SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University volleyball team is finding it can grind out victories even when it’s not quite at its best. Just over hallway through conference play, the Bulldogs have shown greater consistency than the bulk of their league competition. Freshman Camryn Opfer topped all players with 13 kills as Concordia won, 22-25, 25-14, 27-25, 25-20, over rival and visiting Doane on Wednesday (Oct. 9) night.
Head coach Ben Boldt’s squad has won four of five within GPAC play and has moved to 17-3 overall and to 6-3 in conference play (tied for third place).
“In that first set we hit a rotation where we just couldn’t find a kill,” Boldt said. “Doane did a good job of putting their blockers in the right spot. We couldn’t get it back after that. This wasn’t a pretty match by any means, but that’s what you get in the GPAC. We love it.”
Like the matchup in Crete played on Sept. 25, Concordia had to absorb an early push from the Tigers (12-9, 3-5 GPAC). The Bulldogs may not have been as sharp as Boldt would have liked, but they have grit and a growing belief in themselves. As junior setter Tara Callahan said afterwards, “We weren’t losing to Doane.” Concordia benefitted from 12 Tiger attack errors in a one-sided second set that give the home team the boost it needed.
It wasn’t a night for huge offensive numbers, but Opfer supplied some welcome firepower while Kara Stark added 11 kills. The Bulldogs had to grind it out while posting hitting percentages south of .200 in each of the four sets. Concordia simply played cleaner than Doane, as its seven fewer attack errors and six fewer service errors would attest. The combo of Erin Johnson (17 digs) and Marissa Hoerman (15 digs) teamed up on a solid night in the back row and the Bulldogs out-blocked the Tigers, 8-6.
“We just talked about our mental strength,” Callahan said about the approach after the first set. “We felt like we lost that set from our errors. We started adjusting more with our slides on the block. We just dug deep and did our thing.”
Callahan piled up 38 assists and added seven digs. She quarterbacked an offense that also got eight kills from Emmie Noyd and seven from Arleigh Costello. As a team, the Bulldogs outhit Doane, .158 to .106. Costello, Noyd and Kalee Wiltfong chipped in with three blocks apiece.
Things have been topsy-turvy for Doane, which last week knocked off No. 8 Midland and then lost at No. 5 Morningside. The Tigers have an outside hitter in Allison Kuenle, who is tough to handle. She had 11 kills on Wednesday to lead her squad. Alexis Dale and Madison VanHousen notched 10 kills apiece.
Concordia has a budding outside hitter of its own in Opfer, the Seward High School product. Said Boldt, “We’re trying to put her in the right place at the right time. Just mentality-wise, she’s playing really well. She’s taking the coaching that we’re giving and she’s transforming herself into a good college outside.”
A three-match home stand will continue on Friday when the Bulldogs host No. 25 Morningside (12-6, 4-4 GPAC) for a Pink Out in support of breast cancer awareness. Fans in attendance at Walz Arena are encouraged to wear pink. The contest will be a rematch of the Sept. 17 meeting in Sioux City, Iowa, that went to the Mustangs in four sets.
Concordia Volleyball vs. Doane https://t.co/NlGkmYOX2x
— 104.9 Max Country (@1049maxcountry) October 10, 2019