SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — For the first time in Division II women’s volleyball history, Concordia captured a fifth consecutive NCAA Division II Championship by defeating top-ranked, previously unbeaten and tournament host California State-San Bernardino in consecutive sets 25-20, 31-29, 25-18 on Saturday night at Coussoulis Arena.
|Lauren K. Grover||Hillsdale|
The Golden Bears (34-2) have won 30 consecutive NCAA tournament matches and have eliminated CSUSB in four consecutive years. This is the second time that the Golden Bears have defeated CSUSB on its home floor in the national tournament, also doing so in the 2003 NCAA Semifinals. It’s also their second victory against CSUSB in the national championship match, winning in five sets in 2008.
Leading CU on the night were their two seniors Taylor Fieldsted and Megan Carlson who led the team emotionally all night and going 60-61 in serve receive. Carlson added 13 kills and six digs and Fieldsted added 15 digs, leading the team.
Offensively, all-tournament team member Kayla Koenecke led the way with 15 kills and Ashley Murtha was right behind her with 13. Murtha added 10 digs, picking up the double-double and was also named all-tournament. Amanda Konetchy also had a double-double with 43 assists and 10 digs. Cassie Haag had seven kills and a team leading three blocks.
In the first set the two teams went back and forth before the Golden Bears got some breathing room at 10-7 and forced a CSUSB timeout. The Coyotes closed the gap following the timeout and got within one at 11-10. CU pushed right back extending the lead to 14-10 and 17-13 midway through. Cal State never got closer than two the rest of the way and CU won the set 25-20. Koenecke had seven kills alone in the first set.
If there was a better, more intense set than the second one in all of Division II this year, it would be hard pressed to beat the one in the gym Saturday. The Coyotes were on a roll midway through the set going up 14-9 early in a marathon set forcing a CU timeout. The first timeout did not do the trick as CSUSB (32-1) kept a five point lead at 18-13 causing Brady Starkey to call his second timeout.
After the timeout, Concordia started to claw its way back. CU scored two right away to get within three and then cut the gap to one at 20-19 forcing a Cal State timeout. Concordia kept rolling out of the timeout and took a 23-20 lead late in a set that was just starting to see some dramatics. Concordia had set point at 24-21 but could not put away a pesky Coyote bunch who tied it at 24 all. Following a CSUSB error, CU had set point again at 25-24 but once again Cal State came through and got a kill to tie it up at 25. The Golden Bears had set point once again at 26-25 but couldn’t convert.
It was then Cal State’s turn to have set point at 27-26 but Haag converted tying the set back up. CSUSB had another set point at 28-27 bit again CU dug deep as Koenecke delivered this time. One last time Cal State had set point at 29-28 but Concordia forced an attack error from AVCA and national player of the year Samantha Middleborn as Haag blocked her in the middle to give Concordia a 30-29 lead. Koenecke finished the set on the next rally giving Concordia the huge 31-29 lead.
Cal State-San Bernardino did not give in after the second set pushing Concordia once again. Concordia led just 9-8 in the early going but then started to get on a a little roll going up 15-11 midway through forcing CSUSB to call a timeout. The Coyotes never seemed to recover from that moment never getting closer than three the whole way. The Golden Bears finished the set with a 25-18 win clinching the match and bringing the national championship back to Saint Paul and Concordia University.
For CSUSB, the loss ended the nation’s longest home winning streak at 66 consecutive matches as the Coyotes closed the season with its best record in school history at 32-1 in the 25-20, 31-29, 25-18 loss.
“There really are two mindsets with [Saturday night],” Coyotes coach Kim Cherniss said. “One, I’m happy for Concordia-St. Paul. For them to win five consecutive NCAA titles and making history, it’s a credit to Brady and his team. And two, it’s heartbreaking for the kids.”