Nov. 21, 2009

Courtesy of Concordia-St. Paul Athletics

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The incredible run of the 34-0, #1-ranked Concordia University volleyball team continues with a 2009 Central Region title. The region championship trophy was won over #20 Metro State College (26-7) on Saturday evening in front of a crowd of 1,222 at the Gangelhoff Center, 25-23, 25-27, 25-15. This is the fifth Elite Eight berth for the Golden Bears in the last seven years. The team has won 71 straight matches, an NCAA Division II record. The Elite Eight Tournament will be held December 3-5. The championship bracket and location are yet to be determined.

The Roadrunners of Metro State were well-prepared for the Golden Bears and put up quite a fight, especially in the first set. They matched Concordia with amazing defense, tough serving and powerful swings on offense. The set was tied up 20-20 before CU freshman middle hitter Cassie Haag (Plymouth, Minn.) drilled a go-ahead kill. A service ace from Metro's Bri Morley gave Metro State the 22-21 edge minutes later and forced Concordia's second timeout.

The Golden Bears emerged from the timeout with the next three points to set up the first set point of the match 24-22. The Roadrunners extended the score one more time, but CU senior Sadie Kessler (RS, St. Michael, Minn.) left no further room for a Metro comeback, nailing her fifth kill of the set to close out the 25-23 win.

The tight first set was the closest the Roadrunners would get to continuing their incredible late-season push, although they had numerous highlight-reel plays throughout the rest of the match that drew respect from the crowd. Unfortunately for them, their inability to take the first set may have demoralized them for the remainder of the match.

"When Metro made a push at the end of the first set, we stayed still and pulled it out," said CU senior setter Maggie McNamara (Zumbrota, Minn.). "I think that determined a lot of what happened in the rest of the match."

Concordia continued their battle, finishing the night with a .352 hitting average and 53 digs. The Roadrunners were able to execute parts of their game plan, but the Golden Bears had too many weapons to fall back on.

Mary Slinger pancakes a save to keep her team on top of Metro State."They tried to stop our freshman middle (Haag) and it opened things up for Sadie," explained CU head coach Brady Starkey. "Mags (McNamara) recognized that and got her 1-on-1's"

Kessler did not miss her open opportunities on offense and emerged as the game's best hitter. She put down 14 kills without committing a single error.

The Golden Bears had plenty of help in the backcourt defending against worthy Roadrunner attackers. Senior Mary Slinger (L, Faribault, Minn.) and sophomore Megan Carlson (OH, Andover, Minn.) each paced the defense with 12 digs. McNamara added eight digs to her 39 set assists.

The Roadrunners took a brave effort from senior libero Amy Watanabe, who came up with 18 digs and was a top player on serve receive. Morley finished the match with a team high 11 kills, the only MSC hitter to finish in double figures for kills. Senior setter Gabe Curtis wrapped up her career with 26 assists and seven digs.

The Golden Bears had five players named to the 2009 Central Region All-Tournament Team, Cassie Haag, Maggie McNamara, Mary Slinger, Sadie Kessler and Megan Carlson.