Dec. 3, 2009

By Judd Spicer
Special to

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Quarterfinal day of the NCAA Division II women’s volleyball championships at the Gangelhoff Center began with a buzz. But by 7 p.m., when host team and two-time defending national champion Concordia took the court for warmups, the atmosphere became downright electric.

Come starting time for the No. 1 Golden Bears and the No. 9 Indianapolis Greyhounds, the arena was packed, replete with chest-painted, chant-starting Concordia supporters looking for a three-peat, unprecedented in Division I or II. Indy’s own contingent proved impressive as well, with backers hoping their squad could put a stop to the Golden Bears’ Division II-record 71-match winning streak.  

But the finest season in Indianapolis volleyball history came to an abrupt end. Coming in for their first appearance in the national quarterfinals and carrying an impressive 24-match winning streak of their own, the Greyhounds were mauled in the Bears’ den, falling in straight sets 25-17, 25-17, 25- 22.  Concordia (35-0) has not dropped a set in seven consecutive matches. Indianapolis finished 38-2 for the highest win total in D II and secured the top winning percentage in program history.

In a match offering a pace evoking Indy’s greyhound mascot, first-team All-American senior libero Kyleigh Turner had 17 digs, while fellow first-teamer Cheneta Morrison added 31 assists. Morrison arrived at the Elite Eight ranked 27th in the nation in assists per set with 10.55. Turner, along with being the school’s all-time digs leader, lays claims to being a part of the most victories at Indy in any four-year span. The evening before the quarters, the NCAA honored her with the Elite 88 Award, given to the athlete with the top grade-point average at all NCAA championship events.

“I just want to say that this young lady is the heart of our team,” Indy coach Jody Butera said. “It’s going to be tough when she leaves, but it will be good, because she’s going to come back and help me coach.”

For Concordia, two-time D II Player of the Year Maggie McNamara added to her all-time division-leading assist total with an additional 51. Five Golden Bears had at least eight kills, with first-team All-American Emily Palkert’s 13 leading the way. Libero Mary Slinger, another first-team All-American and Concordia’s all-time leader in digs, added 23 to her career total.  

“They were a really, really strong opponent,” Concordia coach Brady Starkey said. “Indy is one of those teams that I really love because they play great defense and run a really fast offense. I just love how they scrap. I think the third game tonight was more of an indication of how their team normally plays, so we got kind of lucky and got off to a hot start winning those first two games quick. The third game, we really saw what that team is like.”                                                            

Concordia’s victory creates a semifinal showdown between the Golden Bears and Cal State San Bernardino at 7:30 p.m. Friday in a rematch of last year’s championship game. Bernardino was the last team to beat Concordia, sweeping the Golden Bears 3-0 at their own tournament in the opening match for both teams last year. However, Concordia beat the Coyotes 3-2 to capture its second consecutive Division II title.