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Back row makes difference in first win at Dordt of GPAC era

Back row makes difference in first win at Dordt of GPAC era

SIOUX CENTER, Iowa – Four weeks out from Halloween, the Concordia University Volleyball team ventured into a proverbial house of horrors for the program. But Gabi Nordaker and the Bulldogs wouldn’t allow history to repeat itself. The Concordia back row did the trick in a 25-20, 25-17, 25-21 win at Dordt on Friday (Oct. 2) evening.

During the GPAC era (and as far back as all-time records indicate), the Bulldogs had never emerged from De Witt Gymnasium with a victory. Several veterans on this Concordia team remembered how quickly the host Defenders put away the Bulldogs in the quarterfinals of the 2018 GPAC tournament.

“Marissa (Hoerman) actually talked to me about that before the match started,” said head coach Ben Boldt in the postgame interview on 104.9 Max Country. “She said, ‘Coach, you remember the last time we were in here?’ I said, ‘Yeah, it was the conference tournament two years ago and I think that match lasted maybe 45 minutes.’ We’re a team that stays resilient and here we are.”

Here they are at 5-0 (all conference matches) with two victories in a three-day span. The hitting numbers certainly wouldn’t wow anyone on this night, but that doesn’t provide a complete picture. Concordia won with superior serving and passing. Out of 106 Defender attacks, Concordia came up with 55 digs. Hoerman led the way with 17 while Tara Callahan (11), Camryn Opfer (10) and Erin Johnson (10) also reached double figures.

When on the road, it certainly helps build confidence to jump out to a lead. The Bulldogs mounted advantages of 6-1 to begin both the first and second sets. Nordaker got rolling in that second set by smashing kills for point Nos. 2, 3, 6, 7 and 8. After hitting -.031 in the first set, Concordia improved to .235 in the second and .294 in the third. Callahan tossed up 33 assists while quarterbacking the attack.

A complete team like the Bulldogs isn’t reliant on its hitting prowess alone. Said Boldt, “Serving and passing was the difference for us. It wasn’t necessarily our best hitting night, but we stayed consistent and solid. It was fun. This was a hard-hitting and tough-blocking match with big swings, big digs and big blocks. That’s what we play for.”

Nordaker led all players with 11 kills on the night, to go along with her two blocks (four as a team). Junior Arleigh Costello also produced some big swings and floored nine kills (.333 hitting percentage). Kara Stark chipped in with eight kills and Kalee Wiltfong added six. Concordia managed only two service aces, but its one service error (compared to 10 by Dordt) was a major statistical advantage.

In the grand scheme of things, this was significant. The Bulldog Volleyball program was 0-for-12 at Dordt in the GPAC era (2000-present). Each of the previous 10 matches Concordia had played in Sioux Center, Iowa, resulted in straight-set defeats. Prior to tonight, Dordt (5-3, 4-3 GPAC) had suffered both of its losses at the hands of Jamestown. The Defenders (.142 hitting percentage) were led on Friday by six kills apiece from Brenna Krommendyk, Allison Timmermans and Karsyn Winterfeld.

Said Boldt, “One of our keys to success tonight was for our right back to dig, baby, dig. They hit that cross-court shot from the right sight. Erin and Tara got a lot of opportunities today.”

The Bulldogs will have more than a week off from action before returning to Walz Arena to host a major showdown with Northwestern (4-0, 2-0 GPAC) at 3 p.m. CT on Saturday, Oct. 10. The Red Raiders are the defending GPAC regular-season champions. Northwestern has won five-straight meetings with Concordia.

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