Nov. 20, 2008

Courtesy Concordia Athletics

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Concordia University (32-1), the #1-ranked team in both the nation and the Central Region, began it's trek toward defending a national title with a 3-1 win the Central Region quarterfinals on Thursday evening (19-25, 25-10, 25-18, 25-17). The team warmed up to a .364 hitting average to send home #8-seeded Regis University (19-12). The Golden Bears now look ahead to the #4 seed, Nebraska-Kearney, on Friday at 8:00 pm.

After spending much of the day sitting in the Gangelhoff watching the other regional teams duke it out, it took the Golden Bears a set to warm up and get their game rolling. The Rangers out-hit the Golden Bears, finding holes in the CU defense and acing Concordia's passers four times before taking the 25-19 set win.

"Regis played really well in the first game," admitted Concordia head coach, Brady Starkey.

But the tide quickly turned in the second set as Concordia put down 18 kills with just one error, good for a .607 hitting average and a 25-10 win. Junior Maggie McNamara, who finished the match with 53 assists, described how the team turned things around, saying, "As a team, we just tried to bring more energy toward each other. We just executed better."

Despite going out in three sets following an energetic first set win, the Rangers refused to go down quietly. They fought back from an early deficit in the third game and tied things up 14-14 at the mid-point. Their defense battled hard to contain Concordia's overwhelming offensive might and forced the Golden Bears to remain focused for the remainder of the match.

Senior outside hitter Whitney Meierotto had a double-double effort, her 15th of the season, in the Golden Bear win. She had 13 kills and 12 digs to go with four ace serves and two block assists. Leading the CU offense was freshman power swinger Ellie Duffy, who marked 15 kills with a .520 average. The wealth was further passed aroune with 14 kills from Emily Palkert and ten from Maria Steinhagen, who also had a team high four blocks (1s, 3a). The team hit .364 on the evening and had nine ace serves, 53 digs and six blocks.

The effort by Regis University was led by Jessica Howe with a team high 15 kills. She was the only Ranger to finish in double figures. Casidee Young and Devin Eckhardt combined for 28 of the team's 47 digs. Eckhardt had a double double with 34 assists. Sarah Keiter stayed tough on the CU hitters and finished with three block assists. Regis hit at a .208 clip with 43 kills.

"It's nice to get to the second round (of the Regional Tournament), we'll take it," said Starkey. "It wasn't the prettiest we've played all year, but we're off to the second round and that's all that matters."

The Golden Bears are now matched up with the tournament's #4 seed, #9 nationally ranked Nebraska-Kearney. The Lopers advanced with a 3-1 win over Augustana College in the quarterfinals.