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Photo description: Head coach Drew Olsen watches as junior Abby Krieser puts up a free throw. 

Photo credit: Courtney Wright

Cohen Carpenter

Sower Staff


Concordia women’s basketball has had another dominant, and perhaps predictable start to a season.

Opening with a six-game winning streak, the Bulldogs have been ranked as high as 9th nationally, boasting an 14-2 overall record and 10-2 conference record that is good for second place in the Great Plains Athletic Conference.

The highlight of Concordia’s season has been offense as the Bulldogs are squarely within the upper echelon of scoring teams in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Averaging 83 points per game, the potent Concordia offense is 13th best in the nation and 2nd best in the GPAC, only trailing Briar Cliff.

Junior Kendal Brigham. Credit: Esther Molina

“I really like how the team is playing,” said coach Drew Olsen, “The ratings are not always accurate and can be a bit misleading. We try not to get caught up in focusing on ratings. We just focus on the next opponent and continuing to be the best team we can be.”

Focusing on the next opponent, among other things, is what helped make this Concordia Bulldogs team special in recent years. Olsen is in his 18th year as the head coach and has been a constant presence in the program for years. After earning his 446th win on Nov. 15 against Morningside, a Concordia best across all teams, he expressed humility and gave all the praise to his team and coaching staff in the post-game interview.

“It feels good, but to me it’s all about the team,” Olsen said after the historic night. “I have been blessed with so many amazing players and assistant coaches. It’s a really cool thing but it’s really them; their recognition and their accomplishments.”

Freshman Sammy Leu. Credit: Kayla Korb

Specifically, Olsen sang the praises of some of the team’s unsung heroes. While players like senior Taysha Rushton and junior Abby Krieser fill out the stat sheet night in and night out, contributors from the bench and elsewhere are just fine helping the team outside of the limelight.

“Abby Heemstra started all the games last year and this year is coming off the bench, but she never complains and is thriving in this role,” said Olsen.

In a 69-61 win against Dakota Wesleyan University on Jan. 6, Heemstra led the team in scoring, contributing 14 points, a season high, on 6 for 9 shooting from the field. The 5-foot-11 junior also added six rebounds in a crucial game against a conference opponent.

Other contributors include “Kendal Brigham, who is arguably one of the best point guards in the league,” said Olsen. “She also comes off the bench providing a huge spark and changes the pace of the game.”

Timeout. Credit: Kayla Korb

Brigham is one of the best shooters on the team. Despite coming off the bench in most of her appearances, the junior has made 54 of 103 shots from the field this season, good for a team-best .524 shooting percentage and 11th best in the GPAC. Recently, Brigham was the GPAC player of the week for her effort against Doane on Jan. 10. In the 101-60 rout, she notched a career-high 24 points. Going 5 for 7 from three, Brigham added five assists, three steals and three rebounds.

Upperclassmen were not the only players making an impact, as Olsen made sure to shout out some of the freshman bulldogs.

Team celebration. Credit: Kayla Korb

“All of our freshmen are finding different ways and different times to contribute on the court,” he said. “Raelyn Kelty says to me, ‘I just want to do whatever the team needs.’ I even think Reece Snodgrass has been huge for us. She comes to practice everyday ready to help the team get better.”

When everything is clicking — sung and unsung heroes alike playing their best basketball – this Concordia Bulldogs team is a very difficult team to beat. Nevertheless, they have been beaten, twice in fact, by conference opponents.

During a seven-day stretch from Dec. 2 to 9, the Bulldogs dropped two of three games, both to GPAC opponents in Jamestown, who they played in Seward, and Briar Cliff, who they played in Sioux City.

In these two losses, the Bulldogs met their demise in much the same way. In both games, Concordia got off to a slow start, eventually allowing the opponent to build a double-digit lead. In both third quarters however, the Bulldogs would bounce back and would eventually hold a lead. Still, Concordia would fall flat in the final frame, losing the lead and the game.

This trend is reinforced by the season scoring totals by quarter for Concordia. In the first and second quarters, the Bulldogs scored have 292 and 306 points, respectively. After halftime, Concordia is at their strongest, scoring 395 points in the third quarter on the season, a success that doesn’t always translate to the fourth quarter as Concordia’s total is 320 points on the season.

“I think we could definitely have better first quarters but part of that is the ‘feeling out’ period of the game,” said Olsen. “These numbers show that we have great depth and start to wear teams down throughout the game. It shows this team has a great amount of fight in the second half.”

Junior Abby Krieser. Credit: Kayla Korb

Despite these troubles, the Bulldogs haven’t lost a contest since a loss on Dec. 9 against Briar Cliff, currently boasting a six-game winning streak, tied for the longest streak of the season.

When asked to finish the following sentence: If the Bulldogs win the national title again this year, it will be due to… Coach Olsen responded” “The team peaking at the right time, continuing to be selfless, playing for our seniors and players performing at their potential.”

Up next for the Bulldogs is possibly the hardest stretch of the season. Following the Concordia Invitational tournament in Mequon, Wisconsin, the team will be playing many of their GPAC opponents for the second and third time this season. This proves to be a uniquely challenging task as teams know what to expect in a rematch.

“The GPAC is tough, but we love the challenges,” said Olsen, “Playing teams the second time around is really fun. It’s a good chess match against some great coaches in the league and a chance for our team to see how much growth we have had.”

Concordia will be seeking its first NAIA championship since the 2019/2020 season when the Bulldogs finished 32-2 overall and 21-1 in the GPAC. Since that season, this team is poised to finish with the most season wins since the Bulldogs hoisted the trophy in 2020.

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