Oct. 11, 2009

Courtesy of Concordia-St. Paul

ST. PAUL, Minn. - There was no shortage of fireworks in a meeting between top-10 ranked teams, #1 Concordia University (21-0, 10-0 NSIC) its greatest rival, #10 Minnesota Duluth (16-4, 9-1 NSIC).  The Golden Bears prevailed in the contested 3-0 match, due in large part to a smoking 25-5 third set win.  Concordia increases is record winning streak to 58 matches with the 25-20, 25-20, 25-5 win.  BOX SCORE

The Golden Bears broke away from what had been an evenly-played match with their huge 25-5 win in the final set.  This marks the fewest points allowed by any team under Concordia head coach Brady Starkey, who improved to 224-20 in his career with Saturday evening's win.

Prior to the blowout, the Golden Bears and Bulldogs treated the audience of 743 to a plentitude of highlight reel plays.  Both squads had the offensive might that is to be expected from two of the best teams in the nation, while the defensive effort put forth on both sides of the court bordered on greatness.

Maggie McNamara opened the match with CU's only ace serve of the evening and took three straight kills from outside hitter Megan Carlson for a 4-0 lead.  Concordia led by as many as eight points in the set despite making a number of uncharacteristic hitting errors.  CU hitters were challenged by a strong blocking front, forcing them to hit over and around the block more than they are accustomed to.  After CU gained an early lead, the Bulldogs matched the Golden Bears nearly point for point, but came up shy of a comeback.

Defensive super plays were on display more in the second set than any other time in the match.  From a jaw-dropping rally in the first point of the set through the final notch of the set, it was clear that defense was the factor that has set these teams apart from all others.  Hitters continued to fire away, but defensive players, especially the works of CU's Mary Slinger, kept rallies alive.

Cassie Haag played a spirited second set for the Golden Bears, gaining confidence from an overpass kill that she put eight feet from the midline.  She went on, finding small weaknesses in Minnesota Duluth's block and defense, and came up with a team high five kills in the set.  The same success came for Alyssa Nelson on the opposing side of the net as both middle hitters vouched for control of the game.

The match was lit up by the Golden Bears in the final set.  The team's hitters simply coult not be stopped and five blocks in the final set alone were more than enough to completely silence Bulldog attackers.  Emily Palkert had her hand in each of the five blocksand added five kills to lead the team.  With Slinger on the line, the Golden Bears scored 11 unanswered points that pushed the set from a 2-2 tie to a 13-2 blowout.

The Bulldogs had only three kills in the final set and put up a -.167 hitting average.  The performance dropped their match average to a mark of .071, while Concordia improved their match mark to .337 with a third set .414 average.

Carlson came away with a team high 14 kills for the Golden Bears, seven of which came in the first set.  Palkert contributed 12 kills and five blocks, while Slinger was rewarded as the match's premier defender after picking up 20 digs.  McNamara had 35 assists and is now only 26 assists away from the school record and joining the top five setters in NCAA DII history.

The Bulldogs came away with 26 kills in the match, falling behind Concordia's 44-kill performance.  They did not have a player reach double figures for kills, but received a nine-kill, no error match from Nelson.  Rachel Jacobson was the top defender, matching the star power of Slinger to some extent and finishing with 11 digs.