Photo description: Sophomore Ashley Keck prepares to launch the ball over the net.
Photo credit: Bailey Mooney (photo from previous game)
The No. 4 Concordia Bulldogs (25-3) opened pool play with a close sweep over Montana Western Bulldogs (22-7) in Sioux City, Iowa.
The Concordia Bulldogs arrived at the national tournament site well rested, as it had been 11 days since their opening-round matchup against the Judson Eagles. Their first opponent would be Montana Western, the winners of the Frontier Conference title game, earning them their first trip to the final site.
While Concordia won in a sweep, Montana Western did not make it easy for them. In the first set, Concordia found themselves in a dogfight going point for point. The longest service term was three points as both teams felt the game out. After a service ace made the score 24-23 in favor of Concordia, Coach Ben Boldt called a timeout and drew up a kill for Sophomore Ashley Keck to close the set.
In the second, Concordia found themselves down for much of the set. After a 3-3 tie, Montana Western strung four points in a row, establishing their attack and block as well. Concordia struggled with some errors (nine in the set) but stayed within striking distance. At 20-21 in Montana Western’s favor, Concordia ripped off five straight points to close the set out and effectively seize all momentum. Concordia would pounce in the third with a 12-2 lead. Concordia would close the set and match 25-13.
On offense, Senior Bree Burtwhistle finished with 43 assists. Junior Carly Rodaway (12), Senior Camryn Opfer (11), and Senior Gabi Nordaker (10) would finish in double-digit kills. Concordia as a team finished hitting .225 percent while adding three service aces on zero errors. Overall, the team played well and balanced, but Coach Boldt will want to get Keck more quality looks as the tournament continues. Keck, who finished with eight kills on a team leading 40 attempts, is an important piece of the offense to get rolling in the tournament.
On defense, Montana Western was held to .128 percent and 21 errors. As a team, Concordia finished with nine blocks while Nordaker operated strongly in the middle, finishing with two solo blocks as well as four assists. Junior Rebecca Gebhardt was all over the floor, digging up 26 attacks, while Opfer (15) and Burtwistle (14) finished in double digits.
The Bulldogs will now face a familiar foe for a seat at the quarterfinal’s elimination bracket. A third matchup against conference opponent Midland (16-11) is set for Dec. 1 at 1 p.m. Concordia has won both meetings (3-0, 3-1), so Coach Ben Boldt and his team should have plenty of film to review and prepare a game plan.