SEWARD, Neb. – While remaining undefeated, the Concordia University volleyball team showed off the depth of its roster on a day when Lauren Cope and Emmie Noyd were sidelined. The Bulldogs were again perfect from a results standpoint, sweeping Valley City State University (N.D.), 25-13, 25-18, 25-22, and Benedictine College (Kan.), 25-22, 25-20, 14, out of Walz Arena as part of the two-day Bulldog Bash (Aug. 31-Sept. 1).
The run of consecutive set victories was put to the test in the opening set of Saturday’s evening match, but head coach Ben Boldt’s squad again pulled through. Concordia is 8-0 for the first time since the 2005 squad won its first 18 matches of the year.
The Bulldogs are a perfect 24-for-24 in sets won. You can’t do it any better, but Boldt is making sure his team stays grounded.
“When we have tempo to our passing and no confusion, it really helps our offense work a lot better,” Boldt said. “If we’re going to do the things that we want to do, we have to have a little more rhythm and tempo to our offense. We’re never perfect.”
Joked Boldt, “I’m not sitting there not thinking of anything for our practice plan. I know what we’re working on.”
The Bulldogs plan to have Noyd back for Tuesday’s GPAC opener. Without her, sophomore Allison Echtenkamp made her first ever appearances in varsity action and freshman Morgan Nibbe performed tremendously in the middle. Nibbe hit .357 versus Valley City State and then .625 against Benedictine while putting up a combined 18 kills and eight blocks on the day. Sophomore Kara Stark also saw extended action and pasted seven kills in the morning victory.
Those contributions made life easier for Boldt, who even limited this season’s leading attacker, Jenna Habegger, to one set of action versus Valley City State. Nibbe rose to the occasion on this particular day.
“At first I was a little worried about how I was going to do because I haven’t been super confident in matches so far,” Nibbe said. “I actually think that really helped me. It made me step up and be the middle that I need to be. I had no doubt that ‘Ech’ was going to come in and do great things for us. I know that Emmie needed rest because we’re going to come up and play some big GPAC teams. We need her for that.”
Nibbe and company looked sharp to open up play in the day’s opening match that got started at 11 a.m. The Bulldogs hit .345 and outclassed the visiting Vikings (2-6), who had nearly as many errors (29) as kills (30). They had trouble getting it past the Concordia front row, which racked up 10 blocks. Nibbe and sophomore Tara Callahan were both in on six of those denials. Valley City State got as close as one point down (23-22) late in the third set before the Bulldogs shut the door. Erica Heinzerling put down set point with a kill.
Concordia had a 13-7 lead in the first set versus Benedictine melt away. The Ravens (3-3) came back to take a 22-21 advantage before order was restored. The Bulldogs rattled off the final four points, including three that came via Benedictine attack errors. Concordia overcame 11 kills by Sara Rahmanzai and outhit the Ravens, .296 to .211.
Marissa Hoerman piled up 26 more digs on Saturday. Jenna Eller added four aces. Meanwhile, Habegger totaled 17 kills.
It’s hard not to be excited about this kind of start, but the Bulldogs will have to quickly refocus for the start of GPAC play next week. Said Nibbe, “I always come back to our process. You don’t look back or really look ahead. We’re right here in the now. You take every game step-by-step. You have to stick where you are and not get ahead of yourself.”
We’re going to look ahead at Tuesday (Sept. 4)’s tilt with College of Saint Mary (8-5). The Flames will be inside Walz Arena for a 7:30 p.m. CT first serve.