SEWARD, Neb. – This was much more like the 2017 Concordia volleyball team that sixth-year head coach Scott Mattera envisioned. Sophomore Alex La Plant dominated on the outside and the Bulldogs flashed their power game, resulting in a 25-11, 25-19, 25-19, win over visiting Bethany College. Another strong crowd filled Walz Arena on Wednesday night.
Fans were treated to Concordia’s first victory of the new campaign. The Bulldogs improved to 1-1 on the strength of a .337 hitting percentage, which starkly contrasted their negative attacking clip from four days earlier.
“This is much more who we thought we were going to be,” Mattera said. “We’re a work in progress, no doubt about it. Our good is really good. We have a lot of new faces on the court and we’re putting it together. After that game on Saturday, our attitude is great. Our talent level is great. We know we’re going to get better every day.”
An athletic advantage was apparent on the Concordia side of the net. The Bulldogs hammered down 42 kills compared to just 18 for the Swedes of the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference. La Plant smashed 11 kills on 20 swings. She teamed with Kelsey Baarck (10 kills on 27 attempts) for a potent one-two punch. In the middle, Emmie Noyd needed only nine attacks to put down seven kills. Jenna Habegger crushed four kills on six swings.
They were routinely facilitated by freshman Tara Callahan, who racked up 34 assists. Concordia looked like a much more comfortable squad.
“In practice we really changed the whole dynamic,” La Plant said. “We picked up the pace and had high intensity drills that really focused on our weaknesses and what we need to get better at. We really just went from zero to 100 real quick. We came together as a team. The differences in practice carried over to the game.”
The Swedes (0-1) failed to pose a serious threat in any of the three sets. The Bulldogs set the tone by racing out to a 13-3 lead in the opening game. Behind Azucena Duarte (team high nine kills), Bethany made late pushes in the second and third sets, but didn’t possess the firepower to come all the way back.
Defensively, Concordia got a team best nine digs from freshman Marissa Hoerman. Senior Annie Friesen chipped in three blocks to go with her seven kills. The Bulldogs piled up 36 digs compared to 23 for the Swedes.
Concordia may not have just a single star emerge this season, but Mattera hopes to see many contributors every time out – just as he did on Wednesday.
“That’s kind of been one of the hallmarks of our program the past few years. Who do you try to stop?” Mattera said. “We want to be hard to scout. We want a coach to look at us and think, ‘Boy, who am I going to try to stop?’
“Our transition game can get a touch better, but overall we have to be happy hitting .337. It was solid.”
The Bulldogs will head out Thursday morning, bound for Kansas City and the Viking Invitational that will take place this weekend on the Missouri Valley College campus. The team will first enjoy Thursday afternoon’s Kansas City Royals game at Kauffman Stadium. Then on Friday, Concordia will be in Marshall, Mo., for contests versus Ottawa University (3 p.m.) and host Missouri Valley (7 p.m.). The event wraps up on Saturday with the Bulldogs taking on Avila University at 2 p.m.