OMAHA, Neb. – The GPAC grind is on. In its first road test within conference play, the Concordia University volleyball team followed the script it used a week earlier in the victory over then 14th-ranked Hastings. The Bulldogs dropped the first set at No. 25 College of Saint Mary and then stormed back for a 21-25, 25-18, 25-18, 25-22, victory at the Lied Fitness Center in Omaha on Wednesday (Sept. 11) night.
These are the types of wins it will take for second-year head coach Ben Boldt’s squad to garner more favor in the conference and national polls. Not yet sniffing votes in this week’s new NAIA poll, the Bulldogs have blazed to a 12-0 start (2-0 GPAC).
“It was a typical night in the GPAC,” said Boldt in a postgame interview aired on 104.9 Max Country. “You find a way to win and hope you play clean volleyball along the way. Those last three sets our serve and pass was good. There were some times where we weren’t getting the best attacks over the net, but I’m really proud of them. That’s one that you’ve got to grind through. That was our word for it. Just keep grinding.”
Keep grinding and lean upon the hot hand of senior middle blocker Emmie Noyd. It was a winning formula on Wednesday. Noyd smashed 18 kills and recorded six blocks while hitting .395. Noyd kept on smoldering for an attack that had its most success in the third set (17 kills, .371 hitting percentage). Kara Stark (12), Camryn Opfer (11) and Kalee Wiltfong (11) joined Noyd with double figure kill totals.
On the other side of the net, Elizabeth Dlouhy was tough foe to handle. She put down 15 kills on 21 swings while giving the Flames (15-4, 1-1 GPAC) a shot. Dlouhy and company hit .379 in that opening set that got away from Concordia late in the sequence. College of Saint Mary rotated Natalie Patten and Alexis Petry at the setter position (43 combined assists).
Recognized as the NAIA National Setter of the Week on Tuesday, junior Tara Callahan dished out 51 more assists on Wednesday. But these types of grinders can often come down to gritty defensive play. Concordia was able to hold College of Saint Mary to a .168 hitting percentage with the use of 8.5 blocks and dig totals of 15 by Kaylie Dengel and 13 by Marissa Hoerman (who also dropped in three aces).
Wednesday’s match marked the third time this season that the Bulldogs have fell in the opening set only to rally back and claim victory. There’s a growing confidence that this team can emerge triumphant no matter the circumstances. This was another program builder over a Flames squad that made enough waves to crack the national rankings.
“Our message going into the game was that everyone wants to win,” Boldt said. “But the people who do are the ones who are willing to separate the want to win and the work to win. I was really proud of them after coming out and losing the first set. They buckled down, trusted each other and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this.’”
A conference showdown with No. 9 Midland (10-3, 2-0 GPAC) looms on Saturday when the Bulldogs will attempt to end an eight-match series skid. Concordia came close to upsetting the Warriors (five-set defeat) in Fremont near the end of the 2018 regular season. Saturday’s first serve is set for 3 p.m. CT Walz Arena.