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Home Sports Bulldog volleyball ends season in 3-way tie for GPAC title in Halloween...

Photo description: Junior Kassidy Knust receives the ball as teammates look on

Photo credit: Esther Molina

Darien Semedo

Sower Staff


The No. 4 Concordia Bulldogs (21-2, 14-2) defeated the No. 18 Midland Warriors (14-10, 10-6) 3-1 to finish in a 3-way tie for the GPAC in a Halloween classic.

Head coach Ben Boldt and his Concordia Bulldogs captured their first GPAC title during his tenure and the school’s first since 2000. In a season where the Bulldogs played a tough schedule while in one of the most competitive conferences in the NAIA, they found a way to end the season on a sweet note.

To open the night, the Bulldogs were aggressive, jumping on Midland in the first set with great efficiency. With 16 kills at a .300 percent clip, the offense looked prime for a great night after winning 25-17. The Warriors had other plans, and they adjusted quickly on defense and offense. Midland flipped the script in the second set, winning 25-17 while hitting .407 percent.

Early in the third set, the Warriors carried the momentum, jumping out 9-5 and forcing a quick timeout from coach Boldt. It wasn’t long before the Bulldogs were forced to use their last timeout of the set, going down 13-6. This time around, the Bulldogs responded to the message, tightening the game to 15-13 and forcing a timeout from Midland. The set continued to be neck and neck, reaching 23-23 before Senior Camryn Opfer finished the set with a great kill.

In the fourth and final set, both teams fought early for a lead, but the Bulldogs were forced into some errors. After three attacking mistakes, coach Boldt used a timeout to give his players a chance to collect themselves. The Warriors still found a way to get a lead, forcing the Bulldogs’ last time out down 19-15.

Down with their backs against the wall, the Bulldogs found a way to get back in. They tied it up 21-21 before making it 24-23. Midland fought back to bring the game within one point of needing a fifth set, but Opfer once again found the ground at a key time.

With the score tied once again, senior Sara Huss made arguably one of the biggest plays of her college career at the best time. She blocked a Warrior attack by herself, then killed the final ball off a bad dig from a Warrior that left it floating over the net.

Standing at 6 foot 3 inches tall, Huss has seen more play as the season has come to a close for her defensive ability. Huss talked about her mentality as a rotation player coming into the game and being ready for big plays.

“As far as my mindset going into the game, I just tell myself ‘I will’ statements, such as ‘I will get this kill,’ ‘I will get this next block,’” explained Huss. “That mentality of being fearless is definitely a big key to my mindset. I know that my coaches and teammates have my back, which allows me to take the big swings in the tight moments.”

In the box score, the Bulldogs were led by sophomore Ashley Keck (15), senior Carly Rodaway (13), and Opfer (13). Senior Gabi Nordaker also added nine kills, while senior Bree Burtwistle finished with 55 assists. On defense, Burtwistle (18), Keck (13), and junior Rebecca Gebhardt (11) finished with double-digit digs. The Bulldogs finished with seven total blocks, with Nordaker playing big in the middle with 3.5.

The Bulldogs found a way to win when they needed it. Being down six points in back-to-back sets and figuring out how to win are characteristics of a championship team that they displayed in their season finale.

Coach Boldt managed the game skillfully, showing that with some well-placed timeouts, he can get his players to lock back in and play “Bulldog” volleyball. Midland’s front finished with 15 total blocks, so heading into the playoffs, the Bulldogs will need to be ready to adjust to the other team’s actions.

The Bulldogs will now prepare for the GPAC Tournament as the No. 2 seed. The quarterfinals will be played in Friedrich Arena Saturday night after the Cattle Classic Tournament against Dakota Wesleyan (19-14, 8-8).

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