by Garrett Suchanek
The No. 17 Concordia Bulldogs clinched a berth in the GPAC championship after defeating College of Saint Mary in four sets 21-25, 25-16, 25-16 and 28-26 on Wednesday night.
The Bulldogs advance with a 26-7 record and will make their first appearance in the GPAC championship game.
In the first set, Concordia didn’t get off to the start it wanted as Saint Mary stunted any big runs by the Bulldogs and went on a run of their own. The Flames went on an 8-1 run to break open the first set 18-13.
The second looked dismal for the Bulldogs as they trailed 10-5, but Concordia turned the set around by going on a 13-3 run and gaining a comfortable 18-3 lead.
The Bulldogs improved offensively by hitting .226 for the second set compared to .093 in the first set.
With the match tied at 1-1, the Bulldogs looked to capture the pivotal third set.
At one point it was tied 3-3, but Concordia used one of its key runs to take a 14-6 halfway through the third set. From that point on, the Bulldogs strolled to a victory and were one set away from the championship match.
In what turned out to be the final set of the matc,h Concordia had to battle to close out the Flames.
It was back and forth with both teams answering each other’s great plays.
Late in the set, the Flames had an attack error. Tiegen Skains followed with a kill that gave the Bulldogs momentum.
However, the Flames wouldn’t back down and continued to fight for every point. Saint Mary fought off three straight match points to tie the set at 24 apiece.
After going back and forth, the Bulldogs finally ended the Flames’ hopes of a fifth set.
With the crowd jumping and cheering loudly, senior Kendra Dinkel sent the serve over the net. After a pass, set and spike, the ball went wide of the line and the Bulldogs roared with excitement as they clinched a berth in the championship match.
Concordia was led by junior Paige Getz and senior Claire White who posted 16 and 15 kills respectively. Junior Alayna Kavanaugh and sophomore Jocelyn Garcia turned in terrific performances as they combined for 50 assists and 35 digs on the night.
The Bulldogs will look to capture their first GPAC championship when they take on No. 8 Midland in Fremont at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 14.
Concordia has faced Midland twice this year; the Bulldogs lost at home in three sets and won in Fremont in five sets.