SEWARD, Neb. – After a performance that fell beneath its expectations last week, members of the Concordia University volleyball team were put through the ringer during practices since the loss at College of Saint Mary. Head coach Ben Boldt wanted to see who had fight left in the waning moments of the regular season. It turns out, the Bulldogs have it. They toppled Morningside, 15-25, 25-18, 25-16, 27-25, on Wednesday night (Oct. 24).
Boldt’s program used the evening to celebrate a senior class headlined by Jenna Habegger. In the team’s final home match of 2018, this was the proper sendoff. Concordia is now 14-10 overall and 4-10 in conference play.
“I’m excited for our players,” Boldt said. “We’ve been throwing them throw a grind this last week. It’s awesome to see them be successful and get results. We’ve been preaching process, process, process. We grinded that one and it’s great to get a result. It’s a good feeling.”
Those good feelings would not necessarily have been forecasted after the visiting Mustangs hit .355 in the opening set and took it, 25-15. But on senior night, Habegger would not go gently into that good night. She hammered three kills during a 4-0 Bulldog spurt to open up the second set. Suddenly, Concordia had come to life. The Bulldog attack pounded 46 kills in the process of winning the final three sets.
Perhaps lifted by the encouragement of family friend Larry the Cable Guy, a fellow Pawnee City, Neb., native, Habegger got to go out with tears of joy. It hasn’t always been easy from a wins and losses perspective since experiencing a national tournament bid in 2015, but Habegger has been a four-year constant in the program.
“It was incredibly special,” Habegger said. “Walking out with my parents tonight I was crying. It’s a really emotional night for me because I’ve been here all four years. Going out on a win is just the greatest feeling.”
That victory may not have been possible without the help of a Bulldog still with a lot of collegiate volleyball ahead of her. Freshman middle blocker Morgan Nibbe equaled a match high and set a new career high with 14 kills. She did so while hitting a cool .500.
Said Boldt, “That was an awesome match from her. I was really proud of how she stepped up. Running the middle attack was one of the things we had in our game plan and she brought it tonight.”
Also in the middle, junior Emmie Noyd chipped in with 11 kills. Tara Callahan quarterbacked the offense with 41 assists. Meanwhile, Marissa Hoerman (15), Alex La Plant (13) and Callahan (10) all reached double figures in digs. Kaylie Dengel’s ace dropped in for match point. As a team, Concordia outhit Morningside, .209 to .197.
The Mustangs (12-12, 6-8 GPAC) were paced by star middle blocker Emma Gerber, who had 14 kills and was in on four blocks. Krista Zenk chipped in with 12 kills and 12 digs.
Oh yeah, more on that Habegger connection to Larry The Cable Guy (Dan Whitney). Said Habegger, “My dad is best friends with him from when they were younger. They were neighbors. I’ve known Dan since I was a little girl. He’s been kind of like an uncle to me. I love that guy.”
Habegger and Kelsey Baarck are the lone seniors on the varsity roster. Other seniors include managers Kelsey Higgins, Madison Horne and Annie Schmidt.
The final two matches of the regular season will take place away from home. The Bulldogs get another shot at 12th-ranked Midland (20-4, 12-2 GPAC) in Fremont, Neb., on Saturday. First serve is set for 3 p.m. CT from the Wikert Event Center. In this season’s first meeting in Seward on Sept. 11, the Warriors topped Concordia, 25-19, 15-25, 25-18, 30-28.