SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – After dropping the first set of the match, third-ranked Concordia-St. Paul (33-2) rallied to win three consecutive sets to defeat second-ranked Tampa (33-2) in the national semifinals on Friday by a score of 23-25, 25-14, 25-18, and 25-13. Concordia reaches the Division II Championship match for the fifth consecutive year and sixth time overall and are seeking their fifth consecutive championship.
“That was a hard fought and fun match tonight,” head coach Brady Starkey said.
Kayla Koenecke had a career night with 15 kills, a .652 attack percentage and a career-high 22 digs on the evening. Megan Carlson had a double-double with 15 kills and a team high 23 digs. Taylor Fieldsted had 13 digs as the team tallied 85 total digs on the night — the second highest in 2011.
“We trust each other and that we would still make plays,” Koenecke said. “I just got to spots where I could get hit by the ball tonight and it worked out in my favor.”
“We were outplayed in the end of the first set but we came back and rallied in the next few sets,” Fieldsted said. “We knew it would be a long night of volleyball and we were able to put that first set behind us.”
The Golden Bears also had double-digit kills from Ashley Murtha with 14 and Katie Habeck with 11. Cassie Haag added eight. The team hit .371 on the night against the second ranked team in the nation. Amanda Konetchy had 55 assists on the evening.
In the first set, Concordia jumped out to a 13-7 lead as the Golden Bears seemed in control of the first set. Concordia maintained the six-point lead at 18-12 before Tampa started to claw back. Tampa got within three at 20-17, but Concordia pushed the lead back to five at 22-17. The Spartans then went to work as they scored seven of the next eight points to tie the set up at 23 all. Concordia tried to slow Tampa down, but the Spartans took the set 25-23. Carlson and Koenecke each had four kills in set one.
Concordia was able to put set one out of their mind quickly as again they jumped out early. The Golden Bears forced a Tampa timeout up 16-11. The timeout failed to slow CU down as the lead got as big as 24-13 as CU took the set 25-14. Carlson had six kills alone in set two.
The third set had a similar start as the first two with Concordia getting the early lead. Concordia had an 11-6 lead for the third set in a row. The lead got up to six before Tampa closed the gap and got within three at 13-10. The Golden Bears doubled up Tampa over the next few points extending their lead to 19-13. The lead was as big as eight at 22-14 before Tampa attempted to come back once again. Tampa rattled off four consecutive points but that was all they could do falling 25-18 in set three. Murtha and Koenecke led the way in set three with six kills apiece.
It was all Concordia in the fourth set as CU took off and grabbed a 10-4 lead early on. The Golden Bears kept pouring it on and extended their lead to 14-7 midway through the set. Tampa closed the gap to five but that was the closest the fourth set would be as Concordia poured it on and won the set 25-13 clinching their fifth consecutive trip to the NCAA championship match.