Concordia-St. Paul posts sweep of Northern State in NCAA tourney opener
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Six-time defending national champion and third-seeded Concordia-St. Paul won its quarterfinal match in the NCAA Central Region on Thursday afternoon with a straight-set victory against sixth-seeded Northern State. The Golden Bears won by scores of 25-18, 25-20 and 25-10 to improve to 30-3, while the Wolves end their season at 22-8.
The Golden Bears improved to 3-0 against NSU on the season as they featured a balanced attack with three players reaching double digits in kills. Emily McDonough and Kayla Koenecke each picked up double-doubles as McDonough finished with 11 kills and 10 digs and Koenecke had 10 kills and 14 digs.
Koenecke's 10 kills pulled her into fourth all time in school history in kills with 1,604, passing Joy Wubben.
Erienne Lauersdorf also had 10 kills for CU and chipped in four digs and three blocks. Heather Schiller came up just short of double figures with nine kills and a match-high five blocks. Amanda Konetchy orchestrated the Concordia offense with 43 assists on the team's 45 kills in the match.
Kelsey Chambers had a match-high 12 kills and fell just short of a double-double with nine digs for Northern State.
The story of the match for the Golden Bears was defense. The Golden Bears picked up nine total blocks and held the Wolves to just .093 hitting for the match. Concordia managed a much more efficient .340 hitting percentage as a team, improving that mark in each set.
Northern State grabbed the opening two points of the match and eventually held an 8-6 lead early but CU responded with a big 8-0 run to gain a 14-8 lead. The Wolves fought hard to close the gap, cutting the lead to four on multiple occasions with scores of 16-12, 17-13, 18-14 and 19-15 but were unable to get any closer. CU scored three in a row to push the lead out to seven as they cruised to a win in the first set.
Concordia had nobody with more than three kills in the set as it hit .276 as a team.
Despite Chambers' four kills on seven attempts in the set with a .429 hitting percentage the Wolves hit just .062 as a team in the first.
Concordia carried the momentum into the second set as it surged out to a 7-1 lead right out of the gates to force a Northern State timeout. NSU recovered by scoring three of four but were once again stymied from getting over the hump as CU maintained a lead of four or more the rest of the set. The lead reached as high as eight at 23-15 but a 6-1 run from NSU kept the set alive a bit longer before Concordia could close the door.
McDonough and Lauersdorf each had four kills in the set as CU improved its hitting percentage to .364 in the second set.
Chambers led the Wolves again in the second, this time with six kills as NSU improved to .200 hitting in the second.
The Golden Bears followed the trend of the second set as they opened the third set by scoring five of the first six points to build an early four-point advantage. The Wolves cut the lead in half before an eight point Concordia run blew the set open with a 10-point lead at 14-4. The Golden Bears continued to pile on as they built a 16-point advantage at 23-7 before closing out the match for the sweep.
Lauersdorf had a set-high five kills to go along with a pair of blocks in the final set as CU hit .374 in the third to close it out.
The Wolves were held to .000 hitting in the third set with no NSU player putting up more than two kills.
Concordia improved their record to 47-4 in the NCAA tournament and 9-0 record in the region quarterfinals. The Golden Bears also hold a perfect record in the region semifinals, winning all 10 previous trips.