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Home Sports Bulldogs lose tight defensive battle against College of Saint Mary 3-1

Photo description: Freshman middle Maddie Paulsen and senior setter Bree Burtwistle go up at the net for a double block

Photo credit: Esther Molina (Photo from previous game)

Darien Semedo

Sower Staff


The No. 1 Concordia Bulldogs (18-2, 11-2) lost a back-and-forth battle against the No. 9 College of Saint Mary Flames (21-5, 9-4) 3-1 as both teams’ blocks were key Saturday afternoon.

The Bulldogs welcomed the Flames to Friedrich Arena looking to get back on a run one week removed from their first loss of the year against Northwestern, an opponent that Saint Mary had defeated themselves. The Flames had been a team relying on their defense for most of the year, and it became apparent that they were ready to take on the top team in the nation.

The Flames jumped out early on the Bulldogs, establishing an early five-point lead that they held for much of the set. Near the end, the Bulldogs closed the gap to 18-17, and 23-22 behind three late kills from senior Camryn Opfer. The Flames were able to close the set out 25-22, hitting .270 on attacks, which is much higher than their usual numbers this year. The Bulldogs hit .156 on the set, running into issues with the Flames’ strong middle block early in the match.

The second set was neck and neck, with neither team able to get a lead larger than four. The Bulldogs’ block on defense struggled all afternoon, so as the set neared its end head coach Ben Boldt looked toward senior Sara Huss in the middle.

Huss came up with a large block with sophomore Ashley Keck followed by a kill from Keck to put the Bulldogs up 23-21. But after a timeout, the Flames scored four straight to steal the set 25-23.

For the second set, the Bulldogs improved to .275 hitting percentage focused on their outside hitters. The team kept the same game plan into the third set, and were able to close out the Flames this time with a score of 25-21. Coach Boldt had adjusted their attacking scheme around the Flames’ big middle block, choosing to attack from the pins.

“They have a really big middle block, so the adjustment was to go pin to pin in our offensive stuff and I thought we did a really good job with that,” Boldt explained. “In the end they tooled the ball off of our block in the end game there and that was the difference in the match.”

The Flames were able to find the ground early in the fourth, leading to a 12-6 lead and forcing Concordia to use both timeouts quickly. The Bulldogs never gave up, fighting all the way back to 23-21. The Flames closed the set soon after, but seeing the Bulldogs’ perseverance in the afternoon was a big takeaway for them to be proud of.

Opfer voiced the team’s pride in their fight, and acknowledged the challenge that comes with being a highly ranked opponent.

“I’m proud of the way we fought today. We have a target on our back, and we like to have it. I thought we played our butts off today and hopefully next time it will go our way,” Opfer said.

Coach Ben Boldt echoed that pride and put an importance on how the team responds to adversity.

“How we respond is important. We talked about being champions, and that is how we must respond and get back after it. I know that there is a lot of time left in the season, so we’ve got to take the things we learned here today and continue to get better,” Boldt said.

Looking at the box score, Opfer (20) and Keck (17) led the team in kills, and senior Bree Burtwistle finished with 47 assists. On the defensive side, junior Rebecca Gebhardt (17) led the Bulldogs in digs, with three others hitting double figures. Lastly, Opfer and junior Gabi Nordaker added one total block each.

The Bulldogs will now have to rebound again against Mount Marty (10-17, 3-9) next week on Wednesday, Oct. 25, and against Hastings College (8-14, 3-10) on Saturday, Oct. 28.

Jamestown now sits atop the Great Plains Athletic Conference alone, while the Bulldogs find themselves tied for second with Northwestern, making the path in the GPAC Tournament leading toward a trip to Jamestown, North Dakota.

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