PENSACOLA, Fla. — Top-ranked Concordia-St. Paul (31-4) defeated Wingate Thursday afternoon 3-1 in the Division II Women’s Volleyball quarterfinals (22-25, 25-20, 25-17, 25-18) on the campus of the West Florida.
The win improves Concordia’s NCAA tournament win streak to 34 consecutive matches, as its all-time NCAA Tournament record improves to 42-4 in 10 appearances. Concordia is now 7-1 in eight trips to the quarterfinals.
The Golden Bears will continue their quest for an NCAA (all divisions) record-tying sixth-consecutive national championship in the semifinals against the winner of BYU-Hawaii and West Texas A&M. Concordia is unbeaten in six prior appearances in the semifinals.
“Couldn’t be more proud that we’re moving on,” Concordia head coach Brady Starkey said. “I thought we gutted out a performance against a team that was really scrappy. We got in there and scrapped for a lot balls and dug for a lot of balls. Our offense wasn’t flowing as well as it normally does but we just scrapped it out.”
Wingate and Concordia traded leads twice in the first five points of the opening frame, giving the Bulldogs a 3-2 lead which they held onto until a kill by Kayla Koenecke gave CU a 14-13 forcing a Wingate timeout. The Bears pushed out to a 22-19 lead but Wingate rallied for six consecutive points to take the set 25-19.
There were 10 scoring ties and four lead changes in the opening frame. Concordia was limited to a .091 attack percentage, committing eight errors on 44 attempts with 12 kills, while the Bulldogs hit at a .191 clip (15-6-47).
Wingate controlled play to begin the second set and led through nine rallies at 5-4. The Bears were able to take the lead with consecutive points only to give it right back in the ensuing two volleys. A kill by Koenecke gave CU a 10-9 lead that it would not relinquish the rest of the set. The Bears gained their largest lead of the set at 20-14 and held on for a 25-20 decision.
Concordia’s offense found a rhythm in set two, improving on their first set .091 attack percentage by nearly 20-percent (.278).
The Golden Bears put the pressure on the Bulldogs in the third set, starting the frame with a 6-2 lead, forcing a WU timeout. CU was able to increase its lead to six points at 11-5 before the Bulldogs answered with a 5-to-1 rally, cutting the deficit to 12-11. Coach Starkey took a timeout and his squad responded with six unanswered points for an 18-11 advantage en route to a 25-17 victory.
After falling to a 4-1 deficit to begin the fourth set, CU fired back with a 7-to-3 run to take an 8-7 lead, which it never gave up the rest of the game. The Bears gradually increased their lead and ended the match with the final three points for a 25-18 deciding set.
The Golden Bears were led by senior Cassie Haag with 15 kills and a .333 attack percentage along with four blocks, while fellow senior Ellie Duffy added 17 kills. Koenecke was strong all-around with 12 kills and 20 digs.
As a unit, the Bears hit .244 on the attack (59-19-164), directed by setter Amanda Konetchy with 53 assists. Defensively, CU had four players with double digit digs – Koenecke (20), Ashley Murtha (19), Taylor Dordan (14) and Kara Pioske (12).
Wingate’s defense was strong all day, led by Stephanie Tassone with 25 digs. The Bulldogs also registered eight team blocks. Anna Hilton paced the offense with 13 kills.
“You have to think about what else can you do other than your normal swings to get the ball to the floor,” Duffy acknowledged of the Wingate defense. “We started to go more high hands and mixing in some off-speed stuff to throw off their defense.”