Nov. 22, 2008

Courtesy Concordia Athletics

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Golden Bears (34-1) have won the Central Region Volleyball Championship will be making their fourth trip to the NCAA Elite Eight!! The berth comes with a 3-0 downing of rival Minnesota Duluth (26-9) on a night when the offense shined (25-23, 25-18, 25-19).

"I knew we had something left, I knew we could come out and win," said head coach Brady Starkey, who marked the night with his 200th career victory.

The Golden Bears and Bulldogs duked it out in the regional championship for the fifth straight year. The win for Concordia gives them a 3-2 edge in the title series and keeps the trek alive toward defending the Division II National Title.

Concordia stayed aggressive on offense all night, smoking 50 kills at Minnesota Duluth with a .364 hitting average. "We played tight and kept on them," said Starkey. The Golden Bears also served aggressively and forced the Bulldogs to play out of system, take away one-on-one situations that the Bulldogs have had so much success with this year.

With more than 1,200 fans in attendance, the Gangelhoff Center was the perfect environment for a match of this magnitude. The Golden Bears, who thrive on emotion and momentum, received the benefit of a season high backing of Concordia faithful. "I love it," said Sadie Kessler simply. "We really drive off of emotion, so knowing we were up kept us going toward the win."

Seniors Maria Steinhagen and Whitney Meierotto played key roles in helping their team keep the season alive and keep working in the post-season. Steinhagen led the team with 13 kills and a .462 hitting average. Meierotto marked her 17th double-double of the season with ten kills in 17 attempts and adding a team high 13 digs. Both seniors had a solo block and two block assists.

"I didn't doubt that we would get here," said Steinhagen of the Elite Eight berth. "It's nice to have that confidence in your team to keep the season going and hopefully put together another run."

Sadie Kessler also had a huge night for the Golden Bears on the rightside. She tallied 12 kills with one error. Maggie McNamara kept the Bulldogs guessing and dished 46 assists on the team's 50 kills.

The Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs put up a valiant effort to push the Golden Bears, especially in the opening set of the match. They had the advantage through the early part of the set, leading 14-13 before Concordia ripped off a 6-1 run. Jamie Lakatos was the only UMD hitter to finish in double figures for the night, finishing with ten kills. Katie Gangelhoff had a double double with 29 assists and 13 digs. The team hit .200 on the evening and had 42 digs.

The Golden Bears will take on New Haven in the quarterfinal round of the Elite Eight. The location of the final matches will be announced in the near future, and Concordia hopes to be the site named to host. For more information on the teams advancing with the Golden Bears, please visit www.ncaa.com.