s 69-67 win at the buzzer over Jamestown. Concordia has moved to 5-3 overall.
“We’re getting better together and hopefully finding some consistency,” Olson said. “We still have a long way to go before we have that, but it was good to see our team clicking and playing well together – all sharing it. It was nice for Taysha to be close to home and play in front of family. Some of the players on Wayland were club teammates. I think she did a good job of staying in the moment and not trying to do too much too often. It was a lot of fun.”
The previously unbeaten Queens (8-1) entered the weekend carrying a 50-game home winning streak. That streak already seemed to be in jeopardy when the Bulldogs rattled off the first 13 points, including nine from Rushton, who played in front of a large gathering of family in her home state. From that point on, Concordia got contributions throughout the rotation. Farrell splashed in her first four attempts from long range and the Bulldogs enjoyed a 31-13 lead early in the second quarter.
Wayland Baptist did not surrender while led by a nucleus featuring Jenna Cooper, Kaitlyn Edgemon and Kaylee Edgemon. That trio combined for 44 points while being paced by the 16 apiece from the Edgemons. A key sequence occurred just after halftime when the Queens quickly got within six. Midway through the third quarter, Concordia responded with a trey from Sadie Powell and three-point play from Farrell and led, 59-47.
A sharpshooter from Omaha, Farrell led all scorers with 17 points. Rushton added 15 points and five assists in her return to Texas. Eight different Bulldogs tallied at least six points, including Abby Heemstra (nine), Rylee Pauli (eight), Lauren Baker (six), Kendal Brigham (six), Bailey Conrad (six) and Mackenzie Toomey (six). Conrad also dropped six dimes and Pauli led the way on the boards with nine rebounds. Concordia slightly lost the turnover (17-13) and rebounding (40-39) battles.
The first half painted a picture of just how dangerous the Bulldogs can be. Over the first 20 minutes, they shot 51.4 percent overall and made 9-of-17 shots from beyond the arc. Concordia withstood a second quarter run by the Queens and held the advantage, 49-39, at the break. A 2-for-18 second-half shooting performance from 3-point range by Wayland Baptist made it a challenge to dig out of the hole.
Said Olson, “I love that we have the toughness and confidence to play against anybody. It helps us in terms of national rankings and national tournament, but it also just helps us have that toughness going back into the GPAC. We have two more of these types of (nonconference) games when we go to Hawaii. As long we stay focused on getting better, I like where we’re going.”
GPAC play will resume on Wednesday with a trip to Sioux City, Iowa, and a matchup with last season’s arch nemesis Morningside (5-2, 3-0 GPAC). The 12th-ranked Mustangs have jumped out to a 3-0 start inside the conference with wins over Dakota Wesleyan, Dordt and Doane.
Nov. 29, 2021
SEWARD, Neb. – This week may be one to decide whether Concordia University Women’s Basketball will be a contender for the GPAC regular-season title. The Bulldogs will go up against two ranked foes within conference play: No. 12 Morningside on Wednesday and No. 17 Northwestern on Saturday. In last season’s action, Concordia lost all four meetings to the Mustangs and defeated the Red Raiders and all three matchups. Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad is coming off an attention getting road victory over No. 3 Wayland Baptist University (Texas).
By the numbers
· Now 5-3 overall (2-2 GPAC), the Bulldogs have won back-to-back games for the first time this season. The thrills last week came in different forms as Concordia worked through its offensive struggles (26.3 percent shooting in the first half) against Jamestown and won, 69-67, on a buzzer beater from Taysha Rushton. Four days later, the Bulldogs came out sizzling and raced to a 13-0 lead in the process of upsetting third-ranked Wayland Baptist, 76-66, in Plainview, Texas. Concordia led by as many as 18 points in the second quarter and maintained an advantage of at least six the rest of the way. Prior to the 2-0 week, the Bulldogs had not won or lost consecutive games this season.
· It was an eventful week for Rushton, who threw in the game winner to beat Jamestown and then helped engineer the upset of Wayland Baptist in her home state of Texas. For the week, Rushton totaled 35 points while making 11-of-31 shots from the floor. Through eight games, Rushton has produced at least 14 points in each outing, posting respective point totals of 32, 19, 17, 16, 17, 14, 20 and 15. The 32 points in the season opener represent a career high. In 39 career collegiate games, Rushton has already piled up 595 points (average of 15.3 per game). In addition, Rushton is tied for the team lead in steals (15) and ranks second in assists (20) this season.
· One trend continued and another ended in the Nov. 27 defeat of Wayland Baptist. The result snapped a 50-game home winning streak for the Queens, who compete as a member of the NAIA’s Sooner Athletic Conference. Meanwhile, Concordia has beaten at least one NAIA top-five ranked opponent in each of the past 11 seasons while being led by Olson. The Bulldogs will have more opportunities to build on a résumé that includes a win over Dakota State University (S.D.), currently ranked 19th. Coming up Dec. 18-19, Concordia will go up against No. 2 Campbellsville University (Ky.) and No. 4 Thomas More University (Ky.) as part of a challenging nonconference slate.
· Over the past couple of seasons, Concordia has relied more on mixtures of man-to-man and zone defense in the half court, as opposed to the signature press that some of the most successful teams in program history used to near perfection. Naturally, the Bulldogs are forcing fewer turnovers (17.5 per game) compared to previous years. However, turnover margin continues to be part of the winning formula. Concordia owns a plus-5.0 turnover margin per game and has gotten 15 steals apiece from Rylee Pauli and Rushton. As a contrast, the 2019-20 squad (ranked No. 1 to end the season) forced 1,068 turnovers in 34 games.
· From game-to-game, it could be any of a large number of Bulldogs who are capable of being the No. 2 scoring option after Rushton, who is averaging 18.8 points. Eight of her teammates are averaging at least 4.6 points: Abby Heemstra (9.6), Pauli (7.3), Taylor Farrell (7.0), Sadie Powell (6.9), Kayla Luebbe (6.3), Bailey Conrad (5.5), Kendal Brigham (5.0) and Mackenzie Toomey (4.6). Farrell came up big at Wayland Baptist in pouring in 17 points while making her first four tries from 3-point range. As a team, Concordia is shooting 38.5 percent from the field, 30.4 percent from beyond the arc and 68.5 percent from the foul line.
Morningside was the arch nemesis for the Bulldogs last season. Concordia fell four times to the Mustangs, including matchups in the GPAC tournament championship game and in the NAIA national quarterfinals. Accomplished Head Coach Jamie Sale returns plenty of firepower with reigning GPAC Player of the Year Sierra Mitchell having come back for a fifth season. Four Morningside players are averaging more than 13.0 points per game: Taylor Rodenburgh (17.0), Mitchell (15.6), Chloe Lofstrom (13.3) and Sophia Peppers (13.3). The Mustangs are riding a five-game win streak since starting out 0-2.
Northwestern is the lone women’s basketball program within the GPAC that has a new head coach in 2021-22. Head Coach Kristin Rotert has taken over a talented roster put together by former Head Coach Chris Yaw and his staff. The Red Raiders are off to a fine start that includes wins over then 11th-ranked MidAmerica Nazarene University (Kan.) and then fourth-ranked Marian University (Ind.). The standouts for Northwestern are Molly Schany (16.0 ppg), Taylor VanderVelde (12.7 ppg) and Devyn Kemble (12.5 ppg). Before heading to Seward, Northwestern will host Briar Cliff on Wednesday.
The Bulldogs will host Mount Marty on Dec. 8 and then play at Hastings on Dec. 11. Those two outings will be the final GPAC contests prior to New Year's Day.
Dec. 1, 2021
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – A spirited run in the middle of the contest by the Concordia Bulldogs Women’s basketball team wasn’t enough as they fell short against No. 10 Morningside on Wednesday (Dec. 1). The deficit was as much as 12 for the Bulldogs, who trailed by four in the final minute before falling in Sioux City, Iowa, 89-83. An upside for Concordia was Lauren Baker, who had a breakout performance in the game, making 6-of-9 attempts from 3-point range.
With the loss Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad falls to 5-4 overall (2-3 GPAC) with each of the four defeats coming against opponents currently ranked nationally.
“I thought we played really well and fought hard,” Olson said, “I was proud of how we kept our confidence and kept our composure and made a great run at them, especially at the start of the third quarter. Like I told our team, the margin of error in this league on the road against a good team is so small. We just didn’t do enough to find a way to win. They’re a great offensive team and we couldn’t get stops. I also think of all the 50-50 balls. They had a couple offensive rebound kickout threes that hurt and there were some deflections we couldn’t come up with.”
Rylee Pauli was one rebound shy of picking up a double-double in the contest, finishing with 16 points and nine rebounds. Mackenzie Toomey was key off the bench for Concordia. She tossed in 15 points and grabbed five rebounds. Baker helped keep the visitors afloat at times on Wednesday. She led the Bulldogs with 24 points, gathering three assists and two steals along the way. She was 8-for-11 form the field in her starring performance.
Said Olson, “She’s a great player, incredible shooter. She can do even more things. We’re excited about her. It was great for her to do that today. It should continue to build her confidence.”
The Mustangs improve to 6-2 overall and remained undefeated in conference play with the win. They were led by fifth-year senior Sierra Mitchell who totaled 26 points. Sophia Peppers was also an issue for the Bulldogs, as she put up 20 points. McKenna Sims, Chloe Lofstrom and Taylor Rodenburgh were also in double figures. Credit to the Mustangs defense who held Bulldogs standout Taysha Rushton to just four points only one game after her 15-point game against No. 3 Wayland Baptist.
“Mitchell is really good,” Olson said, “She goes on that little run when we’re up two and all the sudden we’re down four after she hits back-to-back threes on us, which was kind of deflating. We played great in that third quarter and yet we’re still down four. I love our team. We’re competing, we’re right there.”
The Bulldogs will return home on Saturday to take on Northwestern (10-0, 4-0 GPAC). The two teams last faced off in the GPAC semifinal last year, where Concordia defeated the Red Raiders, 83-70. Saturday’s contest will get underway at 2 p.m. CT. in Fredrich Arena.
Dec. 4, 2021
SEWARD, Neb. – At the rate it was going, the 25th-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team was doomed to be tripped up in a shootout like the one played three days earlier at No. 10 Morningside. Not this time. The Bulldogs’ zone defense tightened the screws, Taysha Rushton enjoyed a monster second half and Concordia claimed an 84-82 overtime upset of 12th-ranked Northwestern on Saturday (Dec. 4). In addition, Sadie Powell scored all nine of her points in the extra session.
Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad already feels like it’s battle-tested. Ten games into the season, the Bulldogs (6-4, 3-3 GPAC) have played seven teams that are currently ranked in the NAIA top 25.
“I thought switching to zone kind of helped keep them in front of us and know where their shooters were,” Olson said. “I thought we did a better job in transition defensively, too, and then our players just stepped up and hit some really big shots. They kept their composure. There were countless number of times where they would go on a big run and yet we were finding ways to respond. Even at the end, little things happened and we kept our composure. I’m just so proud of them.”
Concordia trailed by as many as 11 points and stared down a 66-57 deficit to begin the fourth quarter. Spurred by Rushton’s surge (15 points in the second half), the Bulldogs opened the fourth on an 8-0 run and eventually tied the score, 71-71, in the final minute of regulation. On the next Red Raider possession, Maddie Jones drained a trey only to have her clutch jumper answered on the other end by Rushton. The triple by Rushton wound up forcing overtime.
In a stressful affair, Concordia survived Northwestern possessions at the end of regulation and overtime. It was Powell time in overtime. She sank two crucial triples and came away with a steal. Powell’s rebound after the Red Raiders missed a free throw with a chance to tie in the final few seconds of overtime helped pull this one out of the fire.
“Taysha hit a big three when we needed it,” Olson said. “We kind of knew Sadie would be the right person out there because of the way they were defending us. She was ready for the challenge and stepped up and hit some big shots to give us the lead.”
In the post, Rylee Pauli (17 points and five rebounds) put forth her usual gritty effort while leading the Bulldogs in scoring. Rushton added five assists and four steals to her stat line and Bailey Conrad dropped eight dimes. Conrad posted 13 points while making 7-of-8 from the foul line. In addition, Abby Heemstra collected nine points and four rebounds and Mackenzie Toomey chipped in eight points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals.
It took every bit of those performances to outlast the Red Raiders (10-1, 4-1 GPAC), who got 17 or more points from four of their starters: Devyn Kemble (20), Molly Schany (18), Jada Cunningham (17) and Maddie Jones (17). Northwestern has the look of a team capable of winning the GPAC regular season title. After three quarters of hot shooting, the Red Raiders went cold in the fourth (17.6 percent).
Said Pauli, “We knew going into the game it was going to be a hard-fought battle. Each quarter we had to give it our all and make those little plays, and play hard for each other … in the zone, it was about just talking and getting out on the shooters.”
There will be more of these games to come against highly rated opponents, but Concordia will be ready. Said Olson, “It’s stressful. It’s a grind, but it’s awesome.”
The Bulldogs will play at home for the final time in the calendar year 2021 when they host Mount Marty (1-8, 1-4 GPAC) at 6 p.m. CT on Wednesday. Concordia has won each of the past 10 meetings with the Lancers, who picked up their first win of this season in a 74-67 final last week over Midland.
Dec. 6, 2021
SEWARD, Neb. – It’s been a 10-game gauntlet to open the season for the 25th-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team, which is coming off an 84-82 overtime win over No. 12 Northwestern. Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad will look to build upon that victory as it hosts Mount Marty on Wednesday and then travels to play Hastings on Saturday. The Bulldogs enter the week at 6-4 overall and at 3-3 in conference play. They are 5-1 at home.
By the numbers
· Few teams in the country have played a more challenging schedule to this point than Concordia, which has gone up against seven opponents currently ranked in the NAIA top 25: No. 6 Wayland Baptist University (Texas), No. 8 Sterling College (Kan.), No. 10 Morningside, No. 12 Northwestern, No. 18 Dakota State University (S.D.), No. 20 Briar Cliff and No. 22 Dordt. The Bulldogs have captured wins over three of those opponents, including a road triumph over Wayland Baptist (ranked No. 3 at the time). Concordia has taken care of business against the three currently unranked foes it has played: Bellevue University, Midland and Jamestown.
· There has been some inconsistency offensively in the early going, but the last three outings have been encouraging from that standpoint. In matchups with Wayland Baptist, Morningside and Northwestern, the Bulldogs averaged 81.0 points while shooting 47.1 percent from the floor. Concordia is learning it has options besides leading scorer Taysha Rushton, who is averaging 16.9 points per game. Rushton and her fellow second-year teammates have further potential for growth. The sophomore group (from an academic standpoint) includes key figures in Kendal Brigham, Bailey Conrad, Sadie Powell and Mackenzie Toomey.
· Powell picked an opportune time to emerge in the win at Northwestern. During the overtime session alone, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native totaled nine points and two steals. She hit two critical 3-point field goals – one that put her side up 77-74 at the 4:22 mark and another that made it 80-78 with 3:11 left. Rushton also heated up after halftime. Each of her 15 points came during the second half. Her trey in the final minute tied the game, 74-74, and forced overtime. Bailey Conrad also added 13 points and eight assists.
· In the post, Rylee Pauli has been a steadying force. In last week’s action, Pauli posted 16 points and nine rebounds at Morningside and then added 17 points, five rebounds and two steals versus Northwestern. The Millard South High School product is averaging career bests of 9.1 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. She has made 36-of-63 (.571) shots from the floor. Named an Honorable Mention All-GPAC choice last season, Pauli averaged 7.2 points and 5.2 rebounds in 2020-21 while helping Concordia reach the national quarterfinals.
· Rushton led the Bulldogs in scoring in six of the first seven games, but someone new has emerged over the past few contests. The leading scorers over the last three games have been Taylor Farrell (17 at Wayland Baptist), Lauren Baker (24 at Morningside) and Rylee Pauli (17 versus Northwestern). Baker enjoyed a breakout performance at Morningside, where she knocked down 6-of-9 attempts from 3-point range. She also made her only try from beyond the arc versus Northwestern and is 11-for-19 (.579) on 3-point attempts this season.
Mount Marty broke into the win column last week when it defeated Midland, 74-67, at home. Other than that outing, the Lancers have struggled this season. Each of their four conference losses have come by margins of 23 points or more. Mount Marty is coming off a 2020-21 season that saw it go 4-21 overall (2-20 GPAC). Head Coach Todd James Schlimgen is in his fourth season as head coach and 13th season overall inside the program. He previously served as the assistant coach for his father Tom Schlimgen. The Lancers have averaged only 52.2 points per game this season. Concordia has won 10 meetings in a row over Mount Marty.
Hastings will attempt to end a four-game slide when it plays at Midland on Wednesday. The Broncos will be playing a ranked opponent for the first time when they host the Bulldogs on Saturday. Now in her seventh season at Hastings, Jina Douglas guided the program to a 30-3 record in 2019-20. A number of players remain from that team, including seniors Taylor Beacom (11.2 ppg) and Ali Smith (12.6 ppg). Hastings is averaging 72.7 points and allowing 69.2. The Bulldogs own a four-game series win streak versus the Broncos.
Concordia will dip outside of league play for action in Honolulu, Hawaii, where it will take on top-ranked Campbellsville University (Ky.) on Dec. 18 and No. 3 Thomas More University (Ky.) on Dec. 19.
Dec. 8, 2021
SEWARD, Neb. – The series mastery of Mount Marty continues for the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team. After getting out to a hot 16-0 start, the 25th-ranked Bulldogs never looked back, winning by the final score of 88-53 inside Friedrich Arena on Wednesday (Dec. 8). The turnover margin was the story of the game as the Bulldogs converted 27 turnovers into 41 points.
Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad moved to 7-4 overall with the 11th-straight series win over Mount Marty. The conference record also breaks above .500 at it moves to 4-3 in GPAC play. Lauren Baker credited the hot start to ball movement and unselfish play.
“I would say we moved the ball around the perimeter really well at the beginning of the game,” Baker said. “Quick passes made their defense move and that led to open shots.”
Said Olson, “I thought we came out with focus and took care of business early. Taysha (Rushton) was phenomenal and Lauren continues to get better.”
It's hard to find a good place to start when delving into the stat sheet. Rushton led the way for Concordia with 18 points and three rebounds despite playing only briefly during the second half. She shot 8-14 from the field. Baker and Kendal Brigham were the other Bulldogs in double figures, both chipping in 12 points. Brigham was a perfect 3-for-3 from behind the arc.
The Concordia bench stepped up in a big way in the win scoring 55 points. A total of 13 players were able to get in the points column in the contest. The Bulldogs were efficient from behind the 3-point-line, cashing in on 12 treys and shooting 36.4 percent. The Concordia defense also came away with 19 steals on the night. The Bulldogs mixed in some full-court pressure looks while giving the Lancers (1-9, 1-5 GPAC) headaches.
Alexsis Kemp (14) and Callie Otkin (11) reached double figures for Mount Marty, which shot only 32.7 percent from the floor. The Lancers were outplayed significantly in the first (33-5) and third (28-12) quarters.
Baker has been playing exceptionally well as of late, earning a starting role in her first collegiate season. The Archbishop Bergan High School alum said postgame that she first had some nerves about being placed in the starting five. She’s responded by making 13-for-19 shots from beyond the arc over the past four games.
“Coach has just put a lot of confidence in me,” Baker said. “Whenever I get the ball, he says to look to shoot. On the bench, the girls are always pumping me up and giving me a lot of confidence. “
The Bulldogs won’t play another home game until the calendar flips. Their next contest will be in Hastings as they take on the Broncos (7-5, 3-3 GPAC) at 2 p.m. CT on Saturday (Dec. 11). Concordia will attempt to extend its four-game series win streak.
Dec. 11, 2021
HASTINGS, Neb. – Another hot offensive start for the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team had host Hastings playing catch up all afternoon. Five Bulldogs wound up in double figures as the visitors ran away with it, 91-69, inside Lynn Farrell Arena on Saturday (Dec. 11). No. 25 Concordia shot 54.7 percent overall and started 7-for-10 from 3-point range in what amounted to the most lopsided Bulldog-Bronco get-together since the 2019 GPAC tournament.
Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad did not look past Hastings with a trip to Hawaii on the horizon. Concordia moved to 8-4 overall (5-3 GPAC) while winning its third in a row and fifth over the past six outings.
“That third quarter we went on a huge run,” Olson said. “We did an awesome job defensively getting stops and kind of wore them down. Our whole team played really well, but I thought our bench unit with Kendal (Brigham), Willy (Taylor Farrell), (Mackenzie) Toomey, Sadie (Powell) and Kayla (Luebbe) just did an awesome job. I thought our team had a great mindset going into the game – great maturity.”
With the Bulldogs leading 53-42 early in the third quarter, the Broncos were hanging close enough to still have hopes of pulling an upset. That hope was lost when Concordia ended the period on a 21-4 run that made this one comfortable down the stretch. During that run, Luebbe dropped in three layups in a stretch of less than three minutes and Brigham and Toomey feathered in a trey apiece.
It’s no picnic trying to defend the Bulldogs when their second wave plays like this. The five Concordia players to put up 10 or more points were Taysha Rushton (16), Lauren Baker (15), Powell (14), Luebbe (11) and Rylee Pauli (10). A freshman from Fremont, Neb., Baker has been impossibly hot from the perimeter. She nailed her first four attempts from 3-point range on Saturday and is now 18-for-25 from beyond the arc over the past five games. As a team, the Bulldogs went 12-for-26 on 3-point tries.
“Our team was definitely focused and ready to play,” Olson said. “That was evident in the first quarter because we shot great. We didn’t make a lot of defensive errors. Hastings hit a couple shots to stay close to us. I loved how our team came out. Thinking about our game before Thanksgiving with Jamestown, we didn’t have the same energy. Today we were really, really good.”
Concordia owned a 36-28 advantage on the boards with five rebounds apiece grabbed by Bailey Conrad and Pauli. Toomey dished out five assists while Farrell dropped four dimes and Brigham chipped in with seven points. In total, the bench was responsible for 43 points. Eleven Bulldogs cracked the scoring column on Saturday.
Hastings (7-6, 3-4 GPAC) was dealt its fifth loss in its past six games. The Broncos have also dropped each of the past five matchups with Concordia. Hastings got a team high 15 points from Riley Clavel and went an impressive 20-for-23 from the foul line. It wasn’t nearly enough to dig out of a hole that sunk to as large as 31 points (87-56).
The Bulldogs can now look forward to their upcoming journey to Honolulu, Hawaii, for action on Dec. 18-19. While in Hawaii, Concordia will go up against No. 1 Campbellsville University (Ky.) and No. 3 Thomas More University (Ky.).
Dec. 15, 2021
SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University Women’s Basketball team is looking forward to warmer weather, beaches, ocean views – and a little basketball too. The 22nd-ranked Bulldogs will be presented with two major challenges this weekend at the Hoop N Surf Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii, where they will go up against No. 1 Campbellsville University (Ky.) and No. 3 Thomas More University (Ky.). This will mark the first time Head Coach Drew Olson has traveled his team to Hawaii since appearing there in December of 2016. Concordia owns an overall record of 8-4 (5-3 GPAC) after winning twice last week within conference play.
Malika Sports Tours Hoop N Surf Classic
By the numbers
· Trips to Hawaii have come on a semi-regular basis over the past 15 years or so. The Bulldogs also played strong competition in Honolulu in 2016 when they earned wins over No. 17 Indiana Tech, 68-57, and over No. 8 College of the Ozarks (Mo.), 78-68. Previously, Concordia also played in Hawaii in 2012 and in 2005. The ’12-13 Bulldogs emerged from Hawaii with wins over No. 16 University of the Cumberlands (Ky.), 59-53, and over Doane, 66-53. Due to a reduction in travel and regular season games last season, Concordia did not voyage to a luxurious destination over Christmas break. One player on the current roster is a Hawaii native – Abby Aplaca of Waipahu. Unfortunately, Aplaca has been sidelined by injury.
· Olson’s program has never been one to shy away from top notch competition. Based on the fresh NAIA coaches’ poll released on Wednesday (Dec. 15), the Bulldogs have played six games against the current top 25: No. 6 Wayland Baptist University (Texas), No. 9 Sterling College (Kan.), No. 10 Morningside, No. 13 Northwestern, No. 17 Dakota State University (S.D.) and No. 23 Briar Cliff. Concordia has defeated three of those foes: Wayland Baptist, Northwestern and Dakota State.
· Improved play on the offensive end has been a major reason for Concordia’s strong results over the past five outings. During that stretch, the Bulldogs have gone 4-1 with two wins over top 25 opponents: then third-ranked Wayland Baptist and then 12th-ranked Northwestern (in overtime). Also over that same timeframe, Concordia has averaged 84.4 points while shooting 48.3 percent from the floor and 40.4 percent from beyond the arc. Three individuals have averaged in double figures over the last five games: Taysha Rushton (13.4), Lauren Baker (12.0) and Rylee Pauli (10.4).
· Baker is hitting treys at a percentage that wouldn’t seem possible in a video game. A native of Fremont, Neb., and alum of Archbishop Bergan High School, Baker has knocked down 18-of-25 (.720) tries from long range over the past five outings. On the season, she is averaging 8.1 points while going 20-for-31 (.645) from beyond the arc. While in high school, Baker was a member of state championship teams in both basketball and volleyball.
· Individual statistical leaders so far this season include Rushton in scoring average (16.9), Pauli in rebounding (7.1) and field goal percentage (.586), Bailey Conrad in assists (5.17) and free throw percentage (.783), Mackenzie Toomey in steals (23) and Baker in 3-point field goal percentage (.645). With the recent offensive surge, the Bulldogs have vaulted to 29th in the nation in scoring average (78.6). Concordia also sports NAIA national ranks of 15th in 3-point field goals per game (9.0) and 3-point field goal percentage (.340).
Campbellsville entered last season’s national tournament ranked No. 3 in the NAIA coaches’ poll and wound up advancing to the national quarterfinals before being tripped up by Indiana Wesleyan University. Head Coach Ginger High Colvin (15th season) has been at the helm of a powerhouse program that has won six Mid-South Conference regular season titles during her tenure. The 2021-22 Tigers have raced out to an 11-0 record with two wins over opponents listed as receiving votes in the national poll. Campbellsville employs a high-powered offense that sports national ranks of first in field goal percentage (.525), third in scoring (85.9) and fifth in 3-point field goal percentage (.383). The Tigers have remained one of the nation’s best teams despite graduating two 2020-21 First Team All-Americans (Savannah Gregory and Samantha Rogers). Like Concordia, Campbellsville features plenty of offensive balance. The top scorer is Ashlee McGeorge, who averages 12.6 points per game.
Thomas More was last season’s NAIA national runner up after falling in the national championship game, 72-61, to Westmont College (Calif.). The Saints return First Team All-American Zoie Barth and three players who were named to the 2021 all-national tournament team: Alexah Chrisman, Taylor Clos and Emily Simon. This marks only the third season that Thomas More has competed in the NAIA (formerly a member of NCAA Division III). Eleventh-year Head Coach Jeff Hans led the program to NCAA D-III national titles in 2016 and 2019. The leading scorer for the Saints is Simon (13.8 ppg). As a team, Thomas More scores 74.9 points allows 61.5 points per game. From a ratings perspective, the Saints’ most impressive win was their 83-62 triumph over then 15th-ranked St. Xavier University (Ill.) on Nov. 27.
Once the Hoop N Surf Classic is in the books, Concordia will be finished playing for the calendar year 2021. Next up on the slate will be a home GPAC clash with Doane on New Year's Day.
Dec. 18, 2021
HONOLULU, Hawaii – The program’s first venture to Hawaii in five years came with plenty of anticipation beyond the warm weather and scenic views. In the first of two big-time matchups on the weekend, the 22nd-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team gave No. 1 Campbellsville University (Ky.) a strong push in what culminated in a 64-57 win for the Tigers on Saturday (Dec. 18). The game was played at the Ching Center in Honolulu.
Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad had no fear of battling the NAIA’s top-ranked team, it just couldn’t muster enough offensive firepower against the Campbellsville zone. The Bulldogs slipped to 8-5 overall.
“We got out to a slow start and their zone is really good,” Olson said. “Their zone reminds me of how we played in Philly (Lammer)’s era. Our bench group settled in and did a great job of attacking. I loved our fight. We got down 11 and made a really good push to get back within four. We couldn’t get over the hump. We didn’t play our best basketball, but it’s a credit to Campbellsville. They’re a really tough team with experience and really well-coached. They made the tough plays when they needed to.”
Neither team put on an offensive clinic. Campbellsville wound up outshooting the Bulldogs, 37.9 to 35.1 percent. The Tigers managed to hold off a Concordia rally in the fourth quarter that was led by the likes of Kayla Luebbe and Sadie Powell off the bench. They combined for every point in a 9-2 run that cut an 11-point deficit down to four (54-50) in the middle of the fourth period. Campbellsville proceeded to tighten the screws and did not allow the Bulldogs a single basket over the game’s final six minutes. Such defensive prowess overcame the Tigers’ 0-for-10 shooting from beyond the arc in the second half.
The bench got more minutes than the starters for Concordia. In 24 minutes of action, Luebbe notched the first double-double of her career while totaling a game high 15 points to go along with 10 rebounds and two blocked shots. Powell was next in line with 11 points and seven rebounds. Meanwhile, Taylor Farrell added seven points and Mackenzie Toomey chipped in with five points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals. Lauren Baker paced the starters with six points while Taysha Rushton was held to two points.
Campbellsville remains undefeated at 13-0. The Tigers also got a big lift from their bench as reserve Kaitlyn Wilks led the way with 14 points. She was joined in double figures by Maddy Boyle (12) and Faith Lake (11). Campbellsville succeeded in flipping the script on the Bulldogs, who have made a living out of positive turnover margins. The Tigers were plus-six in that category on Saturday, helping lessen their disadvantage of 46-35 on the boards.
Concordia had scored 84 or more points in each of its previous three outings (all wins), which included a victory over then 12th-ranked Northwestern. A 3-for-23 effort from 3-point range wasn’t going to cut it against the No. 1 team in the nation.
Said Olson, “When we play a really good team, we have to play well and have a full team effort. We can’t have three or four players play well – we need eight or nine to step up and play well. We’re getting there. This is all part of our growth. It’s a great learning experience for a lot of our freshmen and sophomores. I wanted us to compete and get better, and I think we did.”
Another big opportunity awaits on Sunday when the Bulldogs will take on No. 3 Thomas More University (Ky.) (11-1), the 2021 national runner up. The contest is slated to tip off at 12 p.m. HST / 4 p.m. CST from the Shark Tank on the campus of Hawaii Pacific University. Follow the links below for live coverage.
Dec. 19, 2021
HONOLULU, Hawaii – The past two days have featured moments of brilliance and moments when the 22nd-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team learned it has room to grow. The Bulldogs competed with another of the NAIA’s highest rated teams, owning a lead midway through the third quarter before No. 3 Thomas More University (Ky.) exerted its will in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday (Dec. 19). The Saints outscored Concordia, 41-19, over the game’s final 17 minutes and won, 84-67.
Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad also took on top-ranked Campbellsville University (Ky.) on Saturday as part of a two-game run at the Hoop N Surf Classic in Honolulu. The Bulldogs will come back home at 8-6 overall while having played one of the nation’s most challenging schedules to date.
“Thomas More is really, really good,” Olson said. “They’re very sound and balanced. I loved how we came out at the start of the first quarter and third quarter. We’re just not quite there yet. We’re still learning what it takes to be an elite team – and that’s what we played the last two games. Those are teams that are extremely experienced. We’re still growing as a team. When you play a team like this, you have a few lapses and it costs you.”
There were spurts that showed Concordia’s potential for matching up with an opponent like Thomas More. The Bulldogs rattled off the game’s first eight points, led by as many as 11 points and also started hot after halftime with the help of Rylee Pauli. The Omaha native banked four points and assisted a Taysha Rushton trey as part of a 12-2 run that put Concordia in front, 48-43, early in the third quarter. Pauli finished with 16 points and six rebounds.
However, it was all Thomas More (12-1) from that point on. Just like the Bulldogs, the Saints can hit their foes with a strong wave of players off the bench. Thomas More wore down Concordia with its balance. Six Saints reached double figures with Zoie Barth and Courtney Hurst leading the way at 14 points apiece. The national runner up last season, Thomas More starts three players who were named to the 2021 all-national tournament team.
Rushton joined Pauli in double figures with 13 on 4-for-12 shooting. A day after notching her first career double-double, Kayla Luebbe paced the bench with nine points (3-for-5 from the floor). Similar to Saturday, the Bulldogs did not shoot with great efficiency. They finished Sunday’s contest at 36.2 percent (compared to 44.8 percent by the Saints) and struggled from the foul line (15-for-27). Thomas More also owned a 44-36 advantage in rebounding.
The aim is to build upon these games and for the Bulldogs to round into form after New Year’s. Said Olson, “This is by far the toughest 14 games that we’ve ever been through. I think it’s great for our team. I think it’s great for them to see what’s out there and see how close we are. We’ve been right there with Campbellsville and the really good teams in the GPAC. I know this team is so close and if we just keep fine-tuning some things and work together, I think we’re in for an awesome second semester. I think our players believe that too.”
The team will have the full day in Hawaii on Monday to take in more sights and experiences. It had also planned a luau for Sunday night. Added Olson, “We take these trips to see what the elite teams are like and to go experience something. Most of our players will probably never come back to Hawaii. We want them to live it up and have fun.”
Next time the Bulldogs take the court, the calendar will have flipped to 2022. After a break for Christmas, Concordia will focus its attention upon a New Year’s Day clash with Doane (7-7, 2-5 GPAC) in a matchup that will tip off at 2 p.m. CT from Friedrich Arena. The Bulldogs have won each of the past 10 meetings with the Tigers.
Dec. 27, 2021
SEWARD, Neb. – It will be back to the friendly confines of Friedrich Arena for the 22nd-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team. The Bulldogs are preparing to host Doane on New Year's Day in what will be their first action since playing two highly rated foes at the Hoop N Surf Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii (Dec. 18-19). Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad stands at 8-6 overall (5-3 GPAC) having played one of the more challenging schedules of any team in the NAIA.
By the numbers
· At the Hoop N Surf Classic, Concordia fell by scores of 64-57 to No. 1 Campbellsville University (Ky.) and 84-67 to No. 3 Thomas More University (Ky.). In the matchup with the NAIA’s top-ranked team, the Bulldogs got as close as four points (54-50) in the fourth quarter while being led off the bench by Kayla Luebbe (15 points and 10 rebounds) and Sadie Powell (11 points and seven rebounds). Concordia just didn’t have enough offensive firepower in a game it shot 3-for-23 from beyond the arc. The Tigers got a game high 14 points from Kaitlyn Wilks and limited the Bulldogs to 35.1 percent shooting from the floor.
· In game two in Hawaii, the Bulldogs came out hot in both the first and third quarters and owned a lead as large as five points (48-43) in the second half versus Thomas More, the 2020-21 NAIA national runner up. Rylee Pauli starred for Concordia in supplying 16 points and six rebounds. Taysha Rushton also added 13 points. On the downside, the Bulldogs again shot south of 40 percent (.362) from the floor. While putting six players in double figures, the Saints outscored Concordia, 19-11, in the fourth quarter and pulled away. This marked the first trip to Hawaii for the program since the 2016-17 season.
· The schedule in the first half of the regular season has made the Bulldogs a battled tested squad. They have already taken on eight teams ranked inside the current NAIA top 25: No. 1 Campbellsville, No. 3 Thomas More, No. 6 Wayland Baptist University (Texas), No. 9 Sterling College (Kan.), No. 10 Morningside, No. 13 Northwestern, No. 17 Dakota State University (S.D.) and No. 23 Briar Cliff. According to Massey Ratings, Concordia has played the NAIA’s ninth most challenging schedule to date. The Bulldogs remain the lone team to defeat Wayland Baptist (13-1) this season.
· Even for Concordia, this has been a uniquely balanced team. Olson has put to use two distinctive waves of groupings throughout much of the first half of the season. The team’s leading scorer is Rushton at 15.6 points per game. She has been joined in the starting lineup by Pauli (8.6), Lauren Baker (7.7), Abby Heemstra (7.2) and Bailey Conrad (5.6). The second grouping has often included Powell (7.2), Luebbe (6.8), Taylor Farrell (6.4), Mackenzie Toomey (5.5) and Kendal Brigham (5.1). The team’s depth has been a strength despite injuries to veterans Abby Aplaca and Mackenzie Koepke.
· Through 14 games, the Bulldogs are averaging 76.0 points while posting shooting percentages of 41.3 from the floor, 33.2 from 3-point range and 66.8 from the foul line. On the other end, Concordia foes are averaging 71.5 points with shooting percentages of 40.9 from the field, 30.7 from beyond the arc and 74.9 from the charity stripe. Offensively, the Bulldogs sport national rankings of 40th in scoring average and 81st in field goal percentage. Concordia has gone 6-1 at home, 2-3 in true road games and 0-2 in neutral site contests.
After going 5-20 last season (and 2-25 in 2019-20), Doane stands at 7-7 with a quality win over College of Saint Mary. Now in his third season, Head Coach Ryan Baumgartner has helped bring stability back to the program. Freshman Mak Hatcliff of Beatrice, Neb., has been a major difference maker for the Tigers. She is the current GPAC scoring leader at 20.0 points per game. Hatcliff has helped the team ramp up its scoring average from 63.0 in 2020-21 to 71.9 so far this season. Doane is 1-3 in true road games and will attempt to snap a 10-game series losing streak to Concordia when the two sides meet on Saturday. Before heading to Seward, the Tigers will be at Waldorf University (Iowa) on Wednesday.
GPAC play heats back up next week as the Bulldogs are slated to play at Mount Marty on Jan. 5 before returning home to host Dakota Wesleyan on Jan. 8.
Jan. 1, 2022
SEWARD, Neb. – An improved Doane team and a lethargic first half made for a survival Saturday for the 22nd-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team. Eventually the Bulldogs exerted some degree of control of overtime while knocking off the rust from a layoff of 12 days without a game. Concordia held the Tigers to a 31.3 shooting percentage and exhaled with a 76-70 New Year’s Day victory inside Friedrich Arena.
Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad has won each of its last four outings within conference play and has moved to 9-6 overall (6-3 GPAC). The latest wasn’t a thing of beauty, but it was a win the Bulldogs had to have at home.
“I thought our team showed a lot of heart and toughness – just found a way to win,” Olson said. “That’s what really matters. When you’re not at your best and you don’t have everyone, you can still find a way to win. I think that’s a great sign. First game back (from break), we’re going to be a little rusty. Doane played us really tough and hit some big shots when they needed it.”
With star guard Taysha Rushton sidelined, Sadie Powell helped save the bacon. She struck for career highs in points (21) and rebounds (10) while supplying production at those moments when it felt like pulling teeth. Credit to Doane for making Concordia sweat, especially considering the lopsided nature of recent series meetings. A layup by the Tigers’ Mak Hatcliff forced the overtime session after the Bulldogs had led by eight points (55-47) in the fourth quarter.
Finally, in the closing minute of overtime, the Bulldogs put Doane (8-8, 2-6 GPAC) away thanks to a series of defensive stops and clutch free shooting. Rylee Pauli, Kendal Brigham and Bailey Conrad each went 2-for-2 from the charity stripe over the final 66 seconds. Meanwhile, Powell notched six of her 21 points in overtime. She was also a major factor in the OT win over then 12th-ranked Northwestern.
What fueled her on Saturday? Said Powell, “My mindset and determination. With any team we have to be ready to go. I was just being aggressive and taking it to the hole.”
There wasn’t a lot of flow on a day when Concordia was whistled for 22 fouls. Free throw shooting allowed Doane to hang tight from wire-to-wire. The Tigers made 23-of-28 shots from the foul line and got a game high 24 points from impressive freshman Mak Hatcliff, the GPAC’s leading scorer. Hatcliff and company made it a challenge for the Bulldogs to put the ball in the bucket. The Tigers even supplied regular full-court pressure.
Concordia finished at 37.7 percent (26-for-69) from the floor. Double figure scorers included Taylor Farrell (11), Conrad (10) and Pauli (10). Conrad added six assists. As the starter in place of Rushton, Mackenzie Toomey used her nonstop motor to fill the stat sheet with nine points, nine rebounds and four steals. Off the bench, Brigham chipped in with nine points. The Bulldogs trailed by as many as seven points in the first half.
“I thought Toomey played great,” Olson said. “She played really hard. We have to keep her out of foul trouble, but she made a big impact. Bailey Conrad really stepped up and looked to score a little bit more. A lot of people stepped up. Willy (Farrell) hit some shots, Kendal hit some shots and Sadie was awesome.”
The Bulldogs will return to action on Wednesday for a trip to Yankton, S.D., and a 6 p.m. CT matchup with Mount Marty (2-14, 1-8 GPAC). In this season’s first meeting, Concordia routed the Lancers, 88-53, in Seward. The Bulldogs have won each of the past 11 get-togethers with Mount Marty.
Jan. 3, 2022
SEWARD, Neb. – After surviving a scare on New Year’s Day, the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team returns to a full week of conference action. The 22nd-ranked Bulldogs will go for a season sweep of Mount Marty on Wednesday before hosting Dakota Wesleyan on Saturday. Head Coach Drew Olson’ squad has moved to 9-6 overall (6-3 GPAC) while having won four conference games in a row. The latest was a 76-70 overtime squeaker over Doane.
By the numbers
· Concordia went 12 days without a game between the Hoop N Surf Classic (Dec. 18-19) in Hawaii and the New Year’s Day home clash with Doane. The Bulldogs had dominated recent matchups with the Tigers, but nothing came easy in this particular meeting. Without Taysha Rushton, Sadie Powell emerged in a big way and produced career highs of 21 points and 10 rebounds. Concordia managed to edge Doane while holding it to 31.3 percent shooting and forcing 21 turnovers. Other Bulldogs to crack double figures in scoring included Taylor Farrell (11), Bailey Conrad (10) and Rylee Pauli (10). In addition, Mackenzie Toomey (started in place of Rushton) posted nine points, nine rebounds and four steals and Kendal Brigham notched nine points.
· The four-game win streak within the league includes victories over Northwestern, 84-82 in OT, Mount Marty, 88-53, Hastings, 91-69, and Doane. Three of those four wins have come at home, pushing Concordia’s home record to 7-1 on the season. Entering the week, the Bulldogs are one of five teams in the GPAC with three or fewer conference defeats. The others are Morningside (7-1), Dakota Wesleyan (6-2), Northwestern (5-3) and Briar Cliff (5-3). The Mustangs are the reigning GPAC regular season and postseason champs.
· Rushton had started each of the first 45 games of her collegiate career and is expected back in the lineup soon. The native of Midland, Texas, leads the team in scoring at 15.6 points per game. After Rushton, Concordia finds ways to score with a whole lot of balance. Nine of her teammates average 5.0 or more points per game: Pauli (8.7), Powell (8.1), Lauren Baker (7.1), Abby Heemstra (7.0), Farrell (6.7), Kayla Luebbe (6.5), Conrad (5.9), Toomey (5.7) and Brigham (5.0). Seven different players have led the Bulldogs in scoring in at least one game this season.
· A theme that has held consistent from year-to-year has been Concordia’s affinity for shooting the three. Nationally, the Bulldogs currently rank 19th in 3-point attempts per game (26.5), 21st in made 3-point shots per game (8.6) and 54th in 3-point field goal percentage (.325). Seven players have knocked down at least 10 treys so far this season: Rushton (28/100), Baker (22/41), Farrell (20/54), Brigham (16/45), Conrad (13/51), Toomey (11/41) and Powell (10/25). Rushton figures to heat up from long range. She shot 34.3 percent (73-for-213) from beyond the arc during the 2020-21 season.
· Halfway through the regular season, Concordia has played one of the NAIA’s most challenging schedules. Based on the most recent NAIA coaches’ poll (released on Dec. 15), the Bulldogs have gone up against eight top 25 opponents: No. 1 Campbellsville (Ky.), No. 3 Thomas More (Ky.), No. 6 Wayland Baptist (Texas), No. 9 Sterling (Kan.), No. 10 Morningside, No. 13 Northwestern, No. 17 Dakota State (S.D.) and No. 23 Briar Cliff. The Bulldogs have collected three wins against those opponents, including the road victory over Wayland Baptist, which was ranked No. 3 at the time.
· Among GPAC teams, Concordia ranks second in scoring offense (76.2), fifth in field goal percentage defense (.403), fifth in turnovers forced per game (17.7), sixth in field goal percentage offense (.411), seventh in rebound margin (+0.4) and 10th in scoring defense (71.6). On the individual conference leaderboard, Baker ranks first in 3-point field goal percentage (.537), Conrad ranks first in assists per game (4.8), Pauli ranks fourth in field goal percentage (.571) and eighth in rebounds per game (6.9) and Rushton ranks seventh in scoring (15.6).
Mount Marty has struggled to a 2-14 record and fell by a lopsided final score, 72-48, versus Dordt on New Year’s Day. The Lancers rank last in the GPAC in both scoring offense (50.9) and field goal percentage offense (.351). Head Coach Todd Schlimgen’s squad picked up its lone GPAC win back on Dec. 1, triumphing over Midland, 74-67. The team’s top scorer has been Eve Millar, who averages 9.9 points per game. With Concordia’s win over Mount Marty on Dec. 8, it extended its series win streak to 11.
If Dakota Wesleyan can protect its home court against No. 23 Briar Cliff on Wednesday, it will bring a 12-game win streak to Seward on Saturday. Head Coach Jason Christensen led the program to five-straight national tournament appearances (including a national title in 2018) from the 2015-16 through 2019-20 seasons. This year’s edition has plenty of balance in the scoring department with post players Matti Reiner (13.1) and Jada Campbell (12.9) leading the way. The Tiger frontcourt is a handful. DWU tops the GPAC in rebound margin at plus-10.2 per game. The Tigers haven’t dropped a regular season game since their 78-75 overtime defeat at Jamestown on Nov. 17. Concordia has managed to win 11 of the past 13 matchups with Dakota Wesleyan.
Conference play will continue as the Bulldogs are set to host College of Saint Mary on Jan. 12 and then play at Jamestown on Jan. 15.
Jan. 5, 2022
YANKTON, S.D. – A close opening quarter gave way to a blowout GPAC road victory on Wednesday (Jan. 5) in Yankton, S.D. Following a one-game absence, star guard Taysha Rushton provided a scoring jolt while helping the 22nd-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team put Mount Marty away early in the second half. The Bulldogs defeated the Lancers by a final count of 83-58 inside Cimpl Arena.
Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad has run its conference win streak to five while moving to 7-3 in league play (10-6 overall). This one was much less dramatic than this past weekend’s 76-70 overtime triumph over Doane to open the calendar year 2022.
“It was great to see Taysha back. You can see the difference she makes on our team,” Olson said. “I feel like we still have to get back into a rhythm. Offensively there were times when we were really good and times when we were really bad. We are working on showing growth in terms of the little plays like the 50-50 balls that we should come up with or defensively when we let the ball go over the top. Hopefully we learn from it today and show it on Saturday.”
Concordia brushed off a 13-11 deficit late in the first quarter by dominating the second quarter and then opening the second half on an 8-0 run. Rushton and Kayla Luebbe served as the ringleaders offensively and the Lancers (27 turnovers) struggled to handle the ball on the other end. Rushton piled up 11 of her game high 27 points during a third quarter surge that put the Bulldogs up by 29 (66-37).
The potential is there for Concordia to be truly special when Rushton is rolling like this. She nailed 4-of-6 shots from 3-point range and knocked down 9-of-11 free throw tries on the night. The 27-point outburst marked her second highest scoring total of the season. Off the bench, Luebbe (13 points on 6-for-8 shooting) and Kendal Brigham (10 points) also cracked double figures while 11 Bulldogs registered in the scoring column.
Mount Marty (2-15, 1-9 GPAC) turned it over exactly 27 times in both defeats this season that came at the hands of Concordia. For the Bulldogs, Mackenzie Toomey (game high four steals) was as pesky as ever. In two separate instances, Toomey swiped a steal and immediately went to the rack for layups. Toomey and company limited the Lancers to 38.0 percent (19-for-50) shooting. Aubrey Twedt and Carlie Wetzel notched 10 points apiece for the host.
Meanwhile, Concordia shot 48.3 percent (29-for-60) from the floor and 78.3 percent (18-for-23) from the foul line. Abby Heemstra contributed nine points and three rebounds while Taylor Farrell added eight points and three assists. Rylee Pauli led the team with six rebounds and Bailey Conrad paced the victors with four assists. Toomey posted six points in addition to the four thefts.
The Bulldogs will be back at home on Saturday to host Dakota Wesleyan (14-3, 6-3 GPAC) at 2 p.m. CT. In action on Wednesday, the Tigers saw their 11-game win streak come to an end on Wednesday. They were defeated, 52-49, by No. 23 Briar Cliff. Concordia is 7-1 at home this season and has won 11 of the past 13 meetings with Dakota Wesleyan.
Said Olson, “I’m excited about Saturday. It’s going to be a fun game. Dakota Wesleyan is playing really well. They’re very well-coached. I know our kids will be up for it.”
Jan. 8, 2022
SEWARD, Neb. – This may have been as complete of a performance as the 22nd-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team has put together this season. The Bulldogs shot 50.7 percent from the floor and gave visiting Dakota Wesleyan fits with their zone defense in the 90-58 home win on Saturday (Jan. 8) afternoon inside Friedrich Arena. Mackenzie Toomey posted a career high 19 points and Concordia used a 17-0 second quarter surge to run away with it.
Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad has won six-straight conference games to move to 11-6 overall (8-3 GPAC). The Bulldogs currently reside in second place in the GPAC.
“I saw a lot of fight and toughness,” said Olson of the second quarter run. “Really impressed with how well we played defensively. It allowed us to get out and run in transition and get a lot of easy baskets in that run. That was a lot of fun. I didn’t expect a game like that, but it just showed what we’re capable of.”
By halftime, Concordia had already exerted its will. With just under four minutes left in the second quarter, the Tigers trailed by just four. The Bulldogs proceeded to get microwave oven hot while staking themselves to a 45-24 halftime advantage. During the 17-0 run, Kendal Brigham notched five points in a row before Toomey followed with seven-consecutive tallies. It all happened in a blur that featured smothering defensive play transitioning into open layups and treys.
One of the team’s best defensive players, Toomey (4-for-5 from 3-point range) also showcased her offensive game on Saturday. The Lincoln Southeast product eclipsed a career high point total in the first half alone and added five rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot. Then in the second half, Taysha Rushton got on a roll in flurrying for 14 of her 18 points. In the frontcourt, Kayla Luebbe emerged in a big way and totaled 11 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots.
“We really just played together really well,” Toomey said. “We worked the ball well and everyone was unselfish today. We had wide open shots and our defense was really good.”
Dakota Wesleyan (14-4, 6-4 GPAC) boasts one of the top frontcourts in the league and entered play leading the GPAC in rebound margin. This just wasn’t their day. The Tigers had only one double figure scorer (Rynn Osthus with 13 points) and got outrebounded, 45-39. Leading scorer Jada Campbell was limited to two points (0-for-4 from the field). DWU never did figure out how to crack the zone on a day when it shot 29.4 percent from the floor.
Before falling twice this week, the Tigers had won 11-straight games. It would have been an exceptional challenge for any visiting foe to beat the Bulldogs on this particular day. Said Olson, “I expected a close game and a dogfight. Thankfully our players came ready to play and really responded … Toomey had an awesome game, especially in that first half. Kendal just continues to play with courage and fire away. It’s really awesome to see.”
Ten Bulldogs broke into the scoring column in the victory. Brigham finished with nine points and three rebounds while Lauren Baker added eight points. Three players collected exactly seven points: Taylor Farrell, Abby Krieser and Sadie Powell. In control of the offense, Bailey Conrad dished out seven assists. Abby Heemstra shared a team high with six rebounds. Luebbe and Rylee Pauli blocked three shots apiece as part of a nine-rejection team performance.
The Bulldogs will remain at home and host College of Saint Mary (10-6, 4-6 GPAC) at 7 p.m. CT on Wednesday. Concordia has won each of the past 18 series meetings with the Flames. In action on Saturday, College of Saint Mary earned an 81-44 home win over Mount Marty. CSM has already far exceeded its win total from 2020-21 when it went 3-21 overall.
Jan. 10, 2022
SEWARD, Neb. – The 22nd-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team is fresh off a fine week that saw it blow out both Mount Marty and Dakota Wesleyan. The Bulldogs carry a six-game conference win streak into the week, which will feature matchups with College of Saint Mary and Jamestown. Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad currently resides in second place in the GPAC standings with an 8-3 league mark (11-6 overall). Concordia is a perfect 3-0 since the calendar flipped to 2022.
By the numbers
· Mount Marty was the first repeat conference opponent the 2021-22 schedule. The Bulldogs earned a season sweep of the Lancers while taking an 83-58 victory in Yankton, S.D., on Jan. 5. After sitting out the overtime win over Doane on New Year's Day, star guard Taysha Rushton returned to the lineup and scorched Mount Marty with a 27-point outburst. Kayla Luebbe (13) and Kendal Brigham (10) also reached double figures in scoring while coming off the bench. Concordia shot 48.3 percent (29-for-60) from the floor and flustered the Lancers into 27 turnovers. Eleven Bulldogs registered in the scoring column.
· Brigham and Mackenzie Toomey took the lead on a 17-0 run that closed the first half as part of the 90-58 home win over Dakota Wesleyan on Jan. 8. Toomey had already achieved a career point total by halftime and finished with 19 points, five rebounds and two steals. In addition, Rushton poured in 18 points (8-for-14 from the floor) and Luebbe filled the stat sheet with 11 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots. Another five Bulldogs scored seven or more points, including Brigham (nine), Lauren Baker (eight), Taylor Farrell (seven), Abby Krieser (seven) and Sadie Powell (seven). Bailey Conrad did her part with seven assists and Concordia shot 50.7 percent (35-for-69) from the floor while playing a hounding zone defense that held the Tigers to 29.4 percent (20-for-68) shooting.
· Rushton is on a fast track in terms of joining the program’s 1,000-point club. She’s already piled up 708 points over her first 47 career collegiate games. The Midland, Texas, native has boosted her scoring average from 14.4 points per game last season to 16.4 this season. Last week was an encouraging sign as she made 15-of-28 shots from the floor in an efficient couple of outings. Rushton is also contributing 2.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.5 steals per game. She was named First Team All-GPAC last season along with Taylor Cockerill, who happened to eclipse 1,500 career points last week as she plays her final collegiate season at NCAA Division II St. Edwards University of Austin, Texas.
· Toomey, who has made seven starts this season, has become a super sub. Not only did she get loose for a career high in the win over Dakota Wesleyan, she also added six points, four rebounds and four steals at Mount Marty. The Lincoln Southeast High School product leads the team in steals and ranks fifth among GPAC players with an average of 2.18 steals per game. Toomey is one of 10 Bulldogs averaging at least 5.4 points per game on the season. Her previous high for points in a game was 15 at Morningside back on Dec. 1.
· After three-straight games with shooting percentages below 40, Concordia heated up last week in shooting above 48 percent in both outings. Overall this season, the Bulldogs have been a relatively efficient team in shooting 42.0 percent from the floor and 32.9 percent from beyond the arc. Concordia ranks as a solid 3-point shooting team nationally, currently checking in at 20th in 3-point field goals per game (8.6) and 49th in 3-point field goal percentage (.329). Seven different Bulldogs have nailed at least 10 treys, led by 33 3-point field goals by Rushton (33-for-109). Baker has continued to be efficient from 3-point range, making 24-of-46 (.522) 3-point tries.
· The Bulldogs remain at No. 22 in the NAIA national poll with the most recent rankings have come out on Dec. 15. Since the release of that poll, Concordia has gone 3-2 with the two defeats being handed out by No. 1 Campbellsville University (Ky.) and No. 3 Thomas More University (Ky.) in action in Honolulu, Hawaii (Dec. 18-19). Based upon those results, Concordia stands a good chance at remaining in the top 25 that will be unveiled on Wednesday. According to Massey Ratings, the Bulldogs have played the 12th most challenging schedule in the NAIA so far. The profile for Concordia includes victories over No. 6 Wayland Baptist University (Texas), No. 13 Northwestern and No. 17 Dakota State University (S.D.), using the current rankings.
College of Saint Mary is vastly improved as Head Coach Kirk Walker (fourth season) has upgraded the program. At 10-6 overall, the Flames have already far exceeded their win total from last season when they went 3-21. CSM won’t typically play at the same fast pace as Concordia, but it has become a more capable scoring squad (67.4 ppg) behind Honnah Leo (11.8 ppg) and Alyssa Marsh-Contreras (11.8 ppg). The latter is a transfer from Peru State College. Most significantly, the Flames earned a 78-69 win at then 22nd-ranked Dordt on Dec. 1. CSM is coming off an 81-44 home win over Mount Marty this past weekend. The Flames last defeated Concordia on Nov. 15, 2005. Since then, the Bulldogs have won each of the past 18 series meetings.
Jamestown will host No. 23 Briar Cliff on Wednesday as it looks to shrug off a three-game skid. The Jimmies have begun 2022 with a difficult slate, going up against Morningside, Northwestern and Dordt. Jamestown gave Concordia all it could handle on Nov. 23 when Rushton’s buzzer beater lifted the Bulldogs to a 69-67 win. This will be yet another meeting between Drew Olson and Thad Sankey, former Concordia Men’s Basketball teammates. Sankey’s squad is 7-1 at home and boasts stars in Hannah DeMars (14.3 ppg) and Kia Tower (12.4 ppg). Jamestown’s most impressive win to date was a 78-75 overtime triumph over Dakota Wesleyan. The Bulldogs will be attempting to extend a series win streak against the Jimmies that stands at 13. Each of the last three matchups have been decided by margins of six points or less.
Concordia will draw the GPAC’s two highest rated teams next week as it hosts No. 10 Morningside on Jan. 19 and then travels to No. 13 Northwestern on Jan. 22.
Jan. 12, 2022
SEWARD, Neb. – A flurry to open the game allowed the 19th-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team to play with a double-digit lead for most of Wednesday (Jan. 12) night. The likes of Sadie Powell and Mackenzie Toomey were clear aggressors as the Bulldogs protected the home court, 87-58, while up against College of Saint Mary. A beastly 53-31 advantage on the boards characterized the night for red hot Concordia.
Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad has won seven in a row within GPAC play to move to 9-3 inside the conference (12-6 overall). The Bulldogs are 9-1 at home this season.
“It was a good win,” Olson said. “Without Bailey Conrad we didn’t really know what to expect, but I though our team came out and played really well to start. We were a little bit sluggish in the second quarter when they went zone, but overall it was a great game. Just looking at the rebounding, you can tell how hard we played when we outrebound them by 22.”
It may have looked a little sideways in the New Year’s Day overtime win, but Concordia has since steamrolled its way through three-straight conference opponents. A much-improved CSM squad already owned a road win over Dordt this season. The Flames ignited a flicker of hope midway through the second quarter on Wednesday when their switch to a 2-3 zone got them within seven (24-17). A scoring drought of five minutes proved to be a minor hiccup for the Bulldogs.
Powell was terrific once again in gliding to the bucket for a game high 19 points. Concordia solved the zone while shooting 47.5 percent from the floor in a 52-point second half. CSM had not typically experienced such issues on the boards, but that area of the game was a major issue inside Friedrich Arena. Seven Bulldogs grabbed five or more rebounds, led by the career high 12 boards from Toomey. The Lincoln Southeast product also posted 13 points, five steals and three assists in what amounted to her first career double-double.
Season scoring leader Taysha Rushton also did her thing in stuffing the stat sheet with 18 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and two steals. The torrid shooting Texan was responsible for three of the team’s nine made 3-point baskets. In addition, Rylee Pauli chipped in six points and seven rebounds, Taylor Farrell netted eight points, Kayla Luebbe contributed seven points, five rebounds and two blocks and Abby Heemstra supplied six points and five boards. Powell notched six boards.
Things appear to be coming together. Said Olson, “The consistency is starting to get there, which is awesome. Sadie’s been phenomenal and Mackenzie Toomey over the last four games has been really, really good. It’s just great to see good balance from our whole team. We like what we’re doing – we’re getting better every day.”
The Flames (10-7, 4-7 GPAC) got a nice performance off the bench from Madelyn Turner, who turned in a team high 17 points (3-for-6 from beyond the arc). However, CSM was plagued by its 22 turnovers and rebounding woes. Twenty of the Concordia rebounds were of the offensive variety. It all added up to the Bulldogs pushing their series win streak over the Flames to 19 (dating back to the 2005-06 season).
Concordia will depart on Friday as it treks north for Saturday’s matchup at Jamestown (11-8, 4-7 GPAC). Tipoff from Newman Arena in North Dakota is set for 2 p.m. CT. The Bulldogs have won each of the past 13 series meetings with the most recent one coming down to the wire. Rushton’s buzzer beater lifted Concordia to a 69-67 victory on Nov. 23.
Jan. 15, 2022
JAMESTOWN, N.D. – The Concordia University Women’s Basketball team had its seven-game GPAC win streak snapped on Saturday (Jan. 15) in a road contest against a sneaky good Jamestown foe. After a solid start, the 19th-ranked Bulldogs saw their eight-point lead slip away in the second quarter and were forced to play catch up the rest of the way. Concordia was never able to retake the lead and ultimately fell, 65-51.
With the loss, Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad moves to 9-4 in conference play and 12-7 overall. Olson attributed some of the offensive struggles to missing steadying guard Bailey Conrad.
“A lot of things contributed to our struggles offensively,” Olson said. “We really miss having Bailey Conrad. I thought we had a typical road game for a young team that was out of sorts and wasn’t able to gather themselves. We had a couple really good games in a row and maybe we thought it was just going to continue to be like that. It’s something we have to learn from. We have to be more locked in on the road in the GPAC.”
Turnovers played a key role in the outcome as the Bulldogs committed 17 of them compared to only nine by the Jimmies. Taysha Rushton kept fighting throughout and led the Bulldogs in scoring with 16 points while adding three assists and three rebounds to her effort. Sadie Powell was the only other player in double figures for Concordia with 11 points. Powell also snagged five rebounds. Rylee Pauli emerged with a team high 10 rebounds. Both Kayla Luebbe and Kendal Brigham added nine points each off the Bulldog bench.
Concordia managed to shoot only 30.5 percent (18-for-59) from the field compared to the Jimmies' 42.4 percent (25-for-59). Jamestown was automatic from the free-throw line going 9-for-10 (all attempts late in the game), while the Bulldogs were barely over 50 percent (7-13). Concordia did manage to outrebound the Jimmies, 43-34, in the losing effort. The 51 points scored by the Bulldogs were a season low.
Jamestown, who is coached by Concordia alum Thad Sankey, improves to 5-7 in the GPAC and 12-8 overall with the win. This snapped the Jimmies’ four-game losing streak. Hannah DeMars topped all players with 21 points while Kia Tower supplied 15 points. Sankey’s team had experienced a run of close defeats recently, including Wednesday’s 66-65 home nail-biter against Briar Cliff.
Olson credited Sankey’s bunch for wanting it more. Said Olson, “We started off well and then let them back in and gave them life. At that point, they just wanted it more. I expected them to be super hungry.”
The Bulldogs return to Friedrich Arena on Wednesday to face the eighth-ranked Morningside (15-3, 11- GPAC). The two squads last met a little over a month ago in Sioux City, Iowa. Concordia fell in that contest, 89-83, despite 24 points from Lauren Baker. Tipoff on Wednesday is set for 6 p.m. CT.
Jan. 17, 2022
SEWARD, Neb. – From a ratings perspective, this week will be as challenging as it gets in GPAC play for the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team. The 19th-ranked Bulldogs will welcome No. 8 Morningside to Friedrich Arena on Wednesday prior to traveling to No. 14 Northwestern on Saturday. Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad is coming off a week that saw it dominate College of Saint Mary, 87-58, at home and then struggle in the 65-51 loss at Jamestown. Concordia owns an overall mark of 12-7 and a league record of 9-4.
By the numbers
· At 9-4 in the GPAC, the Bulldogs enter the week in third place in the conference standings with Morningside (11-1) and Northwestern (9-3) situated above them. In addition, Dakota Wesleyan (8-4), Briar Cliff (8-4) and Dordt (7-5) are right on the heels of Concordia. In the NAIA national poll released last week, the Bulldogs moved up three spots to No. 19. They have been included in each of this season’s first five official NAIA polls, appearing at No. 9 in the preseason before landing at 21st (Nov. 17), 25th (Dec. 1), 22nd (Dec. 15) and 19th (Jan. 12). As a program, Concordia has been ranked in 106 of the past 107 NAIA coaches’ polls.
· The win over College of Saint Mary on Jan. 12 saw the Bulldogs put together their best rebounding effort of the season. Concordia outmuscled the Flames in that department, 53-31, while getting at least five boards from six players: Mackenzie Toomey (12), Rylee Pauli (seven), Taysha Rushton (seven), Sadie Powell (six), Abby Heemstra (five) and Kayla Luebbe (five). Toomey also posted 13 points, five steals and three assists while recording her first career double-double. Rushton filled the stat sheet with 18 points and nine assists in nearly producing a triple-double. Powell paced the team with 19 points and Taylor Farrell also added eight points off the bench.
· The contest at Jamestown looked much different as the Bulldogs shot only 30.5 percent (18-for-59) from the floor and committed 17 turnovers. Another solid rebounding performance (43-34) couldn’t save Concordia, which had two players in double figures: Rushton (16) and Powell (11). On the other end, the Jimmies leaned upon the talents of Hannah DeMars (21 points and seven rebounds) and Kia Tower (15 points). The result put an end to the Bulldogs’ seven-game GPAC win streak and halted what had been a four-game skid for Jamestown (12-8, 5-7 GPAC). Concordia alum Thad Sankey is in his fourth season as head coach of the Jimmies.
· The emergence of Powell is worth further discussion. The native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has started each of the past three games and has responded with respective point totals of seven, 19 and 11. Powell is now the team’s second leading scorer this season with an average of 8.5 points per game. Her production was especially critical in the overtime win over Doane on New Year's Day when she put up 21 points and 10 rebounds. Now in her second collegiate season, Powell has taken on an increased role after she averaged 3.2 points in 25 games in 2020-21.
· With the win over College of Saint Mary, the Bulldogs improved to 9-1 at home this season (the lone defeat came against Sterling College on Nov. 5). That home success is a continuation of what has occurred throughout Olson’s tenure. Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Concordia owns a home mark of 153-14 (.916). During that stretch, the Bulldogs have gone whole seasons without falling at home, like they did in 2016-17 (17-0), 2017-18 (15-0) and 2019-20 (16-0). The class of players that played from 2016 through 2020 went 63-1 at home over their careers.
· It was a solid week for Rushton, who ranks fourth among GPAC players in scoring at 16.5 points per game. While shouldering even more of a load in the absence of Bailey Conrad, Rushton totaled a combined 34 points and 12 assists to go against four turnovers in 74 minutes. Rushton played the entire 40 minutes at Jamestown. Over 49 career collegiate games, Rushton has piled up 742 points. On the season, Rushton sports shooting percentages of 36.3 from the field, 30.6 from 3-point range and 74.1 from the foul line.
Morningside is in the driver’s seat as it attempts to defend its GPAC title from last season. Head Coach Jamie Sale’s squad has suffered only one defeat in conference play – a 78-77 loss at Northwestern on Dec. 11. The Mustangs will carry a seven-game win streak into Wednesday’s action. In the team’s 101-69 win over Doane this past weekend, reigning GPAC Player of the Year Sierra Mitchell broke the program’s career scoring record. Her career point total now stands at 2,348. Morningside leads the GPAC in scoring average at 82.1 points per game. Mitchell (16.1 ppg) and Sophia Peppers (15.1 ppg) are the biggest stars of the show. The Mustangs have played their last six games without Taylor Rodenburgh. There are more than 1,000 career coaching victories between Olson and Sale. The latter got the upper hand in this season’s matchup in Sioux City, Iowa, 89-83.
It’s been a fine first season as head coach at Northwestern for Kristin Rotert. The Red Raiders have won seven of their last eight outings with the lone loss coming against Dakota Wesleyan. Northwestern boasts one of the league’s top post players in Molly Schany, who is averaging 15.9 points and 6.7 rebounds. Three of her teammates also average double figures in scoring: Devyn Kemble (13.3), Jada Cunningham (11.0) and Taylor VanderVelde (10.2). Among conference teams, the Red Raiders rank third in scoring offense (74.9) and second in scoring defense (61.7). Northwestern will be out to avenge its 84-82 overtime loss at Concordia on Dec. 4.
The Bulldogs will host Hastings on Jan. 26. They were originally scheduled to put on the Concordia Invitational Tournament the weekend of Jan. 28-29, but the event was canceled.
Jan. 19, 2022
SEWARD, Neb. – On an evening when neither team was at its best on the offensive end, the 19th-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team let an opportunity slip through its fingers. The Bulldogs rallied from a deficit as large as 15 points to eventually force overtime while up against No. 8 Morningside. In the end, Sierra Mitchell and the Mustangs left Friedrich Arena with a 68-62 victory on Wednesday (Jan. 19).
Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad had already won two overtime home games this season. The defeat on Wednesday dropped Concordia to 12-8 overall and to 9-5 in league play.
“I thought we fought really hard,” Olson said. “We didn’t just let down when we got down big early in the game. We continued to fight, but I think we know we have to perform better. That was the difference. They stepped up and hit some big shots in overtime – and we’ve got to be able to do the same throughout the game.”
Considering all that went wrong with an early rash of turnovers and inept outside shooting (1-for-17 from 3-point range at one point), the Bulldogs felt fortunate to force the extra session. In the closing seconds of regulation, Kayla Luebbe tied the game with a put-back bucket and Concordia got a stop on the other end. The Seward High School product Luebbe made her first career start and responded by equaling a career high with 20 points on 9-for-10 shooting from the floor. She added seven rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals.
The overtime did not start well as Mitchell and Sophia Peppers went back-to-back with corner treys and a 10-0 run gave Morningside a 64-54 lead. Mitchell started slow but eventually caught fire and led her side with 16 points. In addition, McKenna Sims burned Concordia with four 3-point field goals. On their end of things, the Mustangs (16-3, 12-1 GPAC) likely felt like they didn’t slam the door when they had their chances in the second half. Head Coach Jamie Sale’s squad shot only 33.3 percent for the game.
About a month and a half earlier, the two sides played a much different game that resulted in an 89-83 victory for Morningside. Said Olson, “Both teams are really good shooting teams. Tonight both of us really didn’t have it. We had our moments – Morningside hit a couple threes to start overtime and we make a couple at the end of overtime. Some days you shoot it well and some days you don’t.”
The Mustangs seemingly had control of this clash of perennial GPAC titans when they went on a 16-0 surge that supplied a 15-point lead. The Bulldogs still trailed by nine (43-34) to begin the fourth quarter. In helping lead the comeback effort, Taysha Rushton got going late and finished with 13 points and three steals. After missing back-to-back games, Bailey Conrad returned to the lineup and posted six points, six rebounds and five assists. Off the bench, Mackenzie Toomey recorded eight points and Sadie Powell contributed six points, five rebounds and four steals.
Luebbe’s 20 points tied the career high that she also notched last season against Morningside. Luebbe has become a tremendous low post scorer. Said Olson, “She’s a great player and I think she’s starting to figure that out.”
The Bulldogs will be on the road on Saturday for a trip to No. 14 Northwestern (18-3, 10-3 GPAC). The contest will tip off at 2 p.m. CT from Orange City, Iowa. Concordia will attempt to earn a season sweep of the Red Raiders after having edged them in overtime, 84-82, on Dec. 4. The Bulldogs have won each of the past seven series meetings.
Jan. 22, 2022
ORANGE CITY, Iowa – The Concordia University Women’s Basketball team couldn’t quite get over the hump on Saturday (Jan. 22) afternoon, as it fell to 14th-ranked Northwestern. Although the No. 19 Bulldogs tied the game late in the fourth quarter, they missed out on potential buckets in the clutch and lost, 74-68. Concordia competed closely the whole way, tying the score on seven different occasions, but failed to grab a lead.
With the loss Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad slipped to 12-9 overall (9-6 GPAC). Coach Olson thinks believes his team is on the cusp of turning the corner in these types of games. The Bulldogs also dropped an overtime decision to No. 8 Morningside on Wednesday.
“We started off slow again. They did a really nice job against our zone and we switched to zone, and I thought we did a great job competing,” Olson said. “We battled back to get within striking distance at halftime. Third quarter was a great game back and forth – same with the fourth. We just could never get over the hump and get the lead. Late in the game, we just couldn’t get the stop after we tied the game. It’s two games in a row we’ve played great teams. To beat a great team you have to step and make plays. We didn’t do it today, but I like how our team is fighting and competing. We’re right there.”
Taysha Ruston had a big day for the Bulldogs, scoring 26 points and snagging four rebounds (12th career game of 20 or more points). Mackenzie Toomey was the only other player in double figures, coming off the bench and scoring 10 points. Toomey also led Concordia in rebounds with seven. Kayla Luebbe chipped in with nine points and three rebounds. Sadie Powell had seven points in the contest while also grabbing three rebounds and blocking two shots. Taylor Farrell added eight points and four rebounds.
Said Olson, “Taysha played really well – great aggressiveness. Willy (Farrell) was really good. (Rylee) Pauli plays her tail off inside. We had a lot of people play well. We need a few people to step up and knock down a big shot. We didn’t do it today, but I think we will in the future. We just have to stay the course.”
Concordia, normally competitive on the boards, was outrebounded 46-35 in the contest. The Raiders (19-3, 11-3 GPAC) were able to steal nine offensive rebounds, which led to 14 second chance points. The Bulldogs shot 18.2 percent (4-for-22) from the three-point line, including an 0-for-6 stretch to start the game and an 0-for-8 stretch in the fourth quarter. Northwestern also struggled from beyond the arc, shooting just 20 percent (4-for-20).
The Raiders were led by Taylor VanderVelde, who had had 16 points, 13 rebounds and five assists in the game. Molly Schany also put up a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Two other Northwestern players were in double figures: Devyn Kemble with 12 and Maddie Jones with 10. Emilee Danner also chipped in for the Raiders with 10 rebounds and seven points.
Concordia returns home on Wednesday night (Jan. 26) to take on Hastings (10-10, 6-8 GPAC). The two teams met earlier in the season where the Bulldogs handled the Broncos comfortably, 91-69. Wednesday’s game is set to tip off at 6 p.m. CT inside Friedrich Arena.
Jan. 24, 2022
SEWARD, Neb. – After pushing both No. 8 Morningside and No. 14 Northwestern to the wire in losses last week, the 19th-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team has shifted focus to Wednesday’s home matchup with Hastings. This will be the final contest of the month of January. The Bulldogs will have the weekend off due to the cancellation of the Concordia Invitational Tournament. Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad stands at 12-9 overall and at 9-6 in league play.
By the numbers
· In the current GPAC standings, the Bulldogs reside in sixth place but are just a half-game behind three teams tied for third place: Briar Cliff (9-5), Dakota Wesleyan (9-5) and Dordt (9-5). Morningside (13-1) remains in the driver’s seat as it looks to defend its 2020-21 GPAC regular season title. The overall résumé remains solid for Concordia, which owns three wins over teams currently ranked in the NAIA top 25: No. 9 Wayland Baptist University (Texas), No. 14 Northwestern and No. 21 Dakota State University (S.D.). In the official calculations released by the NAIA (prior to last week’s action), the Bulldogs’ strength of schedule ranked fifth best in the nation. Concordia has played six games against the current NAIA top 10.
· Struggles on the offensive end were the main culprit in preventing the Bulldogs from upsetting Morningside on Jan. 19. Concordia fought back admirably from a 15-point second quarter deficit and forced overtime in what resulted in a 68-62 loss in front of this season’s largest home crowd. Kayla Luebbe emerged with a game high 20 points (equaled a career high) on 9-for-10 shooting from the floor. Taysha Rushton got going late in the game and finished with 13 points. After a slow start, Mustang star Sierra Mitchell heated up and led her side with 16 points. Morningside has now won each of the past six meetings with the Bulldogs.
· A seven-game series win steak for Concordia was snapped in the 74-68 loss at Northwestern on Jan. 22. The Bulldogs played the Red Raiders to a 62-62 tie through the first 34 minutes before the home team buckled down defensively. Rushton led the charge for Concordia in racking up 26 points on 10-for-22 shooting from the floor. Mackenzie Toomey (10 points and seven rebounds) was the only other Bulldog to reach double figures. Off the bench, Luebbe completed a rock solid week with nine points and three rebounds. Both teams were off the mark from 3-point range – 4-for-22 for Concordia and 4-for-20 for Northwestern. The Red Raiders got a strong performance from Taylor VanderVelde, who notched 16 points and 13 rebounds.
· Rushton accumulated 39 points on the week. Her 26-point performance at Northwestern marked the 12th time in her career that she has reached 20 or more in a game. Her single game career high remains the 32 points she scored in this season’s opener against Bellevue. At 16.8 points per game, Rushton ranks tied for third among GPAC players in that category, trailing only Doane’s Mak Hatcliff (23.1) and Dordt’s Ashtyn Veerbeek (18.7). Through 51 career collegiate games, Rushton has amassed 781 points. That total ranks No. 1 among current Bulldogs. The team’s next leading scorer after Rushton is Sadie Powell at 8.3 points per game.
· It isn’t rocket science. When the shots have fallen, Concordia has shown it can beat really good teams and even blow some of them out (like the 90-58 home win over Dakota Wesleyan). Over the current three-game skid, the Bulldogs have shot below 40 percent each time out. Even with some of those struggles, Concordia ranks second among GPAC teams in scoring offense (75.4 ppg). In terms of shooting percentages, the Bulldogs sport conference rankings of seventh in overall field goal percentage (.411), sixth in 3-point field goal percentage (.310) and eighth in free throw percentage (.681).
· Luebbe has been a real challenge to contain once she catches the ball in the post. She’s shooting 56.7 percent from the floor and averaging 8.0 points per game. The matchup against Morningside has often been a favorable one for the native of Bee, Neb. Her 20-point game last week tied the career high she also had in the regular season meeting at Morningside last season. In addition, Luebbe posted 15 points on 7-for-7 shooting versus Morningside at the 2021 national tournament. Luebbe has now scored seven or more points in each of the last six games. She is the team leader with 17 blocked shots this season.
It’s been an up-and-down season for Hastings, which is attempting to ensure it remains in a top-eight position in the GPAC standings (in order to qualify for the conference tournament). Since a 6-1 start, the Broncos are 4-9 over their last 13 games, however, last week’s 74-50 thumping of Dakota Wesleyan was an encouraging sign. Head Coach Jina Douglas’ top players include Riley Clavel (11.2), Taylor Beacom (11.1 ppg) and Ali Smith (10.2). Through 20 games, Hastings is averaging 70.3 points while allowing 68.8 points per game. In this season’s meeting on Dec. 11, the Bulldogs were sharp while shooting 54.7 percent in a 91-69 Concordia win. The Bulldogs have won five series meetings in a row.
Concordia will get back to playing twice in the GPAC next week, which features a trip to Midland on Feb. 2 and then a home game with Dordt on Feb. 5.
Jan. 26, 2022
SEWARD, Neb. – The 23rd-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team never did find an offensive rhythm on Wednesday (Jan. 26) while up against a strong defensive-minded Hastings opponent. The visiting Broncos dominated the fourth quarter (27-14 in scoring) and emerged from Friedrich Arena with a 68-60 upset win. The Bulldogs shot 35.7 percent for the game while struggling to crack a stingy Hastings zone defense.
Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad has dropped four-straight conference outings while closing out the month of January. Concordia has fallen to 12-10 overall and to 9-7 in league play.
Hastings (11-10, 7-8 GPAC) has gained some steam with victories in three of its last four games. Thanks in part to the work of Katharine Hamburger (20 points and eight rebounds) in the post, the Broncos made this a much different game than the one on Dec. 11 when the Bulldogs ran away with a 91-69 victory in Hastings. In the latest go-round, the contest saw 12 ties and seven lead changes. It was a three-point spread (61-58) in the final two minutes before Concordia came up empty on a series of possessions and the Broncos put it away at the foul line.
While making her first career start, Taylor Farrell attempted to take the jumper cables to the Bulldog offensive locomotive. Willy went 5-for-7 from 3-point range and helped keep Concordia afloat at times. Farrell finished with 17 points. She and Taysha Rushton were responsible for most of the offensive production. Rushton poured in 22 points (7-for-18 from the floor) and blocked two shots. It marked the 13th time Rushton has reached the 20-point mark in her career. Rylee Pauli filled the stat sheet with six points, 10 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocked shots.
For Hastings, this was its most significant win of the campaign. The Bulldogs had won each of the previous five meetings with the Broncos. Three teammates joined Hamburger in double figures in scoring: Kiernan Paulk (14), Taylor Beacom (12) and Riley Clavel (10). Hastings shot 40.4 percent (23-for-57) from the floor and enjoyed an advantage at the foul line, making 17-of-23 compared to 10-for-18 free throw shooting by the Bulldogs.
Concordia will be off this weekend while looking ahead to next Wednesday (Feb. 2)’s matchup at Midland (8-14, 4-11 GPAC). Tipoff from the Wikert Event Center is set for 6 p.m. CT. In this season’s first meeting, Concordia shot 50 percent from the floor on the way to a 93-52 blowout win inside Friedrich Arena.
Jan. 31, 2022
SEWARD, Neb. – The Bulldogs are hoping that a bit of a mental break this past weekend will help them refocus and refresh for the final month of the regular season. The 23rd-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team closed the month of January with four-straight losses, including two in tight games to the GPAC’s highest rated teams. In last week’s action, the Bulldogs were upset at home by Hastings, 68-60. Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad enters the week tied for sixth place in the GPAC standings at 9-7 in league play (12-10 overall).
By the numbers
· Entering the week, Concordia finds itself looking up in the GPAC standings at Morningside (15-1), Northwestern (11-5), Dordt (11-5), Briar Cliff (10-6) and Dakota Wesleyan (10-6). The Bulldogs are tied with Jamestown (9-7). At the top of the heap, the Mustangs appear poised to defend their 2020-21 GPAC regular season title. As for Dordt, it started out a disappointing 2-5 in league play, but has caught fire (11-game win streak) behind star Ashtyn Veerbeek, who averages 18.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Wednesday’s foe, Midland (4-12 GPAC), will need a flurry of wins down the stretch in order to have a shot at qualifying for the eight-team GPAC tournament.
· This is unfamiliar territory for a Concordia program that has been one of the very best in the NAIA during Olson’s 16 seasons. As a sign of the program’s consistency, the Bulldogs have dropped four games in a row within the same season for the first time since the 2006-07 campaign (Olson’s first as head coach). It should be noted that the 2015-16 team lost its final three games before the 2016-17 edition fell in its season opener. Prior to the current skid, Concordia had won seven-straight GPAC games and stood at 9-3 in conference play. The 90-58 blowout of Dakota Wesleyan on Jan. 8 was an indication of what the Bulldogs are capable of when the shots are falling.
· However, it’s been a struggle on the offensive end over the last four outings. Just a bit more firepower and Concordia could have easily turned some of the recent losses in the other direction. Over the past four games, the Bulldogs have posted respective shooting percentages of 30.5, 35.8, 39.1 and 35.7. That stretch has resulted in Concordia slipping to eighth among GPAC teams in field goal percentage offense (.409). The Bulldogs rank sixth in the conference in 3-point field goal percentage (.312). In terms of scoring average, Concordia (74.7 ppg) remains second in the GPAC behind only Morningside (79.9).
· Taylor Farrell started for the first time in her career and responded last week by going 5-for-7 from 3-point range in the loss to Hastings. The bulk of the offensive production in that contest came from Farrell (17 points) and Taysha Rushton (game high 22 points; 13th career game with 20-plus points). On the other end, the Bulldogs struggled to contain post player Katharine Hamburger, who totaled 20 points and eight rebounds. The results have been uneven lately for the Broncos (11-11, 7-9 GPAC), who recently throttled Dakota Wesleyan, 74-50, and got pummeled at home by Dordt, 77-34.
· Concordia likely needs two wins this week to have a shot at remaining inside the NAIA top 25 poll that will be released next week. One dynamic working in the Bulldogs’ favor is their strength of schedule. In the official calculation released by the NAIA in mid-January, Concordia’s SOS ranked fifth best in the entire NAIA. Based on the current top 25, the Bulldogs have beaten three ranked teams: No. 12 Wayland Baptist University (Texas), No. 13 Northwestern and No. 24 Dakota State University (S.D.). Concordia has played eight games against opponents ranked 13th or higher.
· Olson has tweaked the starting group at times in an effort to provide a spark. As mentioned, Farrell jumped into the lineup against Hastings. The Omaha native has been an accurate deep shooter during her collegiate career. Farrell has made 30-of-82 (.366) attempts from 3-point range this season and is a career 40 percent (106-for-265) 3-point shooter. Farrell became the 10th different Bulldog to start a game this season. Rylee Pauli is the lone player to have started all 22 games this season.
Midland will enter Wednesday’s game having dropped seven of its last eight games, including last week’s losses to Briar Cliff and Doane. The Warriors own two solid wins within conference play having defeated Jamestown and Dordt at home. Head Coach Shawn Gilbert’s squad is 3-5 this season at the Wikert Event Center. Midland leans heavily upon Peyton Wingert (17.2 ppg) in the scoring department. Among GPAC players, Wingert ranks second in rebounding and third in scoring. Concordia would be happy to duplicate the result from the Nov. 17 meeting between the two sides. The Bulldogs won in Seward, 93-52.
Dordt is as hot as any team in the conference. Head Coach Bill Harmsen’s squad has not suffered a defeat since Dec. 11. The 11-game win streak has vaulted the Defenders all the way into a tie for second place in the GPAC standings. A transfer from the University of Nebraska, Ashtyn Veerbeek will likely be in the running for GPAC Player of the Year accolades. Veerbeek and company have been a strong defensive club that has limited opponents to 64.6 points per game and 38.7 percent shooting. This will be a challenging week for the Defenders, who will host Morningside on Wednesday. Back on Nov. 20, Dordt defeated Concordia, 69-60.
Two short road trips are coming up next week as the Bulldogs will be at Doane on Feb. 9 and then at College of Saint Mary on Feb. 12. After this week, Concordia will have just one home game remaining in the regular season.
Feb. 2, 2022
FREMONT, Neb. – Taysha Rushton got loose early and the confidence came rushing back for the 23rd-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team. Whatever frustrations were left from last week were taken out on Midland on Wednesday (Feb. 2). The Bulldogs mounted a 25-point lead in the first half, shot 54.5 percent for the game and cruised to a 101-57 victory in Fremont, Neb. Concordia blew out the Warriors for the second time this season.
A refresher over the weekend may have been just what Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad needed. The Bulldogs have ended a four-game skid while moving to 13-10 overall (10-7 GPAC).
“We had a great response to the two weeks that we went through – the grind that we went through,” Olson said. “Having a week off, I thought our players really played well and played great team basketball. It obviously helps when Taysha plays like that. She was incredible, on a whole other level. It was a great team effort. Offensively, we shared the ball and that was great to see.”
A 5-foot-4 do-it-all guard from Midland, Texas, Rushton put forth her best Caitlin Clark impression while breaking out for 31 points (one shy of a career high) on 13-for-19 shooting from the floor, including 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Rushton reached double figures in the first five minutes, had 17 points after the opening quarter and went to the halftime break sporting 26 tallies – two short of a program record for one half. She then played just sparingly in the fourth quarter with the outcome well in hand.
This contest had a lot of the same feel to it as the Nov. 17 Concordia-Midland matchup that resulted in a 93-52 Bulldog victory. Just like the earlier meeting, Concordia put the game away in the first half. Consider the offensive struggles a thing of the past. On Wednesday, seeing the ball go through the net became contagious. Thirteen different Bulldogs registered in the scoring column. The visitors were also the aggressor on the boards, owning a 48-34 advantage in that department.
In the post, Concordia’s Rylee Pauli enjoyed one of her finer statistical games of the season in supplying 11 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, two steals and a blocked shot. Sadie Powell also reached double figures in scoring while posting 13 points on 6-for-12 shooting. Off the bench, Mackenzie Toomey (nine), Abby Heemstra (eight) and Abby Krieser (seven) followed close behind in scoring. In addition, Bailey Conrad dished out seven assists and Rushton added six steals, four assists and four rebounds to her stat line.
Midland’s brightest star, Peyton Wingert, finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, though she went only 2-for-11 from the floor. Erin Prusa also collected 14 points. As a team, the Warriors shot a rough 26.3 percent (15-for-57) from the floor. Now 1-8 in its last nine games, Midland (8-16, 4-13 GPAC) is looking like a longshot to reach the GPAC tournament.
The Warriors aren’t the only team to struggle defending Rushton. Said Olson, “Everybody sees the shots going in, but for me, it was her mindset of attack mode. She had a really positive attitude throughout. It carries over to the rest of the team. She’s a big part of our team and a big leader of the team. I think we responded because of her.”
The Bulldogs will return to Friedrich Arena on Saturday to host Dordt (19-6, 12-5 GPAC) in a contest scheduled for a 2 p.m. CT tipoff. Way back on Nov. 20, Concordia dropped a 69-60 decision in Sioux Center, Iowa. In Wednesday’s action, the Defenders pushed their winning streak to 12 by upsetting No. 8 Morningside, 85-73.
Feb. 5, 2022
SEWARD, Neb. – The Dordt Defenders narrowly escaped Fredrich Arena with their win streak intact on Saturday (Feb. 5). The 23rd-ranked Concordia University Women’s Basketball team took a four-point lead into the fourth quarter but were outscored, 25-14, over the game’s final 10 minutes, ultimately falling 76-69. The Bulldogs slipped despite shooting a slightly higher percentage from the floor (48.6 to 46.3).
Concordia (13-11, 10-8 GPAC) has dropped five of its last six conference games, although the past week was encouraging having also included a blowout win at Midland. Considering that Dordt has been one of the nation’s hottest teams, Head Coach Drew Olson was not disappointed in the way his squad played in the loss.
Said Olson, “(Dordt) is a really good basketball team. They showed their toughness down the stretch, and to win in this league you have to have that. I thought it was two really good teams playing great basketball – they were just the more disciplined team down the stretch and probably just a little more mentally tough than us. I felt like our team played pretty well. I’m not disappointed in them. We’ve just got to keep working at getting better and we’ll be right there.”
Taysha Ruston led the Bulldogs in scoring with 20 points, managing to go 3-for-7 behind the arc in the contest. Sadie Powell put together a solid performance, scoring 19 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Bailey Conrad was the only other Bulldog in double figures with 11 points and was two assists short of a double-double with eight. Already a terrific defender, Abby Krieser came off the bench to add two 3-pointers, finishing with six points. Concordia shot just over 48 percent from the field and 30 percent from behind the arc on the afternoon.
“You can see the progress there,” Olson said. “We’re just continuing to look for that consistency. If Sadie (Powell) and Mackenzie (Toomey), and others can play that well every day, we're in really good shape. I'm really proud of AK (Krieser). She’s worked very hard and is starting to get some opportunities and is taking advantage of those opportunities.”
Dordt swept the season series against Concordia. With the win, the Defenders improve to 20-6 (13-5 GPAC) on the season. Two players scored 20-plus points for Dordt – Bailey Beckman with 26 and Karly Gustafson with 20. Gustafson also had 10 boards for the Defenders. Ashtyn Veerbeek also played a large role with 13 points and 9 rebounds. A candidate for GPAC Player of the Year honors, Veerbeek was held scoreless in the opening half before emerging down the stretch. Physically imposing Dordt owned a 40-25 advantage on the boards and shot 23-for-29 from the foul line.
The Bulldogs led by one (67-66) with less than three-and-a-half minutes remaining. Veerbeek went to work by powering in a layup in the final minute to make it 72-67. The Defender star also emerged with a key block that helped put the game away in the closing seconds. Concordia led by as many as 10 points in the first half.
Concordia will make the trip to Crete, Neb., on Wednesday to take on conference rival Doane (10-16, 4-14 GPAC). The Bulldogs narrowly survived the Tigers’ upset bid on New Year’s Day when the two sides battled into overtime (76-70 win). Tipoff from the Haddix Center is set for 6 p.m. CT.
Feb. 7, 2022
SEWARD, Neb. – A pair of short in-state road trips will make up this week’s slate for a Concordia University Women’s Basketball team hoping to put together a strong finish to the regular season. The Bulldogs are coming off an encouraging week that saw them blow out Midland, 101-57, on the road before a close home defeat, 76-69, at the hands of red hot Dordt. Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad stands at 13-11 overall and at 10-8 in conference play as it prepares to head to Doane on Wednesday and College of Saint Mary on Saturday.
By the numbers
· Realistically, it appears Concordia could still finish as high as fourth place in the GPAC standings. It currently resides in a tie with Jamestown for sixth place. The Bulldogs are looking up at Morningside (16-2), Dordt (13-5), Northwestern (13-5), Dakota Wesleyan (12-6) and Briar Cliff (11-7). Concordia will play two teams this week situated behind it in the standings and has games left against Briar Cliff and Dakota Wesleyan. At the top of the league, the Mustangs are one win away from clinching at least a share of the regular season title. Last season Morningside broke the Bulldogs’ stranglehold on the GPAC. Concordia swept regular season and postseason titles each season from 2016-17 through 2019-20.
· New analytical metrics were released by the NAIA at the beginning of last week. Despite a run of tough results, the Bulldogs continue to sport a strong overall profile. As of Jan. 30, Concordia had played the No. 1 schedule of any team in the NAIA. It also landed at No. 31 in the official NAIA ratings percentage index (RPI). Based on the RPI, the Bulldogs have played 11 games against the RPI top 50 and own wins over No. 18 Northwestern and No. 19 Wayland Baptist University (Texas). Concordia also boasts a victory over No. 53 Dakota State University (S.D.). In Massey Ratings (not an official NAIA calculation), the Bulldogs are ranked 22nd in the NAIA.
· The win at Midland on Feb. 2 was much needed after Concordia had dropped four games in a row. Behind Taysha Rushton, the Bulldogs sped out to a quick start in Fremont and owned a 20-point lead (51-31) at halftime. Rushton finished with 31 points (one off a career high) and had 10 points in the game’s first five minutes, 17 points by the end of the first quarter and 26 points by halftime. The school record for most points in one half was 28 by Bailey Morris on Feb. 15, 2014, when she set the still-intact program single-game scoring record of 45 points. Also in last week’s win over the Warriors, Rylee Pauli (11 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two steals) notched a double-double, Sadie Powell contributed 13 points and Bailey Conrad dished out seven assists.
· Dordt moved its win streak to 13 after it escaped Friedrich Arena with a 76-69 win over the weekend. Concordia owned a six-point lead (61-55) early in the fourth quarter but couldn’t close the deal. After being held scoreless in the first half, Defender star Ashtyn Veerbeek got going late and made a series of big plays down the stretch. Dordt overcame 20 points from Rushton and a 19-point, seven-rebound outing from Powell. The Defenders got a game high 26 points from Bailey Beckman and Karly Gustafson posted 20 points and 10 rebounds. The Bulldogs shot a rock-solid 48.3 percent from the floor but got outrebounded, 40-25.
· Rushton wound up with 51 points last week while shooting 21-for-35 (.600) from the floor, including 7-for-14 from 3-point range. At 17.8 points per game, Rushton ranks third in the GPAC in scoring average behind Doane’s Mak Hatcliff (23.2) and Dordt’s Veerbeek (18.5). Rushton has scored 20 or more points in four-straight games and has reached the 20-point mark 15 times in her career. Last week’s surge bumped up Rushton’s season shooting percentages. She’s now at 38.9 percent from the field, 31.7 percent from 3-point range and 74.8 percent from the foul line. If Rushton’s season scoring average holds up, it would mark the highest for a Bulldog since Bailey Morris averaged 18.5 points during her National Player of the Year season in 2014-15.
· Now in her second season as a starter (fourth season in the program), Pauli is closing in on 500 career rebounds. The Omaha native got minutes on the 2018-19 national championship team and has seen her role steadily increase since then. In 117 career collegiate games, Pauli has totaled 565 points, 489 rebounds and 159 steals. This season, Pauli is averaging 7.0 points and 6.9 rebounds and is the lone Bulldog to have started all 24 games. She ranks eighth in the GPAC in rebounding. The program overall record during Pauli’s career stands at 102-25.
Though winds have been hard to come by of late, Doane is a much better team than it was last season. With averages of 23.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, Mak Hatcliff would appear to be the obvious choice for GPAC Freshman of the Year. Considering the Tigers took Concordia to overtime on New Year’s Day (76-70 Bulldog win), they should have the full attention of the Bulldogs on Wednesday. In last week’s action, Head Coach Ryan Baumgartner’s squad fell at Hastings, 69-66, and at home to No. 13 Northwestern, 94-60. While Doane has been eliminated from GPAC tournament contention, a win over Concordia would help build momentum looking ahead to next season.
College of Saint Mary has also been taking its lumps within conference play as of late. Back on Jan. 12, the Flames were defeated handily, 87-58, in Seward. With 11 wins overall this season, Head Coach Kirk Walker’s program has far surpassed the three wins it posted in 2020-21. CSM prefers a lower possession game than Concordia. The Flames have been solid defensively in limiting foes to 64.5 points per game and 34.3 percent shooting. The team’s top scorer has been Alyssa Marsh-Contreras, who averages 12.2 points per game.
In the final week of the regular season, the Bulldogs will host Briar Cliff on Feb. 16 and then play at the Corn Palace where they will meet Dakota Wesleyan on Feb. 19.
Feb. 9, 2022
CRETE, Neb. – The offense looked stagnant and the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team struggled to contain prolific scorer Mak Hatcliff – for three quarters anyway. Time to unleash the press. The Bulldogs went full-blown gnats at a picnic while turning a 13-point second half deficit into a 74-63 road win over Doane on Wednesday (Feb. 9). Concordia forced 28 turnovers on the night and enjoyed a 28-10 scoring advantage in the final period.
In terms of national tournament prospects, Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad needed this one. The Bulldogs moved to 14-11 overall (11-8 GPAC) and have swept a tight season series with the Tigers.
“Doane’s a really tough team,” Olson said. “They’re a weird matchup because they have five guards out there. They spread you out and Mak Hatcliff is so good, but I was really impressed with our team’s ability to fight. We kept our composure – and the press paid off. We haven’t been able to press like that a whole lot this year. I think we’re starting to get better at it and it showed tonight. It was a huge part of our comeback.”
Taysha Rushton’s scoring in the first half kept Concordia afloat, but it was Kendal Brigham who tore Doane’s heart out in the second half. Brigham nailed a trey that tied the game, 59-59, with 6:29 left before she then drove for a layup that put the Bulldogs up for good. In the final three minutes, Brigham dropped in another triple that added the exclamation mark. The Wahoo, Neb., native totaled 17 of her team high 19 points after halftime.
Concordia’s full-court pressure turned the tide. The frustrations from Doane showed in the form of a rash of Bulldog steals in the backcourt, a five-second violation on an inbounds and a 10-second timeline violation. In the process of outscoring the Tigers 33-13 in points off turnovers, Concordia swiped 15 steals, including four by Sadie Powell. Brigham and Abby Krieser notched three thefts apiece.
In a span of roughly 15 minutes of game time, the Bulldogs had turned a 13-point deficit into a 13-point lead. Brigham sparked her side in the clutch. Said Olson, “I thought in the first half we got a lot of really good looks. We just couldn't make a shot. We had to keep spreading them out and eventually we were going to hit some threes. The pressure was able to get us some turnovers and some layups, which grew our confidence. Kendal was awesome.”
Rushton backed Brigham with 18 points and three assists while Powell posted 14 points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists. Before fouling out late, Rylee Pauli collected five points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two steals. Concordia managed to pull this one out despite a decided disadvantage on the boards, 45-29. It made 11-of-21 (.524) shots from the field in the fourth quarter.
Like the rest of the GPAC, the Bulldogs have bore witness to the star power of the freshman Hatcliff (who saw a wave of different Concordia players try their hand at guarding her). She piled up 31 points and 10 rebounds while going 12-for-15 from the floor. She didn’t quite get enough help offensively as Maddie Davis (10) was the only other Tiger to reach double figures. Doane (10-17, 4-15 GPAC) shot 45.7 percent (21-for-46) from the floor in its bid to knock off the Bulldogs for the first time since the 2015-16 season.
The Bulldogs will stay in state for another short road trip as they look ahead to Saturday’s 2 p.m. CT tipoff at College of Saint Mary (12-13, 6-13 GPAC). The two sides met inside Friedrich Arena on Jan. 12 with the result being an 87-58 Concordia win (19th-straight series victory). On Wednesday, the Flames earned an 82-72 road win over Midland.
Feb. 12, 2022
OMAHA, Neb. – With the help of a 12-2 run late in the first half on Saturday (Feb. 12), the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team successfully completed a 2-0 week on the road within the GPAC. Led by 22 points from Taysha Rushton, the Bulldogs handled host College of Saint Mary comfortably, 98-73, inside the Lied Fitness Center. Concordia scorched the nets by draining 14-of-26 3-point attempts.
The shooting clinic put on by the Bulldogs made for a much less harrowing 40 minutes as compared to three days earlier in the comeback win at Doane. With one week left in the regular season, Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad (15-11, 12-8 GPAC) is working on padding the resume for a hopeful national tournament bid.
“Taysha’s doing an awesome job and I think we’re starting to find ourselves and find a rhythm with each other,” Olson said. “It’s good to see that at this point in the season. The end of the second quarter and first half of the third quarter we made some nice runs, caused them to turn the ball over and got some layups and wide-open threes. We shared the ball well and made the extra pass. It looked like really good Bulldog Basketball.”
Not only were the perimeter shots falling, Concordia also flustered the Flames into 23 turnovers – after forcing 28 turnovers in the win at Doane. The Bulldogs are pressing more with certain personnel groups on the floor. The speeding up of opponents has brought energy to Concordia, which shot 58.5 percent (38-for-65) on Saturday. Rushton got going early and went 6-for-10 from deep as her efficiency continues to increase.
The star from Midland, Texas, got plenty of help from her teammates. Kendal Brigham polished off a monster week with 18 points (6-for-7 from the field) in 14 minutes at CSM. She also collected five assists and two steals and drained 4-of-5 attempts from 3-point range. She was one of nine Bulldogs with at least one steal on the afternoon. Bailey Conrad (six assists) and Rushton swiped three steals apiece. In the scoring column, Rylee Pauli (13) and Taylor Farrell (12) also reached double figures and Sadie Powell chipped in with nine points and seven rebounds. Pauli moved past 500 rebounds for her career.
The Concordia lead grew as large as 31 points in the middle of the fourth quarter (thanks to an 11-0 run that began in the third quarter). The commanding lead allowed everyone a chance to contribute. Late in the contest, Hanna Spearman and Taryn Tracy got into the act with a bucket apiece. Rushton played 26 minutes before passing the baton.
The loss eliminated College of Saint Mary (12-14, 6-14 GPAC) from GPAC tournament contention. The Flames were paced on Saturday by the 17 points from Bailey White and 13 points from Honnah Leo. Top scorer Alyssa Marsh-Contreras notched six points in 14 minutes. Though CSM will not be headed to the postseason, it improved significantly from last season’s 3-21 overall mark. The Bulldogs have now won each of the past 20 meetings with the Flames.
Concordia will host its final home game of the regular season on Wednesday when Briar Cliff (17-10, 13-7 GPAC) will be in town for a 6 p.m. CT tipoff inside Friedrich Arena. Concordia will recognize its senior class with a ceremony at halftime of the men’s game that evening. In this season’s first meeting, the Chargers held off the Bulldogs, 74-68, in Sioux City, Iowa, on Nov. 13.
Feb. 14, 2022
SEWARD, Neb. – Coming off a 2-0 week on the road, the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team now readies for its final home game of the 2021-22 regular season. The Bulldogs will honor a group of five seniors as part of a ceremony set to take place during halftime of the men’s basketball game on Wednesday when they will host Briar Cliff. The regular season will then conclude with a trip to the Corn Palace and a battle with Dakota Wesleyan on Saturday. Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad improved to 15-11 overall (12-8 GPAC) with wins last week over Doane and College of Saint Mary.
By the numbers
· Currently in sixth place in the GPAC standings, Concordia will work this week on boosting its seeding for the GPAC tournament set to begin with the quarterfinals on Feb. 23. Entering the week, the Bulldogs are looking up at Morningside (18-2), Dordt (15-5), Dakota Wesleyan (14-6), Northwestern (14-6) and Briar Cliff (13-7) in the GPAC pecking order. The top four seeds earn the right to host in the opening round of the conference tournament. In terms of the most recent ratings percentage index (Jan. 31), Concordia was fourth among GPAC teams at No. 31, trailing only No. 13 Morningside, No. 18 Northwestern and No. 28 Dordt.
· Last week was about taking care of business against two teams that have been eliminated from GPAC postseason contention. The Bulldogs rallied from a 13-point deficit at Doane and won, 74-63, on Feb. 9. Kendal Brigham poured in a career high 19 points while Taysha Rushton added 18 points. The unleashing of the press energized Concordia, which flustered the Tigers into 28 turnovers. Three days later, the Bulldogs traveled to Omaha and dominated College of Saint Mary, 98-73. Rushton dropped in 22 points and Brigham added 22 more. Other double figure scorers included Rylee Pauli (13) and Taylor Farrell (12). Concordia has now won each of its last three GPAC road games.
· The Wahoo High School product Brigham enjoyed the finest week of her collegiate career to date. In last week’s two wins, she combined for 37 points while shooting 13-for-19 from the floor and 8-for-11 from beyond the arc. She also collected seven assists and five steals for the week. All of that production came in a grand total of 41 minutes played. The outburst moved Brigham’s season scoring average to 6.2 and her season 3-point shooting percentage to 39.2 (31-for-79). She is one of nine Bulldogs averaging at least 5.0 points per game.
· Rushton has been on a tear of her own. Over the past six games, she’s scored at least 18 points in each outing and has averaged 23.2 points per contest. Her season point total now stands at 449, which surpasses the 445 she had as a freshman in 2020-21. If the Bulldogs can make a run in the postseason, Rushton just might hit the 1,000-point mark in her second collegiate season. She’s run her career point total to 894. Among GPAC players, Rushton ranks second in 3-point field goals (62) and third in scoring (18.0). The hot streak she’s put together has pushed her season shooting percentages to 39.3 from the floor and 33.0 from beyond the arc. Her 135 career 3-point field goals put her at No. 12 on the program’s all-time list.
· The seniors who will be recognized on Wednesday are Abby Aplaca, Mackenzie Koepke, Courtney Merryweather, Rylee Pauli and Chloe Schumacher. Pauli has the biggest role this season while starting all 26 games. She’s averaging 7.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Last week, Pauli moved past 500 career rebounds. Unfortunately for Aplaca and Koepke, injuries have kept them sidelined this season. Both Koepke and Pauli saw significant action for the 2018-19 team that won the NAIA Division II national championship. Over the past four seasons, the seniors have helped the program to a combined record of 104-25 and to national tournament appearances in each of the previous three seasons. Koepke was a starter last season and averaged 7.3 points and 5.6 rebounds.
· Concordia believes it remains in strong position for a potential at-large berth to the national tournament. While the overall record is a modest 15-11, the Bulldogs have played the most challenging schedule in the NAIA (according to the NAIA’s official metrics). Out of conference, Concordia defeated then 13th-ranked Dakota State University (S.D.) as part of the Cattle Classic and went on the road and took out then No. 3 Wayland Baptist University (Texas) on Nov. 27. Inside league play, the Bulldogs have earned quality wins over the likes of Dakota Wesleyan and Northwestern. Concordia will have opportunities for more quality victories this week.
Briar Cliff is also a hopeful national tournament qualifier. The Chargers’ signature wins have come over the likes of Dordt and Dakota Wesleyan. Among GPAC teams, Briar Cliff ranks eighth in scoring offense (68.2) and third in scoring defense (63.2). The standouts for Head Coach Brita Hand’s squad include Madelyn Deitchler (15.0 ppg / 6.7 rpg) and Konnor Sudmann (10.0 ppg / 3.3 rpg). The Chargers are coming off home wins over Hastings and Jamestown this past weekend. They will be aiming for a season sweep of the Bulldogs after having won the meeting in Sioux City, Iowa, 74-68, on Nov. 13.
Dakota Wesleyan is 4-0 in the month of February and carries a five-game win streak into the final week of the regular season. The Tigers will host No. 9 Morningside on Wednesday before welcoming Concordia to the Corn Palace on Saturday. DWU has been arguably the GPAC’s top defensive team and sports conference ranks of first in lowest opponent scoring average (57.3) and second in field goal percentage defense (.357). Those facts made the Bulldogs’ performance on Jan. 8 all the more impressive. Concordia shot 50.7 percent and routed the Tigers, 90-58, on that date. Head Coach Jason Christensen’s squad has a strong frontcourt led by the likes of Matti Reiner (12.7 ppg / 5.6 rpg) and Jada Campbell (12.0 ppg / 5.6 rpg).
GPAC tournament play will open on Feb. 23 with the quarterfinal round. Dates for the proceeding rounds are Feb. 26 for the semifinals and March 1 for the championship game. The highest seeds earn the right to host.
Feb. 17, 2022
SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University Women’s Basketball team seems to be getting hot at the right time, winning its third-straight game on Wednesday (Feb. 16) night while up against Briar Cliff. In their final regular-season appearance of 2021-22 inside Fredrich Arena, the Bulldogs executed defensively both in the half and full-court as part of a 62-43 win. They came out strong, leading 24-6 at the end of the first quarter, and never looked back. Concordia was not only playing for its seniors but also for GPAC tournament seeding and a potential at-large berth to the national tournament.
With the win, Head Coach Drew Olson's squad improved to 16-11 (13-8 GPAC). Concordia is now tied for fifth in the GPAC standings with a chance to place as high as fourth.
Said senior Rylee Pauli, “We came out focused with a lot of energy. We knew what we needed to do to get it done. It was awesome, especially in the first half shutting them down. “
Pauli collected 10 rebounds and also added five points in what might have been her final home game. Taysha Rushton did her usual, scoring 21 points including five three-pointers. Rushton has totaled 18 points or more in seven consecutive games. Taylor Farrell added 11 points and Bailey Conrad added four tallies and grabbed five rebounds. Sadie Powell had a big night, coming one point shy of a double-double. She had nine points, 12 rebounds and two steals.
The Bulldog seniors were honored at halftime of the men’s game. The five seniors have created a special bond. "It's been a very special bond," Pauli said. "Us five have toughed our way through all the injuries and everything. It's awesome – I've been able to do it with my best friends too. It's been a fun four years."
The Concordia defense had a stellar performance in holding the Chargers to just 43 points compared to the 74 points they allowed when the two teams met earlier in the season. Briar Cliff’s Madelyn Deitchler, who had 20 points when the two teams last met, was held to zero points. The Bulldogs also shot over 30 percent from behind the arc compared to the Chargers’ 16 percent.
Briar Cliff now also finds itself sitting at 13-8 in the GPAC as the regular season nears its end. Madisyn Rogan led the Chargers in scoring with 14 points. Kennedy Benne was the only other Charger in double figures with 11 points. She also grabbed five rebounds. Mya Hendry notched 11 rebounds. Briar Cliff made a grand total of 13 baskets for the entire night.
The Concordia senior class, in addition to Pauli, includes Abby Aplaca, Mackenzie Koepke, Courtney Merryweather and Chloe Schumacher. A Lincoln native, Schumacher got the start on Wednesday and scored the game’s first basket.
The Bulldogs will travel to Mitchell, S.D., on Saturday (Feb. 19) for their final regular-season game of the year, taking on Dakota Wesleyan at the Corn Palace. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. CT. The Tigers are currently sitting fourth in the GPAC with a conference record of 14-7. The two teams met just over a month ago in Seward, where the Concordia won, 90-58. With a win, Concordia would earn the GPAC’s No. 4 seed and the right to host a GPAC tournament quarterfinal game.
Feb. 19, 2022
MITCHELL, S.D. – The Concordia University Women’s Basketball team dug itself a 15-point hole, eventually rallied to take a late lead and just couldn’t close it out on Saturday (Feb. 19) at the Corn Palace. The Bulldogs missed out on a chance at hosting in the GPAC quarterfinals while falling to Dakota Wesleyan, 71-67. The Tigers held off Concordia despite a career high 20 points from Rylee Pauli.
Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad wrapped up the regular season with an overall record of 16-12 (13-9 GPAC). Concordia played one of its best games all season when it routed Dakota Wesleyan, 90-58, on Jan. 8. This time, it went down to the wire.
“I thought it was a great game, great battle,” Olson said. “Dakota Wesleyan did an awesome job against our zone and hit some shots we didn’t expect them to hit, so we had to get out of it. I was really proud of our team for how hard we fought. We got into our press and caused them some problems and allowed us to get back into the game. Ultimately, we had a one-point lead with about 2:30 left and just didn’t make the plays to win it.”
The Bulldogs took their first lead (65-64) of the night when Taysha Rushton banked home a trey with just over three minutes remaining. Three empty Concordia possessions in a row and 7-for-8 free throw shooting down the stretch by the Tigers made the difference. Rushton helped lead the comeback charge by totaling eight of her 19 points in the final quarter.
Meanwhile, Pauli was steady throughout the contest in putting up her 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting from the floor. She also made all four of her free throw attempts and collected eight rebounds, three steals and a blocked shot. Several statistical markers pointed in favor of the Bulldogs, who shot a higher percentage from the field (39.1 to 36.8) and were plus-eight in turnover margin. In addition, Sadie Powell contributed 12 points and four rebounds and Mackenzie Toomey (four steals) and Abby Krieser added eight points apiece.
The Tigers (23-7, 15-7 GPAC) did own a 41-33 advantage on the boards and they got a game high 21 points from Matti Reiner. Kaylee Kirk and Isabel Ihnen posted 15 points apiece. Not normally a strong 3-point shooting team, DWU went 9-for-27 (.333) from long range.
In the paint, Pauli put forth the type of effort that has become to be expected of the gritty veteran. She enjoyed one of the best games of her career while up against a strong opposing frontcourt.
Said Olson of Pauli, “She’s phenomenal. She’s such a smart, heady player that fights like crazy. She’s usually undersized as a post, but she just finds a way to get it done. She’s a winner and that’s why she’s playing the way she is.”
Saturday’s result means that Concordia will be the No. 6 seed in the conference tournament and will be right back at the Corn Palace on Wednesday. Tipoff from Mitchell, S.D., is set for 7 p.m. CT. The Bulldogs have advanced to the GPAC tournament championship game in each of the past five seasons.
Feb. 21, 2022
SEWARD, Neb. – The regular season has wrapped up as Concordia University Women’s Basketball and the rest of the GPAC now shifts focus to the conference tournament. As the No. 6 seed, the Bulldogs will be at third-seeded Dakota Wesleyan on Wednesday. Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad will be right back at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, S.D., where it dropped a 71-67 decision this past Saturday. Concordia went 16-12 overall (13-9 GPAC) during the 2021-22 regular season.
Wednesday, Feb. 23 at Dakota Wesleyan (23-7, 15-7 GPAC), 7 p.m.
--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.
By the numbers
· No matter the results this week, the Bulldogs have put themselves in good position for an at-large berth to the national tournament. The overall record is somewhat misleading in that Concordia has played the NAIA’s fourth most challenging schedule (according to the NAIA’s official calculations). The Bulldogs landed at No. 6 in the most recent North/Central ARC rankings and sport the No. 36 ranking in the official NAIA RPI. Using the RPI as a guide, Concordia owns wins over No. 7 Wayland Baptist (Texas), No. 22 Northwestern, No. 40 Briar Cliff, No. 50 Dakota Wesleyan and No. 52 Dakota State University (S.D.).
· Barring upsets in the conference tournament, the Bulldogs played their final home game of 2021-22 when they hosted Briar Cliff on Feb. 16. Concordia raced out to a 24-6 lead at the close of the first quarter before the final 30 minutes became more of a defensive slog. Incredibly, the Bulldogs limited the Chargers to 13 made baskets for the entire game and won, 62-43. The top scorers for Concordia were Taysha Rushton (21), Taylor Farrell (11) and Sadie Powell (nine). Powell also added 12 rebounds and Rylee Pauli hauled in 10 boards. The victory was an important one in terms of remaining above Briar Cliff in the ARC rankings.
· Three days later, the Bulldogs did not start out nearly as well and found themselves in a 15-point hole early in the second quarter at the Corn Palace. Concordia rallied and eventually took the lead (65-64) on Rushton’s banked 3-pointer with 3:10 left in the game. However, a series of empty offensive possessions and Dakota Wesleyan’s 7-for-8 foul shooting down the stretch made the difference. The Bulldogs were defeated despite shooting a higher percentage (39.1 to 36.8) and being plus-eight in turnovers. Pauli equaled a career high with 20 points (to go with eight rebounds and three steals) and Rushton (19) and Powell (12) reached double figures in scoring. Concordia was done in by its 3-for-20 performance from beyond the arc.
· With the Bulldogs making more liberal use of the press in recent games, the turnover counts have gone up for Concordia opponents. Over the past four outings, the Bulldogs have forced respective turnover totals of 28, 23, 22 and 19 for an average of 23.0 per game. On the season as a whole, Concordia foes have averaged 18.1 turnovers per game. Contrary to previous seasons, the Bulldogs rank towards the middle of the pack in the GPAC in steals per game at 7.5. Individually, Pauli and Mackenzie Toomey pace the team with averages of 1.8 thefts per contest (seventh in the GPAC).
· Rushton should have solidified another First Team All-GPAC selection with the way she closed the regular season. Over the final eight games of the regular season, Rushton averaged 22.4 points per game while shooting 44.9 percent (66-for-147) from the floor and 39.7 percent (29-for-73) from 3-point range. The Midland, Texas, native currently ranks third among GPAC players in scoring average at 18.1. The top two are Doane’s Mak Hatcliff (24.2) and Dordt’s Ashtyn Veerbeek (18.7). With 143 career 3-point field goals, Rushton already ranks No. 12 in program history in that category. She’s pushed her career point total to 934.
· GPAC tournament success has been the norm during Olson’s tenure. Concordia has appeared in each of the past five GPAC tournament title games and has captured conference postseason championships, under Olson, in 2012, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. A year ago, the Bulldogs toppled Dakota Wesleyan (quarterfinals) and Northwestern (semifinals) at home before falling in a nail-biter of a championship game, 67-65, at Morningside. Concordia and Dakota Wesleyan have met frequently in the GPAC tournament, including the championship games in 2017, 2018 and 2019 (all won by the Bulldogs). Prior to last season’s loss at Morningside, the program had strung together 14-straight GPAC tournament wins.
Surely both coaches will make adjustments, but there shouldn’t be a whole lot of surprises for either team considering the two rivals just met over the weekend. Head Coach Jason Christensen’s squad should also be a national tournament qualifier. The Tigers closed the regular season strong, winning six of their final seven (only loss coming against Morningside). As mentioned in this space last week, DWU ranks as perhaps the GPAC’s top defensive team. Within conference games, the Tigers led the GPAC in scoring defense (60.4) while ranking second in the conference in field goal percentage defense (.378). DWU’s strong frontcourt is led by the likes of Matti Reiner (13.3 ppg / 5.7 rpg) and Jada Campbell (11.7 ppg / 5.8 rpg). The two sides split their regular season meetings with Concordia winning 90-58 in Seward and the Tigers triumphing 71-67 in Mitchell.
GPAC tournament pairings
Quarterfinals – Wednesday, Feb. 23
(8) Hastings at (1) Morningside, 6 p.m.
(5) Briar Cliff at (4) Northwestern, 6 p.m.
(6) Concordia at (3) Dakota Wesleyan, 7 p.m.
(7) Jamestown at (2) Dordt, 6 p.m.
Semifinals – Saturday, Feb. 26
1/8 winner vs. 4/5 winner, time TBA
2/7 winner vs. 3/6 winner, time TBA
Championship – Tuesday, March 1
Highest seed hosts, time TBA
Feb. 23, 2022
MITCHELL, S.D. – Four days after ending the regular season at the Corn Palace, the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team found itself right back in Mitchell, S.D. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs were on the wrong end of the result once again in what amounted to a 68-52 GPAC tournament quarterfinal loss to Dakota Wesleyan on Wednesday (Feb. 23). As the GPAC’s No. 6 seed, Concordia opened this tournament in more of an underdog rule following GPAC tournament title appearances in each of the previous five seasons.
Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad now stands at 16-13 overall. Having played one of the nation’s most difficult schedules, the Bulldogs expect their season to continue with a national tournament bid. They will attempt to put Wednesday’s loss behind them.
“I thought we played hard, just not good enough against a great defensive team on their home floor,” Olson said. “We started off really well and had a lead going into the second quarter. We just struggled to get easy baskets – it just didn’t feel like the ball bounced our way. It was kind of bizarre at times. We played hard and we were right there. The final score wasn’t really indicative of how close the game was.”
Concordia was as close as seven points with fewer than five-and-a-half minutes remaining after Abby Krieser connected from the outside. A chance to get just a little bit closer was thwarted when a potential breakaway layup for the Bulldogs didn’t quite come to fruition and the Tigers capitalized with a trey to beat the shot clock buzzer. Concordia failed to make a basket over the final five minutes as the game slipped away.
A shooting percentage of 29.0 (18-for-62) gave the Bulldogs little margin for error. Taysha Rushton had a quiet first half before finishing with 13 points (4-for-12 from the floor). Sadie Powell equaled Rushton’s team high scoring output while adding three rebounds and two blocked shots. Off the bench, Mackenzie Toomey totaled 11 points, four rebounds and two steals. Foul trouble for Rylee Pauli compounded the team’s shooting struggles.
The Concordia press was unable to speed the game up in quite the way it wanted it to. Not only that, the Tigers (24-7) dominated the boards, 41-21. Four DWU players reached double figures in scoring led by 20 points from Jada Campbell. Teammate Matti Reiner (11 points, 11 rebounds) produced a double-double. The Tigers won two of three series matchups this season with the Bulldogs, who had the upper hand when the two sides met in Seward.
Concordia wound up plus-three in turnover margin, but it wasn’t enough to overcome its offensive issues or its rebound disadvantage. Said Olson, “Our press wasn’t as effective. They did a great job. They’re a good team and really well-coached.”
Dakota Wesleyan advanced to play in the GPAC semifinals on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs will wait for the national tournament selection show, which is scheduled to take place at 6 p.m. CT on Thursday, March 3. The opening round of the NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship tournament will be held March 11-12.
Mar. 2, 2022
SEWARD, Neb. – Another First Team All-GPAC award has been claimed by Taysha Rushton, who highlights a list of four all-conference honorees from Concordia University Women’s Basketball. The GPAC released its 2022 all-conference list on Wednesday (March 2) while recognizing 10 players on both the first and second teams. Honorable mention accolades were handed out to three Bulldogs: Rylee Pauli, Sadie Powell and Mackenzie Toomey.
2022 GPAC All-Conference
First Team: Taysha Rushton
Honorable Mention: Rylee Pauli, Sadie Powell, Mackenzie Toomey
A native of Midland, Texas, Rushton was also chosen to the conference’s first team in 2020-21. A prolific scorer from day one, Rushton is averaging 17.9 points per game this season, third most among GPAC players. She is shooting 38.7 percent from the field, 33.8 percent from 3-point range and 75.4 percent from the foul line. In addition, Rushton is averaging 2.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Over her first two seasons as a Bulldog, Rushton has piled up 947 points, 151 assists, 145 3-point field goals and 94 steals. Rushton poured in a career high 32 points in the season opener versus Bellevue and notched 31 points in the win at Midland. She’s reached the 20-point mark nine times this season.
A fourth-year player from Omaha, Pauli has started all 29 games this season and has averaged 7.2 points and a team best 7.0 rebounds per game. This is the second year in a row she has been named Honorable Mention All-GPAC. Pauli has shot 52.3 percent from the floor and 65.4 percent from the free throw line this season. In her career, Pauli has played in three national tournaments and was a member of the 2018-19 national championship team. Her career totals stand at 608 points, 525 rebounds, 168 steals, 124 assists and 45 blocked shots in 122 games. Her 20 points at Dakota Wesleyan in the regular season finale equaled a career high.
Powell has taken on an increased role in her second college basketball season. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native ranks second on the team in scoring average at 9.1 points while also pulling down 4.7 rebounds per game. She is shooting 48.7 percent from the field and 58.9 percent from the foul line. In the New Year’s Day win over Doane, Powell posted a career high 21 points to go along with 10 rebounds. She has reached double figures in scoring 12 times on the season.
One of the team’s best defenders, Toomey has earned her first career All-GPAC award. She is averaging 6.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.6 assists per game while playing in all 29 games (nine starts). The Lincoln Southeast High School alum is shooting 34.8 percent from the floor. Her 19 points in the home win over Dakota Wesleyan on Jan. 8 represented a career high. Toomey has swiped 83 steals in 54 career games at Concordia.
The Bulldogs are expected to earn an at-large bid to the national tournament. The official opening round pairings will be announced Thursday during the NAIA’s live selection show.
Mar. 3, 2022
SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University Women’s Basketball team felt pretty comfortable that it was going to earn an at-large berth into the field of 64 national qualifiers. Now they know for sure. Officially on Thursday (March 3), the Bulldogs were tabbed with a No. 9 seed and were assigned to Bowling Green, Ky., for the opening round of the 2022 NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship. Concordia will go up against eighth-seeded Benedictine College (Kan.) on Friday, March 11 as part of the opening round.
Head Coach Drew Olson has led the program to an 11th-straight national tournament appearance (14 over the past 15 seasons). If the Bulldogs can get past Benedictine in their opening game at the tournament, a potential rematch with top-seeded Campbellsville University (Ky.) awaits. Campbellsville will play 16th-seeded Rochester University (Mich.) in its opening game. Concordia and Campbellsville played each other earlier this season in Hawaii.
At the time of release, tipoff times were yet to be announced. The 16 winners from each of the four-team pods will advance to play at the final site, the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
How they got here …
When things go well, they go really well for the 2021-22 Concordia University Women’s Basketball team. Take for example, the road win over then No. 3 Wayland Baptist University (Texas), the overtime victory over then No. 12 Northwestern and the 90-58 home thrashing of national tournament qualifier Dakota Wesleyan. Those victories were vital in regards to the Bulldogs extending the program’s streak of consecutive national tournament appearances to 11 (and 14 appearances over the past 15 seasons).
The overall record of 16-13 won’t jump off the page, but it’s a bit misleading in that Concordia has played the fourth most challenging schedule of any team in the NAIA. Even with a young roster, Head Coach Drew Olson didn’t back away from the program’s mantra of playing anybody, anywhere.
Senior Rylee Pauli and company have already seen some of the best the NAIA has to offer. Said Pauli in mid-February, “It showed a lot of toughness (persevering through a challenging schedule). We have to be ready to go every single game. I feel like we’ve learned that this year. It’s been a rollercoaster of a ride. It’s gone up and down. Hopefully we can finish out on top.”
Indeed, this ’21-22 campaign has featured its share of twists and turns. Throughout the season, consistency has been a difficult concept to grasp. At one point, the Bulldogs won six GPAC games in a row and then followed that stretch with four-straight conference losses. In certain games, Concordia has looked like the vintage nationally prominent squads of recent seasons. After pummeling College of Saint Mary on the road in February, Olson commented that it looked like “really good Bulldog Basketball.” If the Bulldogs can bottle up the type of performance they displayed in the blowout of Dakota Wesleyan, they can make some noise on the national stage.
Star guard Taysha Rushton has already proven she’s ready for primetime. The Midland, Texas, native poured in 27 points in last season’s win over No. 4 Marian (Ind.) that pushed Concordia into the national quarterfinals. Rushton enters the national tournament averaging 17.9 points per game and on the heels of a white-hot finish to the regular season. Pauli scored 17 points in that same victory over Marian and was a member of the 2018-19 national championship team.
Nine players on the postseason roster possess national tournament experience. Prior experience or not, this group has found out what it’s like to go up against the best. The GPAC schedule is rigorous enough, but the Bulldogs also played teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2 (at the time) in Campbellsville University (Ky.) and Thomas More University (Ky.) as part of the Hawaii trip. In addition, it hosted top 25 foes Sterling College (Kan.) and Dakota State University (S.D.) at the Cattle Classic and ambushed highly rated Wayland Baptist on the road.
Said Olson late in February, “Our body of work, our resume has earned this opportunity. I’m excited about the chance to keep the season going.”
From game-to-game, Concordia has found unique ways to put together another successful season. While Rushton is clearly the go-to player, others have taken turns stepping forward. Rushton has often been one of three second-year players in the starting lineup, in addition to Bailey Conrad and Sadie Powell. The Bulldogs have also broken in freshmen such as Abby Heemstra and Abby Krieser.
Olson regularly goes 10 deep while attempting to hit the opponents in waves. All 10 of those Bulldogs average at least 4.6 points and double-digit minutes per game. Each of the following players have produced at least one game with 19 or more points: Rushton (high of 32), Lauren Baker (24), Sadie Powell (21), Kayla Luebbe (20), Pauli (20), Kendal Brigham (19), Heemstra (19) and Toomey (19).
Even through some of the inconsistency, Concordia has made strides that provide optimism for not just the 2022 national tournament, but also the 2022-23 season. Said Pauli, “It’s fun to see the growth of every player on this team. You can see it from last year to this year. Each one of them is stepping up when their name is called.”
Barring a decision to return and use the extra ‘COVID year,’ Pauli and her classmates will end their careers at the national tournament. It provides at least one more chance to create lasting memories. The class includes Abby Aplaca, Mackenzie Koepke, Courtney Merryweather and Chloe Schumacher. Said Pauli, “It’s been a very special bond. Us five have toughed it through the injuries and everything. I get to play basketball with my best friends. It’s been a fun four years.”
In conjunction with senior night back in February, Olson praised the seniors for helping lead a team with a lot of youth through the highs and lows that have been part of the journey. Said Olson, “It’s a great group that has had incredible buy-in throughout their careers – very selfless people that love our program. They’ve been a huge part of our success.”
National Tournament Facts
· In its first 20 appearances at the national championships, Concordia has posted a record of 37-18 with seven journeys to at least the national semifinals (three national championship game appearances). The Bulldogs are 14-6 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.
· Nine of the 15 players on Concordia’s national tournament roster have prior national tournament experience. That list includes Kendal Brigham, Bailey Conrad, Taylor Farrell, Kayla Luebbe, Rylee Pauli, Sadie Powell, Taysha Rushton, Chloe Schumacher and Mackenzie Toomey. Pauli has appeared at the national tournament in each of the past three seasons. She put together a memorable performance in last year’s 73-67 win over No. 4 Marian (Ind.). In that victory, Pauli notched 17 points and six rebounds. Meanwhile, Rushton topped all players with 27 points in the win. Pauli, Schumacher and Mackenzie Koepke (out with injury) were each part of the 2018-19 national championship team. Koepke has totaled 61 career points in national tournament games.
· Head Coach Drew Olson has been at the controls for each of Concordia’s past 14 national tournament appearances (including 2022). His record at the national tournament now stands at 26-11 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. Olson has won more national tournament games than any coach in school history (men’s or women’s programs).
· During the 2021-22 season to date, the Bulldogs played nine opponents that were ranked in the NAIA’s final coaches’ top 25 poll: No. 3 Thomas More (Ky.), No. 5 Campbellsville (Ky.), No. 6 Morningside (twice), No. 8 Wayland Baptist (Texas), No. 12 Sterling (Kan.), No. 21 Dordt (twice) and No. 24 Dakota State (S.D.). In addition, GPAC foes Northwestern and Dakota Wesleyan were situated just outside of the top 25. Heading into the national tournament, Concordia has played the No. 1 strength of schedule in the entire NAIA.
· 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.
Mar. 6, 2022
SEWARD, Neb. – Plans and preparations are in place for the Concordia University Women’s Basketball team to make its way to Bowling Green, Ky., for the opening round of the 2022 NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship. The Bulldogs were tabbed with a No. 9 seed and assigned to a four-team pod in Kentucky, where the Mid-South Conference and Campbellsville University will serve as the hosts. Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad will take on eighth-seeded Benedictine College (Kan.) at 4:30 p.m. CT on Friday.
Opening Round Info (March 11-12)
-Host: Mid-South Conference/Campbellsville University
-Site: Bowling Green High School (Bowling Green, Ky.)
-Tickets (must be purchased online): https://www.mid-southconference.org/hometown-ticketing
--NOTE: There are no attendance limits. Masking is recommended but not required.
-Live Streaming Link: https://campbellsvilletigers.com/watch/ (pay-per-view)
-Live Stats: Presto Stats
Friday, March 11: (9) Concordia (16-13) vs. (8) Benedictine (21-10), 4:30 p.m. CT
Friday, March 11: (1) Campbellsville (29-4) vs. (16) Rochester (23-9), 7 p.m. CT
Saturday, March 12: Concordia/Benedictine vs. Campbellsville/Rochester, 4 p.m. CT
(Opening Round Final – winner advances to the final site)
By the numbers
· NAIA basketball transitioned from two divisions to one division beginning with the 2020-21 season. The national tournament field last season included 48 teams. In other words, this will mark the first year of a 64-team bracket within the NAIA. The sixteen winners of each of the pods will advance to play at the final site, the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. For the 2021 national tournament, the opening round sites featured pods of three teams. During last year’s run, the Bulldogs picked up national tournament wins over Loyola University New Orleans, 71-54, and over No. 4 Marian University (Ind.), 73-67, while reaching the national quarterfinals.
· This year will mark national tournament appearance No. 21 (11th in a row) for the program. In its first 20 appearances at the national championships, Concordia has posted a record of 37-18 with seven journeys to at least the national semifinals (three national championship game appearances). The Bulldogs are 14-6 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.
· According to the NAIA’s official metrics, Concordia enters the national tournament with the 40th ranked RPI in the nation. In addition, the Bulldogs have played the No. 1 strength of schedule in the entire NAIA. They were rated seventh in the final North/Central ARC rankings, which evaluates teams within geographic regions. It’s safe to say Concordia is battle-tested. Of their 29 games, 16 of them came against fellow national qualifiers. The Bulldogs own five wins over 2022 qualifiers having beaten Briar Cliff, Dakota State University (S.D.), Dakota Wesleyan, Northwestern and Wayland Baptist University (Texas). At the Hoop N Surf Classic in Hawaii, Concordia dropped a 64-57 decision to Campbellsville, the No. 1 seed in its pod.
· All-GPAC accolades were announced on March 2 by the conference. The award winners for Concordia included Taysha Rushton (first team), Rylee Pauli (honorable mention), Sadie Powell (honorable mention) and Mackenzie Toomey (honorable mention). Rushton has been named First Team All-GPAC in back-to-back seasons. A prolific scorer from day one, Rushton is averaging 17.9 points per game this season, third most among GPAC players. She is shooting 38.7 percent from the field, 33.8 percent from 3-point range and 75.4 percent from the foul line. In addition, Rushton is averaging 2.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Over her first two seasons as a Bulldog, Rushton has piled up 947 points, 151 assists, 145 3-point field goals and 94 steals. Meanwhile, Pauli has twice garnered honorable mention recognition and Powell and Toomey were honored by the GPAC for the first time in their careers.
· Nine of the 15 players on Concordia’s national tournament roster have prior national tournament experience. That list includes Kendal Brigham, Bailey Conrad, Taylor Farrell, Kayla Luebbe, Rylee Pauli, Sadie Powell, Taysha Rushton, Chloe Schumacher and Mackenzie Toomey. Pauli has appeared at the national tournament in each of the past three seasons. She put together a memorable performance in last year’s 73-67 win over No. 4 Marian. In that victory, Pauli notched 17 points and six rebounds. Meanwhile, Rushton topped all players with 27 points in the win. Pauli, Schumacher and Mackenzie Koepke (out with injury) were each part of the 2018-19 national championship team. Koepke has totaled 61 career points in national tournament games.
· Olson has been at the controls for each of Concordia’s past 14 national tournament appearances (including 2022). His record at the national tournament stands at 26-11 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. Olson has won more national tournament games than any coach in school history (men’s or women’s programs).
· On this season’s roster, 10 Bulldogs average at least 4.6 points and double-digit minutes per game. Each of the following players have produced at least one game with 19 or more points: Rushton (high of 32), Lauren Baker (24), Powell (21), Luebbe (20), Pauli (20), Brigham (19), Abby Heemstra (19) and Toomey (19). A Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native, Powell has emerged in her second season as the team’s second leading scorer with an average of 9.1 points per game. Powell is also the team’s second leading rebounder behind Pauli.
(8) Benedictine College
Overall Record: 21-10
Location: Atchison, Kansas
Conference: Heart of America Athletic Conference
Head Coach: Chad Folsom
All-Conference: Skylar Washington (first team); Ali Brzozowski (second team); Natalie Smaron (second team); Aaliyah Raines (honorable mention); Kennedy Nicholson (honorable mention).
(1) Campbellsville University
Overall Record: 29-4
Location: Campbellsville, Kentucky
Conference: Mid-South Conference
Head Coach: Ginger High Colvin
All-Conference: Lauren Lee (first team); Courtney Pritchett (first team); Lexy Lake (second team).
(16) Rochester University
Overall Record: 23-9
Location: Rochester Hills, Michigan
Conference: Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference
Head Coach: Brent Wichtner
All-Conference: Elysia Mattos (first team; all-defensive team); Lauren Wynn (second team; newcomer of the year); Jacara Thompson (second team); Hannah Reinhold (second team).
The hopeful destination for the Bulldogs remains the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. The final 16 teams left standing will advance to that location for action from March 17-22. Sioux City first became the women’s basketball national championship host for division II in 1998. It was awarded as the host location for the NAIA’s one and only division beginning in 2021. Additional information about the NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship can be found via the NAIA website HERE.
Mar. 12, 2022
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – For 30-plus minutes, the ninth-seeded Concordia University Women’s Basketball team appeared well on its way to extending its season for at least one more day. However, eighth-seeded Benedictine College (Kan.) stormed back with a dominant fourth quarter that left the Bulldogs stunned at the conclusion of Friday (March 11)’s opening round game at the NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship. The Ravens came back from 14 points down to win, 62-58, in action in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Head Coach Drew Olson led the program into its 11th-straight national tournament appearance. Concordia (16-14) walked away from Friday’s contest frustrated it couldn’t seal the deal in a season with many close calls.
“We came a little nervous and then I thought we did a great job of fighting back,” Olson said. “It showed the team we’re capable of being. We played two great quarters.”
It’s hard to explain exactly how it unraveled in the fourth quarter other than the fact that the offensive production ran dry. The Bulldogs shot only 15.4 percent over the final 10 minutes. A lead of 55-42 with less than nine minutes to go transitioned into a 59-58 deficit in the final minute when Ali Brzozowski’s jumper went through the bottom of the net. Concordia was unable to score a single point over the game’s final six minutes.
That drought overshadowed what was a nice response after the Bulldogs found themselves trailing 11-0 right out of the gate. Concordia evened the score (14-14) by the end of the first quarter and built a 37-25 halftime lead. Three Bulldogs took on the lion’s share of the scoring: Kayla Luebbe (19), Sadie Powell (16) and Taysha Rushton (12). Luebbe made all eight of her attempts from the floor, including three from long distance. Powell also added six rebounds and four steals while Rushton came away with five thefts. The pesky press led to a plus-10 margin in turnovers.
After going ice cold for parts of the game, Benedictine (22-10) caught fire in the fourth quarter when it shot 66.7 percent from the floor. The Heart of America Athletic Conference foe got a team high 17 points from Skylar Washington and 13 from Brzozowski. Natalie Sarmon snared 11 rebounds in helping the Ravens to a 39-26 advantage in that category.
At its best this season, Concordia was a team capable of beating just about anyone. A large core of the team was made up of second-year players. In other words, the Bulldogs expect to come back strong in 2022-23.
Said Olson, “We have a potentially really good team. We have a great core of young players that are capable of doing something special if we stick together. They need to push themselves individually and push each other to be better. We had a lot of games where we weren’t quite ready yet to take that step towards being an elite team. We just didn’t get there.
“I think Rylee Pauli should be praised for the career that she had. It wasn’t the way she wanted to go out, but I think a lot of our success this season and last season – she was a huge part of it.”
Pauli totaled 608 points and 530 rebounds over the past four seasons while helping the 2018-19 team to a national title. She’s the most prominent senior on a squad that played without all-conference wing Mackenzie Koepke, who could return next winter and provide a boost. As for Rushton, she wound up averaging 17.7 points per game, the highest for a Bulldog in a single season since Bailey Morris averaged 18.5 in 2014-15.
It's worth noting that Concordia played the No. 1 strength of schedule in the entire NAIA in 2021-22. The Bulldogs defeated five teams that qualified for the 2022 national tournament.
Mar. 25, 2022
SEWARD, Neb. – One of the nation’s best pure scoring guards, Taysha Rushton was recognized on Friday (March 25) as a 2021-22 Honorable Mention All-American by the NAIA. The NAIA All-America list includes first, second and third teams and a group of honorable mentions. The Concordia University Women’s Basketball program has had a player earn some form of All-America accolades in 15 of Drew Olson’s 16 seasons as head coach.
As a second-year player in 2021-22, Rushton averaged 17.7 points (fifth most among GPAC players), 3.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.7 steals per game while shooting 38.3 percent from the field, 33.0 percent from 3-point range and 76.3 percent from the foul line. Rushton’s 32 points in the season opener versus Bellevue University represented a career high for a single game. The native of Midland, Texas, reached the 20-point mark nine times this past season while leading the Bulldogs to the program’s 11th straight national tournament appearance.
Over 60 career games played at Concordia, Rushton has totaled 959 points, 161 rebounds, 154 assists and 99 steals. Rushton already ranks 12th in program history with 145 career 3-point field goals. She’s twice been named First Team All-GPAC. According to available records, Rushton is now the 25th player in program history to earn at least one All-America award.
Concordia women’s basketball all-time All-Americans
Grace Barry (2020-2nd)
Lynda Beck (1992-1st)
Taylor Cockerill (2019-HM; 2021-WBCA 1st, NAIA-HM)
Kristen Conahan (2012-2nd; 2013-1st)
Sarah Harrison (2003-1st; HM-2005)
Mary Janovich (2017-HM)
Trish Kindle (1993-2nd; 1994-HM)
Amber Kistler (2012-1st)
Hayle Kobza (2000-HM; 2001-HM)
Philly Lammers (2017-2nd; 2018-1st; 2019-1st; 2020-1st)
Bailey Morris (2014-1st; *2015-1st)
Teresa Noffke (1989-HM)
Allison Nyland (1996-HM)
Tracy Peitz (2014-3rd; 2015-2nd)
Shelly Poppe (1987-3rd)
Elizabeth Rhoden (2003-2nd)
Katie Rich (2011-HM; 2013-HM)
Taysha Rushton (2022-HM)
Kari Saving (2005-2nd)
Stacy Scheer (2010-HM)
Stephanie Schilke (1998-2nd)
Whitney Stichka (2007-HM; 2008-2nd; 2009-1st)
Melissa Tinkham (2008-HM; 2009-HM)
Rachel Witzel (1997-3rd)
Quinn Wragge (2017-HM; 2018-3rd)
*National player of the year
Mar. 29, 2022
A season that culminated in the opening round of the NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship already has the Concordia University Women’s Basketball program looking ahead to the 2022-23 campaign. A team led by a large class of second-year players in 2021-22 showed it could compete with just about anybody. There were plenty of learning experiences along the way as the Bulldogs went up against a schedule rated by the NAIA’s official formula as the most challenging in the nation.
The experience of reaching the national tournament and playing the very best teams the NAIA has to offer will serve Head Coach Drew Olson’s program well moving into the future. This past season was one of ups and downs, but Concordia proved its not far from the elite level of play it has become known for.
Said Olson, “I think that was a great thing for our team moving forward, to get to the national tournament for the 11th straight time. It really says a lot about our program and the fight our team had this year. Unfortunately, we didn’t win the game, but I thought we played well early on. We got down early, but we showed a lot of competitiveness and built up a decent lead. We just couldn’t hang on. I think we’re going to take away a lot of things from that game. We’re really looking forward to next year.”
Led by must-watch, do-it-all guard Taysha Rushton, the Bulldogs finished at 16-14 overall with five wins coming over teams that qualified for the national tournament. The highest of highs included a Thanksgiving weekend win at third-ranked Wayland Baptist (Texas), a home stomping of eventual GPAC tournament champion Dakota Wesleyan, 90-58, and an overtime triumph over 12th-ranked Northwestern. As part of the trip to Honolulu, Hawaii, Concordia played teams ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the nation, including a Thomas More (Ky.) foe that wound up winning the national title.
With two collegiate seasons in the books, Rushton is just shy of 1,000 career points. The native of Midland, Texas, averaged 17.7 points per game and played stellar defense in the process of earning First Team All-GPAC accolades for a second season in a row. She was also recognized as an NAIA Honorable Mention All-American. Her sophomore campaign included nine games of 20 or more points (career high 32 versus Bellevue) and a buzzer beater that lifted the Bulldogs over Jamestown.
“Taysha was phenomenal,” Olson said. “She was an incredible scorer. I also think that defensively she’s one of the best in the league. She showed incredible growth, especially late in the season with her leadership. That was a big reason why our team made some good strides at the end. I think that’s going to carry over into next year. She has a positivity and competitiveness that she instils on the team. That (second year) group as a whole is ready to do something great.”
The class featuring Rushton and including Kendal Brigham, Bailey Conrad, Sadie Powell, Hanna Spearman and Mackenzie Toomey was vital to the team’s success this past winter and will be again next season. Powell took a big step forward in ranking as the team’s second leading scorer (9.4 ppg) while Conrad led the GPAC in assists per game at 4.5. The best basketball is likely still to come for Brigham and Toomey, who both showed the ability to come through with big performances. Said Olson, “We’re really excited about that class. They’ve shown great growth over their two years. I know that group is going to get even better and will get a lot closer this summer staying around Seward.”
As for the seniors, the group was strongly affected by injury as Abby Aplaca (former starter at Concordia University, Portland) and Mackenzie Koepke were sidelined all season. A rock for the program over the past four years, Rylee Pauli finished her career by averaging 7.0 points and 6.9 rebounds this season. Her contributions went beyond the statistics. Pauli gave relentless effort throughout her time as a Bulldog, which included a national title run in 2019. Chloe Schumacher and Courtney Merryweather were also part of the senior class.
“The senior class is awesome,” Olson said. “I just love them. I really appreciate all they did for our team. It was a hard thing for Abby Aplaca and her injury. She was so fun to have on the team for the year-and-a-half we had her. Chloe Schumacher showed incredible growth going from JV to varsity and the selflessness she had. The Marian game Rylee Pauli’s junior year is going to stand out, but there were other games where she carried the team for a bit. I loved her work ethic, consistency and selflessness. It was never about her. It was always about the team. She was willing to come off the bench. She was definitely a key player for our team.”
Another who made significant strides was Kayla Luebbe, who shot 58.3 percent from the floor and produced a 20-point outing versus Morningside. Fellow classmate Taylor Farrell was inserted into the starting lineup late in the season and continued to knock down perimeter shots. There were also contributions made by the freshmen. There’s plenty of potential still to be fulfilled form the likes of Lauren Baker, Abby Heemstra and Abby Krieser. Baker and Heemstra got starting experience this past season and Krieser came on strong down the stretch while showing what a pest she could be in the press.
A lofty standard has been set by the program, which has appeared in three national championship games and has reached the national semifinals five times under Olson’s direction. The 2021-22 season was a rare one in that Concordia came up short of reaching the national tournament final site in Sioux City, Iowa. The Bulldogs are determined to get back to that point. This offseason will lay the foundation as they turn the page. A boost will come from Koepke’s return to health and an overall more experienced roster.
Said Olson, “It was a challenging season playing the No. 1-ranked strength of schedule in the country. We had our ups and downs. We had some great moments like winning at Wayland Baptist and winning against Northwestern and some other really good teams. I think we learned a lot and it will help us for next season. I just can’t say enough how we’re looking forward to it.”
Apr. 17, 2022
SEWARD, Neb. – Standout scorer and playmaker Taysha Rushton headlined the list of four Concordia University Women’s Basketball student-athletes named to the 2022 Midlands NAIA/D-III Team, as selected by the Omaha World-Herald and released on Sunday (April 17). Rushton earned a spot on the five-member Midlands Team while Rylee Pauli, Sadie Powell and Mackenzie Toomey were recognized with honorable mention status by the news outlet.
The Omaha World-Herald chooses its All-Midlands team out of the pool of women’s basketball student-athletes that play at NAIA or NCAA Division III Nebraska colleges and universities. The complete team can be viewed at bottom.
Named both First Team All-GPAC and an Honorable Mention All-American in 2021-22, Rushton shined in her second season with the Bulldogs. The Midland, Texas, native averaged 17.7 points (fifth most among GPAC players), 3.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.7 steals per game while shooting 38.3 percent from the field, 33.0 percent from 3-point range and 76.3 percent from the foul line. Over 60 career games played at Concordia, Rushton has totaled 959 points, 161 rebounds, 154 assists and 99 steals. Rushton already ranks 12th in program history with 145 career 3-point field goals.
Pauli (Omaha, Neb.) was the team’s only player to start all 30 games this past season. She received Honorable Mention All-GPAC accolades and averaged 7.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.5 assists per game. Pauli shot 51.7 percent from the floor and 65.4 percent from the foul line. She finished her four-year playing career with totals of 608 points, 530 rebounds, 169 steals and 124 assists in 123 games.
A Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native, Powell ranked second on the team in scoring in 2021-22 while averaging 9.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. She also picked up Honorable Mention All-GPAC laurels. Powell shot 47.9 percent from the floor, 27.3 percent from 3-point range and 61.3 percent from the foul line.
Toomey appeared in all 30 games and made 10 starts in 2021-22. The Lincoln Southeast High School alum averaged 6.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.7 assists per game. She shot 33.8 percent from the floor, 24.7 percent from 3-point range and 52.0 percent from the foul line.
2022 NAIA/D-III Midlands Team
G, *Mak Hatcliff, Fr., Doane
G, Alyssa Marsh-Contreras, Sr., College of St. Mary
G, Taysha Rushton, Fr., Concordia
G, Peyton Wingert, Sr., Midland
C, Elexis Martinez, Sr., Bellevue
Honorable mention: Bellevue: Faith Ross, Asha Scott. Concordia: Rylee Pauli, Sadie Powell, Mackenzie Toomey. Doane: Maddie Davis, Olivia Nall. Hastings: Taylor Beacom, Riley Clavel, Ali Smith. Midland: Erin Prusa. Nebraska Wesleyan: Delaney Roberts, Anna Vandenack. Peru State: Maddy Duncan, Hailey Ingram, Samantha Stewart. CSM: Sidney Anderson, Honnah Leo. York: Amaia Diez, Jula Trujillo.