It’s been another outstanding start for the Concordia volleyball team. The Bulldogs want a better finish this time around.
“We didn’t graduate much. We have a year under our belt,” said Ben Boldt, in his second year as Concordia’s coach. “It’s the second year and everyone has a better understanding. ... The volleyball is more tight.”
After going 9-19 in 2017, the Bulldogs started 12-0 last year. But facing an always-challenging GPAC schedule, Concordia lost 10 of its next 11 matches and finished 2018 with a 15-12 record.
The Bulldogs face a similar situation this fall. They are 11-0, having dropped just two sets all season.
And they have a pair of wins over ranked opponents — they swept No. 19 Corban (Ore.) in August and rallied from a set down to defeat No. 14 Hastings in four sets last week in their GPAC opener.
“They’re not overconfident. They’re worried about the present and not about the future,” Boldt said of his team.
He added that the Hastings win provided a gauge for where his team is. That night, the Bulldogs got 15 kills from senior middle hitter Emmie Noyd, who is fourth nationally in hitting percentage at .394, and 13 kills from outside hitter Camryn Opfer.
“Our middles are playing really well,” said Boldt, whose team leads the NAIA with a .300 hitting percentage. “The offensive part is firing on all cylinders right now; it’s the defensive part that we’re working on.”
Concordia has gotten a lift from freshmen Opfer, who is second on the team in kills, and Kalee Wiltfong, third on the team in kills.
“Kalee’s been a nice surprise for us,” Boldt said. “She’s got a big arm.”
And the Bulldogs have settled in with a 5-1 offense run by setter Tara Callahan. The 6-foot-1 junior from Brady is third nationally in assists per set with 11.69. On Tuesday, Callahan was named the NAIA setter of the week.
“The ball comes out of her hand consistent and she does a good job of keeping the offense balanced,” Boldt said.
Concordia’s unbeaten record will be put to the test this week. The Bulldogs play at an improved College of St. Mary squad that is 15-3 on Wednesday, and then host No. 8 Midland on Saturday.
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In other Midlands notes:
- In this week’s NCAA Division II volleyball poll, UNK moved up three spots to No. 8 while Wayne State entered the poll at No. 22. Both teams are off to 4-0 starts.
- Nebraska Wesleyan golfer Alex Kubik set a single-round school record by shooting a 66 Sunday at a tournament in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The Aurora graduate shot a 67 the previous week. Wesleyan won the tournament as Kubik, who shot 76 the second round, tied for first and Millard West graduate Christian Hall had rounds of 69 and 74 to tie for third.
- Chadron State’s women’s golf team set a single-round program record Monday in Pueblo, Colorado, with a team score of 317. Freshman Brooke Kramer led the way with a 73, which broke a 12-year-old school record for lowest round.
- The Bellevue men’s soccer team, which started 1-5, got a boost Saturday when it defeated defending NAIA champion Central Methodist 2-1. It was Central Methodist’s first loss this season.
- Western Nebraska Community College’s women’s soccer team is 5-0, its best start since 2003. The Cougars are ranked 19th in the NJCAA poll. It’s the first time they’ve been ranked since 2008.
The Nebraska 100: Our greatest athletes
The Nebraska 100, originally selected in 2005 and then updated and re-ranked in 2015, came from a pool of nearly 500 names from the ranks of high school, college, amateur and professional sports from the past 140 years. Assistance came from a panel of veteran sports observers from across the state, with the newspaper's sports staff determining the final rankings.