SEWARD, Neb. – A smoldering hot stretch from junior Kelsey Baarck helped the Concordia University volleyball team dig out of a discouraging hole in the team’s opening match at the 2017 Bulldog Bash. Baarck and company were oh-so-close to turning in a 2-0 day against a pair of NCAA Division II opponents. Ultimately, the Bulldogs settled for a 21-25, 25-23, 25-18, 25-15, win over Chadron State College and a 25-21, 18-25, 22-25, 25-23, 15-12 loss to the University of Mary in the night cap.
Sixth-year head coach Scott Mattera’s squad now sits at 3-5 overall. Five of the season’s first eight matches have been played within the friendly confines of Walz Arena.
“When that match finished I turned to Coach and said, ‘That’s a good win right there,’” Mattera said of the triumph over Chadron State. “It was a good win because we got pushed that hard and we stuck with it. Chadron came to play in the first game and they were on fire in the second game. I’ll be honest, we got a little nervous there. We just kept battling and got it turned around.”
After dropping the first set and finding itself down 17-11 in second set versus Chadron State, Concordia called timeout and went to Baarck, who put down a kill with authority. At times, Baarck carried the Bulldogs during that crucial rally. She thundered eight of her match high 15 kills to the floor during the second game that concluded with Tara Callahan and Anna Lund combining on a block.
Blocking was a theme in the win. Concordia stonewalled Chadron State with 16 blocks. Senior Annie Friesen was involved in half of them while Jenna Habegger was credited with five blocks. Stellar defense at the net held the Eagles to negative hitting percentages in both the third and fourth sets and to a .076 hitting percentage for the match.
Baarck ended up with 27 kills for the day. La Plant followed her with 22 kills. Said Mattera, “It was really our outsides stepping up today. We know they’ve been capable of that.”
The Bulldogs also made a spirited rally late in the fourth set in its defeat. Trailing 23-18, La Plant spurred a comeback bid with a kill. Eventually, Concordia got back within one (24-23) before a block by Anna Nietfeld sent the match to a deciding fifth set. The Bulldogs never led in the fifth set, though they battled back from a 5-1 deficit and got even at 8-8, 9-9 and 10-10. Led by Friesen (eight kills on 15 swings), Concordia actually outhit Mary, .135 to .117.
The Bulldog Bash will enter day two on Saturday. Concordia will play NCAA Division II Missouri Southern State University (2-0) at 3:30 p.m. and then turn around and play NAIA member York College (1-6) at 5:30 p.m. to wrap up the weekend. Missouri Southern State beat both Bethany College and York in Seward on Friday. Meanwhile, York also fell to Chadron State.