SEWARD, Neb. – If you watched the first set, you may have wondered if the Concordia University volleyball team was ready for the challenge of GPAC play. Those doubts faded in the second set when the Bulldogs jumped out to a 10-0 lead while Erin Johnson toed the service line. It wasn’t a night for pretty hitting percentages, but Concordia finally got the best of rival and 14th-ranked Hastings, 19-25, 25-14, 25-19, 25-18, in a match contested inside Walz Arena on Wednesday (Sept. 4).
These are the types of victories that show proof of a program on the rise. The Bulldogs had gone eight series matchups in a row without lassoing the Broncos. Head coach Ben Boldt’s squad has remained unbeaten at 8-0 overall (1-0 GPAC).
“We’ve had these moments in practice where we’re making errors, but it comes down to grinding it out and refocusing,” Boldt said. “I’m really proud of them. (Hastings) is battled tested. They’re big. I don’t think they quite had the match tonight that they wanted.
“I want our team to get better from start to finish. That was all I really wanted and I think they took that to heart.”
Concordia’s motto, “this is us,” is about owning who they are through the good and the bad. The nine attack errors and .056 hitting percentage the Bulldogs spit out in the opening set were unrepresentative of what they have come to expect. Things quickly turned and the Broncos (2-6, 0-1 GPAC) were the ones on their heels the rest of the night. Johnson dropped in four aces during the 10-0 run, including one when Hastings hadn’t been paying attention.
It seems it’s time to pay attention to Concordia, which is getting stellar play in the middle from senior Emmie Noyd, who swatted a match high 15 kills while hitting .313. Boldt warned his team that Hastings would come after the Bulldogs with the most vertical block they had seen yet, but freshman Camryn Opfer didn’t seem to mind. She added 13 kills (.290) and 10 digs in living up to the height of the moment once again.
“I knew this was going to be a good game coming in,” Opfer said. “Coach always tells everybody he believes in us. No matter what I just swing hard and play hard because I know Coach believes in me. He’ll have my back.”
While Noyd and Opfer led the attack, Concordia enjoyed an obvious advantage at the service line. Aces come once in a blue moon against the Bulldogs. Hastings had a rough service ace-to-error ratio of 2-to-14 while Concordia’s comparative ratio was 8-to-5. The match even concluded on a Bronco service error.
That’s not to say the Bulldogs didn’t do a lot of good things. Boldt loved the back-to-back blocks he saw that provided some breathing room in the fourth set. He also enjoyed Arleigh Costello’s tapper that landed for a kill. Costello and Kara Stark chipped in eight kills apiece, GPAC Setter of the Week Tara Callahan notched 40 assists and Marissa Hoerman (12), Kaylie Dengel (10) and Opfer (10) each reached double figures in digs.
“It’s another win,” Boldt said afterward, as if to urge his team to keep looking forward. “We own who we are and we try to get better.”
The Bulldogs will step back outside of conference play this weekend for the Baker Invitational in Baldwin City, Kan. On Friday, Concordia will go up against Graceland University (Iowa) at 10 a.m. CT. Then on Saturday, the Bulldogs will take on Haskell Indian Nations University (Kan.) at 11 a.m. and host Baker at 3 p.m. Concordia defeated Baker in straight sets at the Red Raider Classic on Aug. 23.