Nov. 20, 2009

Courtesy of Concordia University Sports Information Department

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The two-time defending NCAA Division II Champion and top-ranked Concordia University volleyball team has secured their seventh conseuctive chance to play in the NCAA Central Region Championship match, defeating #17 Wayne State in three sets, 25-17, 13, 10 to win their 70th consecutive match, extending their Division II record.

For the host Golden Bears, they will now have appeared in the regional title match in all seven years that they have made the NCAA Tournament, advancing to face the No. 7 seed and 20th-ranked Metro State tomorrow at 7:00 p.m.

It was not an easy opponent that Concordia, either, as the Wildcat volleyball program has achieved heights never before seen in 2009. Wayne State's fourth seed is the highest ever in the NCAA Tournament as they made their fifth consecutive trip to the big show. Throughout the course of the season, their national ranking climbed to a school record and they finish one win shy of the 30 mark and were led by the NSIC's Coach of the Year, Scott Kneifl, the second time he has earned the honor - an impressive feat in one of the strongest volleyball conferences in the nation.

But they didn't have any answers for Concordia's play tonight, as Kneifl would indicate in the post match press conference (watch the video by visiting the link above). Concordia hit .364 for the match and finished the third set off with a match-high .545 attack pct. Wayne State, meanwhile, couldn't get their offensive in gear, hitting .018 on the night and ending at a match-low -.148.

Concordia's two top hitters, Sadie Kessler and Cassie Haag, were nearly unstoppable. Kessler terminated 13 of her 20 chances while Haag put down 12 of her 21. They combined to hit just two errors as well.

But the offense doesn't tell the whole story as Concordia blocked the Wildcats 11 times in the match led by Emily Palkert's eight (one solo) and the defense was also aided by the strong performance of libero Mary Slinger's 17 digs.

The Wildcats were led by Jennifer Hefner's eight kills and three blocks (one solo) while Tali Fredrickson added seven kills and six digs. Libero Leigh Connott dug up 11 CU attacks to lead the team.

Concordia and Metro State are the two survivors out of a region that produced seven teams ranked nationally in the top-20 while the eighth, Colorado Mines, had a 20-plus win season as well.     

Concordia University Match Notes: This is the seventh consecutive appearance for the No. 1 Concordia University Golden Bears in the NCAA Tournament under head coach Brady Starkey ... The Golden Bears are the two-time defending Division II National Champions ... CU finished the season with a 20-0 NSIC record, claiming its seventh straight NSIC title ... The Golden Bears have won 52 consecutive NSIC games ... Brady Starkey holds a 118-2 record in NSIC games ... The Golden Bears have won 69 straight matches ... Maggie McNamara holds the NCAA Division II record with 7,103 career assists ... Sadie Kessler has recorded 1,024 kills in her career at CU ... Mary Slinger owns the most digs in school history with 2,257 ... The Golden Bears have won four Central Region Titles in six years ... Concordia University currently holds a 14 game winning streak in the NCAA Tournament ... Concordia advances to their seventh straight Central Region Championship game.

Wayne State Match Notes: No. 17 Wayne State is making their fifth straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament ... The Wildcats tied with Minnesota State with a 16-4 record in the NSIC ... Wayne State's No. 4 seed in the tournament is their highest ever seeding in a national tournament. 

Head Coach Brady Starkey:

Opening Statement:
"First of all I would like to say congrats to Wayne State on a great season. Scott does a great job there. Those girls always play hard and they are young and will definately be back here again next year. I don't even know what I can say about tonight. Our girls played awesome, it was a fun match from first point to match point. We worked really hard, our ball control was on, and we worked them well on defense. Mag's (Maggie McNamara) was able to set the ball to whoever she wanted to."

On his team having a fifth gear: "We get to see it everyday in practice. Sometimes in matches teams are a little more tentative. Tonight I think we came close to that top gear. We have the potential to do it. Yeah I do think that we have another gear to offer."

On what to expect from Metro State: "They have a really experienced setter. She (Gabe Curtis) really runs the team very well. She (Gabe Curtis) delivers the ball really well to her teammates. If they are in system they can be really tough. They run a very similar offense to what we run, they run a pretty fast tempo style of offense. Hopefully we will be able to get them out of system, if not we're going to have to put our helmets on and get back there and dig balls."

On the accolades his team has accomplished: "To be honest we never talk about them. We never talk about a streak or what we have to do to get this or that. There is never a moment where we need to get here or there or reach a specific accomplishment. If we play our game we will be alright. It doesn't makes sense for us to put undue pressure on ourself to meet any specific historical accomplishment. Its just a game of volleyball and we go out there and play our game rather than worry about how important these things are. We just like to stay relaxed and go out there and play some ball." 

Senior libero Mary Slinger
On the start of the match: "Its been a pattern for us this year. We never really start out as strong as we would like to. When we are able to relax a little bit then we can really work our game plan."

On Wayne State hitters: "We always expect them to come out strong. They're scrappy players and come at us hard. They have some very smart hitters who are really strong out there. You don't know what to expect from them and that really keeps you on your toes. We did a good job digging and were able to keep the ball in play."

Freshman middle hitter Cassie Haag
On her freshman year: "Its awesome, a great experience to come in here in my first year. I am having an awesome time."

On hitting and being set up by Maggie McNamara: "Maggie is incredible. I know that she is going to set me the ball. I always have to be ready to go up there and hit the ball. She is awesome, sometimes she does things and I wonder how the heck she does that."

Head Coach Scott Kneifl:
Opening statement:
"Obviously this is not the way we envisioned this game to go. It came down to a serve and pass battle. They served extremely well and were able to get us out of our system. They played pretty much flawless tonight. I think they only had seven or eight errors tonight."

On fast start to the match and getting ahead early: "Early on it seemed like we had a lot more fire and fight. We woke up a sleeping giant or something. We felt really good coming in tonight. Our team has been backed into a corner a lot and they did some really good things throughout the season."

On Wayne State's strong offense: "That was probably the best serve I've seen all year. There block was able to predict where we were going to go. They are pretty good on the other side too."

Junior middle hitter Jennifer Hefner
On her teams run in the end of the season:
"Staying together this is probably my favorite team I have ever played on. We played together and we had great team chemistry which is really important. We just gelled together and when you play together as a team nobody can beat you."

Senior defensive specialist Tessa Wietfeld:
On concluding her career by helping the program reach new heights: "This season was by far my favorite because of our team chemistry. Like Jennifer said, I'm just so honored to play for this program. It makes a difference having strong team chemistry because we found ourself backed into a corner a lot and we were able to come together. I have faith that the program is going to keep going strong and I can't wait to see what they do."