SEWARD, Neb. – Fresh off a win over fifth-ranked Dordt, No. 14 Northwestern found itself in a battle inside Walz Arena on Saturday (Sept. 16) afternoon. Concordia freshman Tara Callahan accomplished a rare feat by posting double figure totals for assists (33), kills (12) and digs (11). It just wasn’t quite enough to overcome one of the nation’s best offensive teams. The Red Raiders won, 16-25, 25-21, 31-29, 25-23.
Sixth-year head coach Scott Mattera’s squad is in the midst of an especially rigorous portion of its schedule. Concordia is now 5-8 overall and 0-3 in the GPAC with all three conference losses coming at the hands of top 20 nationally-ranked opponents. This loss felt like a step forward.
“There was a lot of growth on that court today,” Mattera said. “It’s one where we’re going to be kicking ourselves because we had opportunities, but we have to be proud of that fight. I absolutely believe Northwestern is a top 10 team in the country. We just battled. These are the types of games where we’ve gotten down four or five and just let it go. We did not let it go at any point in this match today.”
The Bulldogs threw in some wrinkles that the Red Raiders (15-1, 2-0 GPAC) may not have anticipated. The team’s primary setter, Callahan saw extended action on the right side. The results were impressive. The freshman from Brady, Neb., swatted 12 kills on 24 attacks without making an error. With Callahan on the right side, Emma Brand got time at setter and tossed up nine assists.
But Northwestern is a difficult team to match kill for kill. Head coach Kyle Van Den Bosch has collected hitters like coins. The headliner is Iowa State transfer Anna Kiel, who turned in a match high 19 kills on 38 swings. Kiel and AJ Horstman (14 kills) teamed up for a terrific duo. They were spurred on by setter Lacey Wacker, who dialed up 49 assists.
Concordia did a commendable job keeping up, being at only a slight disadvantage in hitting percentage (.247 to .233). The Bulldogs blitzed the Red Raiders in the opening set, hitting .387 out of the gate. Northwestern couldn’t figure out how to stop Jenna Habegger. She went off for eight of her 12 kills in the opening set. Kelsey Baarck also chipped in five kills during a first set that saw Concordia beat Northwestern at its own game.
“This was a huge step forward,” Mattera said. “We are not satisfied with this at all, but we left it out there today.”
Senior Jocelyn Garcia continues to pad her dig total. She equaled a match high with 18 digs on Saturday, three days after she eclipsed 1,500 digs for her career. Fellow senior Annie Friesen topped the Bulldogs with four blocks.
Concordia will take its shot at top-ranked and unbeaten Hastings (11-0, 3-0 GPAC), the defending national champion, on Wednesday (Sept. 20). First serve of the varsity match is set for 7:30 p.m. from Walz Arena. The Bulldogs are now an even 4-4 at home this season.