A rundown of 20 items that made 2020 a memorable year for Concordia Athletics (in no particular order):
1 – Concordia Athletics shut down along with the rest of the country on March 12, 2020, as COVID-19 concerns intensified. On that specific date, the men’s basketball program made its first appearance in 15 years at the national tournament (just before the remainder of the tournament was canceled). Also on that date, the women’s basketball program learned it would not have the opportunity to defend its 2019 national title. Then on March 16, all spring sports were canceled.
2 – On Sept. 5, after a long wait, official competition returned at Concordia as the cross country programs opened their 2020 seasons. By Sept. 12, most Bulldog fall teams had started up their new campaigns, even as the pandemic continued. From Sept. 5 through the end of the year 2020, Concordia squads competed in a total of 115 athletic events. Fall sports such as soccer and volleyball will continue their seasons during the spring semester. After going 12-3 in the GPAC during the 2020 regular season, Head Coach Ben Boldt’s volleyball squad has positioned itself for another potential national tournament bid.
3 – In late May, one day after video of George Floyd’s death went viral on social media, more than 30 student-athletes from the football program gathered in Head Coach Patrick Daberkow’s living room. Out of the discussions regarding social issues, the team eventually created a video (“Follow Us”) that played on the video board prior to the start of all four home games this past fall. As members of the team told viewers, “When one hurts, we all hurt. When one celebrates, we all celebrate.”
4 – A remarkable string of 97 straight NAIA coaches’ poll appearances came to an end in December for the women’s basketball program. That streak dated all the way back to October 2011. When the Bulldogs had their season abruptly ended in mid-March, they owned an overall record of 32-2 and were ranked No. 1 in NAIA Division II. In the aftermath of the national tournament cancellation, All-American point guard Grace Barry sent out a tweet expressing concern for others. The tweet picked up significant traction.
5 – As a sophomore, Rachel Battershell put together one of the finest indoor track seasons in school history. The native of Wheatland, Wyo., broke program records in the 400 meters and the 60 meter hurdles on her way to winning an individual NAIA national title in the 400. She was also named the GPAC Indoor Athlete of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a team conference championship.
6 – On the same night (March 3, 2020), both basketball programs celebrated GPAC tournament championships. It was a breakthrough moment for the men, who held off Dakota Wesleyan, 68-66, at a raucous Corn Palace in Mitchell, S.D. At that time, there was no limit on fan attendance. Meanwhile, the women took care of Hastings, 60-49, in Seward in another defensive battle.
7 – Former Nebraska Cornhusker starting offensive lineman Tanner Farmer took the wrestling world by storm when he joined Head Coach Levi Calhoun’s program beginning with the spring 2020 semester. While Farmer had little collegiate wrestling experience, his talent and work ethic made him into a force. He finished his only season as a Bulldog with a 26-1 record and reached the NAIA heavyweight national championship match.
8 – A remarkable run for Head Coach Matt Beisel’s women’s track and field program continued as Battershell led the way to a third-straight GPAC title (including sweeps of the 2019 conference indoor/outdoor championships) in a 2020 championship meet held at Dakota Wesleyan. Not only did Battershell win GPAC event championships in the 60 hurdles and 400 meters, Concordia captured conference titles courtesy of the 4×400 relay, Kylahn Heritage (3,000 meters), Kennedy Mogul (pentathlon), Josie Puelz (pole vault) and Addie Shaw (weight throw).
9 – Sticking with track and field, senior Jacob Cornelio concluded his final collegiate indoor season by rising to the mountaintop for the first time. The native of Elk Grove, Calif., seized the NAIA weight throw national title with a toss of nearly 20 meters while in competition in Brookings, S.D. It marked the 17th throws national title during assistant coach Ed McLaughlin’s impressive tenure tutoring the throws group.
10 – On June 15, 2020, Jason Munsch announced via Twitter that he had signed a free agent contract with the Milwaukee Brewers organization of Major League Baseball. Munsch is believed to be the first Concordia alum to sign with an MLB team since Faszholz brothers Gene and Dave played in affiliated minor league baseball in the 1950s. In four starts (26 innings) in 2020, Munsch put up absurd numbers for Head Coach Ryan Dupic’s program. Munsch did not allowed an earned run while recording 59 strikeouts.
11 – It was the end of an era for Philly Lammers and an unprecedented group of women’s basketball seniors. Over four years (spanning the 2016-17 through 2019-20 seasons), Lammers led the Bulldogs to a combined record of 137-10 with a national title in 2019. In the year 2020, Lammers eclipsed 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in her incredible career. For its efforts, Concordia even got a shout out on SportsCenter in late March.
12 – With the help of the likes of Tanner Farmer and fellow GPAC champions Gabe Crawford and Mario Ybarra, the wrestling program dominated the conference. It finished off a perfect 8-0 GPAC dual mark in 2020 and cruised to a GPAC postseason title on Feb. 22. At the conference tournament, the Bulldogs compiled 163.5 points compared to 122.5 for second place Briar Cliff.
13 – In conjunction with the annual Cattle Classic (Nov. 5-7), the arena inside of the Walz Human Performance Complex was officially named “Friedrich Arena” in honor of Brian and Laurie Friedrich, who served Concordia and its athletic programs for nearly 30 years. President of CUNE for 15 years, Brian Friedrich now serves as president of Concordia University, St. Paul.
14 – Spring break trips marked the end of the 2020 season for the sports of men’s golf, softball and tennis (baseball played one final doubleheader after returning from Tucson). Other spring sports like outdoor track and field and women’s golf never even got started. Things had been going well on the diamond for baseball (14-7 record) and softball (12-2 record).
15 – Lane Napier accomplished a rare feat by earning first team All-GPAC honors in four-straight seasons. The All-American linebacker from David City, Neb., posted 14 tackles in the 2020 season finale and surpassed 400 tackles in his incomparable career. Napier led the team in tackles in 2020 despite missing three games.
16 – Thomas Goines made his Bulldog debut as CUNE’s only new head coach in 2020. Goines led the women’s soccer program to a share of second place in the GPAC regular season standings (9-2-1 GPAC mark) as it bounced back from a challenging 2019 campaign. Senior goalkeeper Lindsey Carley and company closed 2020 with a 1-0 victory over GPAC regular season champion Briar Cliff.
17 – Hhana Haro and Camry Moore were crushing it before the 2020 softball season was cut short. In 12 games, Haro batted .585 with five doubles, two home runs, 11 RBIs and an .854 slugging percentage. Meanwhile, in 14 games, Moore hit .422 with five doubles, three triples, four home runs, 20 RBIs and an .889 slugging percentage. As a pitcher, Moore went 7-1 with a 1.27 ERA and just four walks in 55 innings.
18 – Kendra Placke tore up golf courses this fall. The Seward High School product won tournament titles at the Lila Frommelt Fall Classic and the Buena Vista Invite during a sizzling run in September. She was named the GPAC Golfer of the Week on Sept. 23. Heading into the spring, Placke sits 10th on the GPAC leaderboard.
19 – Under Scott Moniot, the shooting sports programs have been rising fast. Unfortunately, Moniot’s competitors had their national championship event wiped out this past spring. They shook off that disappointment this fall by winning the conference title at the Prairie Circuit Classic (and won the Midland Ice Out and Hastings Invite). A new training facility will be ready for the second semester as the program continues to make waves.
20 – In a “that’s so 2020” type of announcement, the Concordia Invitational Tournament was officially called off in late August. That means the 2020-21 basketball season will be the first without CIT since the 1975-76 campaign when scheduling conflicts forced the cancellation. The Bulldogs utterly dominated CIT 2020 hosted by Concordia-Chicago.
(20)21 – An unusual opportunity presented itself when seasons were canceled in the spring. It meant that several seniors had eligibility left to burn. Several Concordia programs will get a boost from the return of such student-athletes in the second semester. Star throwers Jacobo Cornelio and Addie Shaw and steady tennis performer Luke Zoller are among the individuals who will be back in action a year after their eligibility would have normally been exhausted. The baseball program also has several seniors back from last spring. Looking ahead, virtually all Bulldog teams will be in action in the spring 2021 semester. Cheer and Dance will join the winter sports season when competition starts in January.