GPAC announces spring dates for fall championships: Back on Tuesday, Nov. 24, the GPAC announced spring GPAC tournament dates for the sports of men’s soccer, women’s soccer and volleyball. The conference postseason had been postponed for each of those sports in order to accommodate schedule adjustments caused by COVID-19 interruptions. These GPAC tournaments are now set to be played in April. For specific dates, please click HERE.
Looking back on the fall: While several traditional fall sports will continue their seasons into the spring semester, we took a look back at what happened over the past few months in a fall 2020 rewind that can be read HERE. The story includes a summary of happenings for the sports of cross country, football, golf, shooting sports, men’s soccer, women’s soccer and volleyball. The football and cross country programs have wrapped up competition for the 2020-21 academic year.
“X” has sights set on school record: Xavier Ross enjoyed a breakthrough 2020 indoor track season while earning All-America honors in the 400 meters. “X” is hoping to raise his game to another level this winter and perhaps even break the school record in the 400. The Chicago area native was reunited at Concordia with Head Coach Matt Beisel, who also coached Ross as an eighth grader. For more on Ross, click HERE.
Update to fan attendance policy: As of Nov. 11, the fan attendance policy regarding indoor sporting events has changed at CUNE. In accordance with Directed Health Measures released last week by the state of Nebraska, Concordia will be limiting fan attendance in indoor facilities to 25 percent capacity. Please note that spectators will not be permitted to attend indoor track and field meets (per GPAC policy). For additional details on how to purchase tickets to Bulldog Athletic events, see the paragraph below regarding HomeTown ticketing.
HomeTown Ticketing and Fan protocols for home events: Fans who plan to attend Concordia Athletics home events are advised to read through our protocols HERE. All fans are expected to self-screen and are required to wear masks while viewing contests in either Bulldog Stadium or Walz Arena. Non-family members are welcome to be present on our campus during these contests. Fans are also encouraged to order advance tickets through HomeTown Ticketing. By purchasing tickets online, fans are guaranteed entrance on game days. Concordia is allowing 75 percent capacity in outdoor venues and 25 percent capacity in indoor venues.
Bulldog Coaches Show airs every Thursday at 5:30 p.m. CT: The Bulldog Coaches Show is underway in its fifth year of existence. The show airs live for a half hour every Thursday beginning at 5:30 p.m. CT on KTMX-FM 104.9 Max Country. The weekly feature can also be heard live via 104.9 Max Country’s website or by downloading the Max Country app. Throughout the 2020-21 season, Bulldog football, men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball contests will be aired live on Max Country. Evan Jones serves as the host of the coaches’ show as well as the play-by-play voice for football and basketball. Frank Greene is in his sixth season calling Concordia volleyball.
Concordia Sports Network: Live webcasts for most home varsity contests can be accessed by visiting https://www.cune.edu/
Track & Field
· A whopping 272 days separated the 2020 NAIA Indoor Track & Field National Championships from the first meet of the 2020-21 indoor season. The long layoff finally ended this past weekened as the Bulldogs hosted the Concordia Early Bird Meet (Dec. 4-5) inside the Walz Fieldhouse. Head Coach Matt Beisel’s program was joined by athletes from eight other institutions in a meet that was restricted in size to fit under state COVID-19 guidelines. Concordia came away with 23 marks that met the criteria for inclusion on the NAIA national list. For more information on Bulldog Track & Field, click HERE.
· Of those 23 marks put on the board, nine were automatic national qualifiers, another nine were ‘B’ standard national marks and five met the minimum national standard in the heptathlon/pentathlon. Those marks are listed below.
o Men’s 4×400 meter relay, B (3:19.01)
o Women’s 4×400 meter relay, B (3:58.93)
o Anna Baack – pole vault, A (11’ 6 ½”)
o Rachel Battershell – 400 meters, A (56.71)
o Chase Berry – pole vault, B (15’ 3”)
o Jamey Broman – long jump, A (18’ 5”)
o Morgan De Jong – weight throw, A (55’ 2”)
o Sarah Lewis – 60 hurdles, A (8.93); 400 meters, B (58.31)
o Emily Loy – pentathlon (3,146)
o Colton Meyer – 60 hurdles, A (8.17); 400 meters, B (48.91)
o Kennedy Mogul – pentathlon (3,112)
o Cora Olson – long jump, B (18’ 1”)
o Josie Puelz – pole vault, A (12’ 6 ¼”)
o Sarah Ragland – weight throw, B (51’ 11”)
o Jeremiah Reeser – heptathlon (4,449)
o Amy Richert – pentathlon (3,137)
o Xavier Ross – 400 meters, A (48.09)
o Katie Severt – long jump, A (18’ 7 ¼”)
o Cody Williams – pole vault, B (15’ 3”); heptathlon (5,006)
o Chris Wren – weight throw, B (53’ 5”)
· The women’s team expects to be particularly strong coming off a 2020 GPAC indoor title and a fourth-place NAIA national finish. The Bulldogs also swept 2019 GPAC indoor/outdoor championships. Of the nine automatic marks achieved at the Early Bird meet, seven were attained by women. Of course that group includes reigning NAIA 400 meter national champion Rachel Battershell, the school record holder in both the 400 meters and 60 meter hurdles. Battershell got her junior indoor season started by clocking a time of 56.71 (after conversion) in the 400 meters. Battershell was named the 2020 GPAC Indoor Athlete of the Year.
· Battershell and fellow junior Sarah Lewis make for quite the one-two punch in the hurdles and 400 meters. Lewis even made a run at Battershell’s school 60 hurdles record by finishing in 8.93 seconds last week, a bit off the standard of 8.81 Battershell ran at the 2020 GPAC indoor meet. Battershell and Lewis are also key components of what should be an outstanding 4×400 meter relay. They collaborated with Kennedy Mogul and Amy Richert on a 4×4 time of 4:02.01 at the Early Bird. Last year’s 4×4 won the GPAC title and earned All-America honors.
· The pole vault should be an area of major strength for both the men and women. Despite having two past All-America pole vaulters (Jacee Pfeifer and Erin Mapson) sidelined at the Early Bird, the Bulldogs posted two national qualifying clearances, courtesy of sophomore Josie Puelz and senior Anna Baack. Puelz won the GPAC pole vault title as a freshman and went on to place third at the national championships. Meanwhile, Baack has waited since her freshman year for another shot at nationals. Her performance at the Early Bird made for a feel-good story.
· The men’s team gets a boost simply from having Cody Williams back after he missed nearly all of the 2020 indoor season. Named the 2019 GPAC Outdoor Athlete of the Year, Williams has accomplished a lot individually – other than winning a national title. That achievement could be on his radar this season. The native of Imperial, Neb., placed as the 2019 NAIA heptathlon national runner up. Williams totaled 5,006 points in the heptathlon last week while taking a very early national lead in the event.
· Assistant coach Wayne Earney has now finished his time with the program. The Early Bird meet served as a last hurrah for Earney, who was hired on staff in June of 2017. Since then, Earney has worked specifically with the vertical and horizontal jumps athletes. His impact has been significant. He has coached school record setters such as Leah Larson (triple jump) and Jessica Deterding (pentathlon/heptathlon) and has worked with a current group of jumpers that could break more records. Long jumpers Jamey Broman and Katie Severt qualified for nationals as part of the Early Bird meet. Earney said that Concordia will continue to hold a special place in his heart.
· It would be an extreme challenge to mention all noteworthy performances at an Early Bird meet that saw roughly 100 Bulldogs compete in one or more events. Check out full results HERE. In the throws, Coach Ed McLaughlin is retooling with a younger group. Once outdoor season arrives, past national champions Jacob Cornelio and Addie Shaw will be added to the mix as they complete their remaining eligibility. Morgan De Jong led the way for the throws group by qualifying for nationals in the weight throw.
· It will be more than a month yet before the next meet as Concordia breaks for the semester. A return to action will come on Jan. 16 when the Scott Nisely Invite (hosted by Doane) and Dakota Wesleyan Invite are set to unfold. The Bulldogs will gear up to host another meet on Jan. 22 (Concordia Polar Dog Invite). Fans of Concordia Track and Field and NAIA track and field can follow nationally reported marks all season long via the TFRRS website: https://www.tfrrs.
· Due to the cancellation of the University of Nebraska-Kearney Open that had been scheduled for Nov. 21, the Bulldogs had not been in action since the Dakota Wesleyan Open on Nov. 14. The idle stretch ended on Dec. 3 when Concordia manhandled Midland, 38-7, in a GPAC dual in Fremont, Neb. Two days later, a group of 10 Bulldogs competed at the Doane Open in Crete, Neb., where wrestlers from 10 additional institutions gathered. Third-year Head Coach Levi Calhoun’s squad is 2-0 in GPAC duals (2-1 overall). For more information on Concordia Wrestling, click HERE.
· In the dual at Midland, the Bulldogs dropped the first two matches (174 and 184) before rallying to win the final eight bouts of the night. The path to victory was made easier by way of open weights for the Warriors at 197, 285, 125 and 133. Following the run of forfeits, Concordia earned contested wins from Mario Ybarra (decision at 141), Jeaven Scordis (decision at 149), Issiah Burks (major decision at 157) and Gabe Crawford (major decision at 165). For Midland, the loss dropped it to 0-2 in the GPAC (0-3 overall). The Warriors have also suffered losses to York College and Hastings.
· The Bulldogs carry an active GPAC dual win streak of 10 into the week. The streak includes a perfect 8-0 mark during the 2019-20 season. Incredibly, the current streak is still a long ways off the program’s longest conference win streak during the recent run of dominance. Concordia won 22-straight GPAC duals over the 2014-15 through 2017-18 campaigns. Since the start of the 2014-15 season, the Bulldogs own an impressive conference record of 43-4. However, Concordia is not the favorite this season. It was ranked third in the initial GPAC rating.
· A number of the team’s starters were left out of the Doane Open, but heavyweight Jacob Telles continued his fine freshman season in tournament action. The native of Albuquerque, N.M., went 4-2 with a pair of pins on the day while placing fifth at 285. The pins both came against GPAC foes – Ian Howell of Jamestown and Zion Longsine of Doane. Telles (15-4 overall record) leads all Bulldogs in wins and now has five pins this season. Telles is ranked as the GPAC’s No. 4 heavyweight.
· Checking in with the second most victories on the team is another freshman in Mason Garcia (11-4) of Arroyo Grande, Calif. Garcia picked up a win via forfeit in the dual versus Midland and then placed fourth at 197 pounds at the Doane Open. In tournament action, Garcia pinned Doane’s Terungwa Onongo and won by decision over Kaimana McCreadie of Morningside. Garcia paces Concordia with six pins on the year. He has placed in all three tournaments.
· The efforts of Garcia and Telles certainly were the highlights for the Bulldogs at the Doane Open. The 10 Concordia grapplers who competed in Crete combined for 10 victories. At 157 pounds, the junior Burks went 2-2 with a pin. TJ Huber (174) and Carter Willis (125) also notched one win apiece. Meanwhile, returning GPAC champions Crawford and Ybarra did not take part in the tournament.
· As mentioned, Telles (15-4) and Garcia (11-4) lead the team in wins. Six other Bulldogs have recorded at least five wins this season: Burks (11-5), Huber (8-7), Ybarra (7-1), Scdoris (7-7), Jose Sanchez (6-6) and Carter Willis (5-9). Among these Bulldogs, Ybarra is the highest regarded. The junior from Scottsbluff, Neb., just missed out on All-America honors last season and is currently ranked as the NAIA’s No. 3 133-pounder. Ybarra won the 133-pound title at the York Open and has seven-straight victories since a loss to open the season.
· The GPAC dual win streak will face a challenge from Morningside (0-0) when the two sides meet inside Friedrich Arena at 7 p.m. CT on Thursday. Ranked fifth in the GPAC, the Mustangs have yet to take the mat for a dual this 2020-21 season. Last season Morningside went 6-2 in conference duals. One of those defeats came by a 23-16 score against Concordia. The Mustangs and Bulldogs shared the 2018-19 GPAC regular-season title with identical 7-1 conference marks. Concordia will have this weekend off. The Concordia Junior Varsity Open originally scheduled for this Saturday has been canceled.
· Life on the road within the GPAC is no picnic. The Bulldogs ended the Dec. 2 game at Hastings on a 9-0 run to pull out a nail-biter of a 73-66 victory at Hastings. Three days later, Concordia went cold offensively and struggled to a 69-59 loss at Briar Cliff. The Bulldogs had won their first three GPAC road games of this season before the defeat in Sioux City, Iowa. Fifteenth-year Head Coach Drew Olson’s squad sports an overall record of 6-4 (5-2 GPAC). For more information on Concordia Women’s Basketball, click HERE.
· Concordia and Hastings were the two dominant teams in the league last season (the Bulldogs went 21-1 in GPAC regular-season play while the Broncos finished at 20-2). Early in this season, both teams have suffered more conference losses than they did all of 2019-20. In other words, the race for the GPAC title in 2020-21 may be wide open. Concordia is currently tied with Midland (5-2 GPAC) for third place in the conference behind Morningside (4-0) and Briar Cliff (5-1).
· The incredible run for Olson’s program is often reflected in recent series history with GPAC opponents. The Bulldogs have now won 11 of the last 12 meetings over Hastings. The one defeat came last season inside Lynn Farrell Arena. On the other hand, Concordia had a 10-game series win streak versus Briar Cliff snapped last week. Previously, the Chargers had not beaten the Bulldogs since Feb. 24, 2016. At 7-1 overall, Briar Cliff is already approaching its win total from the entire 2019-20 season when it went 11-19.
· Star guard Taylor Cockerill got back to scoring in a big way last week. Her two-game totals included 40 points, 19 rebounds, six assists and two steals in 64 minutes of action. In three lopsided wins prior to the contest at Hastings, Cockerill had scored a combined nine points while taking a backseat to her teammates in the scoring department. The Waverly High School product has run her career point total to 1,080. She recently moved past Becky Mueller (1,071) for 23rd on the program’s all-time list.
· Concordia hopes to quickly shake off what was its worst shooting performance of the season. The Bulldogs made only 18-of-78 (.231) shots from the field (8-for-42 from beyond the arc) at Briar Cliff. Those ugly numbers were a departure from what Concordia had done during the six-game win streak. In those six games leading up to the matchup at Briar Cliff, the Bulldogs went a combined 63-for-168 (.375) from 3-point range. This is a team that likes to let it fly from deep. Concordia’s 97 made 3-point field goals are third most among all NAIA teams.
· Freshman Taysha Rushton has attempted more field goals (129) than any player on the roster. The native of Lubbock, Texas, has a chance to become a really prolific scorer once her shooting percentages rise (currently 32.6 percent from the field). However, Rushton has gone an impressive 33-for-39 (.846) from the foul line (third best among GPAC players). She’s also the team leader with 35 assists (average of 3.5 per game). Last week Rushton poured in a combined 27 points. That included a critical three-point play down the stretch at Hastings.
· It would seem to be a rarity for a team to lose when it has 31 more field goal attempts than the opponent (as Concordia did compared to Briar Cliff). The discrepancy in field goal attempts has been another hallmark of Olson’s great teams. So far this season, the Bulldogs have shot the ball 725 times while their opponents have taken 582 shots. Stating the obvious, this consistent advantage has come out of very large positive turnover margins over the years. The 2020-21 team ranks 10th nationally in turnover margin (+8.8).
· Junior Mackenzie Koepke totaled a solid 20 points and 11 rebounds over last week’s two games. The Lincoln Lutheran High School product has settled into a role coming off the bench this season. The starting five hasn’t necessarily mattered in a system where substitutions are frequent. Koepke ranks fourth on the team in minutes per game (19.9) and fifth in scoring (7.7). She is a candidate to someday join Cockerill in the 1,000-point club. Koepke currently has 608 career points.
· As announced last week, Concordia will not be hosting Mount Marty on Wednesday as originally scheduled. That game has been postponed and rescheduled for Dec. 30. That means the focus has shifted to Saturday’s clash at No. 24 Morningside (6-1, 4-0 GPAC). Before welcoming the Bulldogs to town, Morningside will be at Briar Cliff on Wednesday in a big intra-city matchup. With a win, the Mustangs would become a clear early favorite in the GPAC race.
· Concordia is in the midst of a stretch that features plenty of GPAC road action. In away games last week, the Bulldogs toppled Hastings, 86-77, on Dec. 2 before falling at Briar Cliff, 89-75, on Dec. 5. Before venturing to Sioux City, Iowa, Concordia had not suffered a loss since the season opener against Tabor College (Kan.) on Oct. 30. Head Coach Ben Limback’s squad now stands at 8-2 overall and at 5-1 in GPAC play (second behind 4-0 Dakota Wesleyan). For more information on Bulldog Men’s Basketball, click HERE.
· The program’s longest ever winning streak against GPAC opponents came to an end with the defeat at Briar Cliff. It snapped a string of 12-straight victories over conference foes, dating back to last season. The streak included wins over Hastings (Feb. 12), Mount Marty (Feb. 15), Midland (Feb. 19), Jamestown (Feb. 22), Northwestern (Feb. 26), Hastings (Feb. 29), Dakota Wesleyan (March 3; GPAC title game), Midland (Nov. 10), Northwestern (Nov. 14), Dordt (Nov. 21), Doane (Nov. 30) and Hastings (Dec. 2). The current team is the program’s first to start a season at 5-0 in the GPAC since the 2004-05 squad did the same.
· It took a torrid 3-point shooting performance to beat Concordia. Briar Cliff went a white-hot 18-for-36 from 3-point range while running away from the Bulldogs in the second half. That type of outburst isn’t completely abnormal for the Chargers (4-5, 2-3 GPAC), who have drilled 14 or more 3-point field goals five times this season. The 18 treys were by far a season high for Concordia opponents, which had reached double figures only once (Friends University – 13). Briar Cliff’s Conner Groves went 7-for-11 from long range after scoring only three points in the previous game.
· On a more positive note, both Justin Wiersema (29) and Gage Smith (20) posted career high point totals in the win at Hastings. Smith posted 18 of his 20 points in the second half in helping the Bulldogs build a 19-point advantage. A native of Elizabeth, Colo., Smith has been a revelation this season. He’s averaging a double-double at 12.8 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. He has ramped up his production significantly after averaging 4.7 points and 4.5 rebounds last season.
· Wiersema did his damage at Hastings despite being somewhat limited by foul trouble. The native of Loveland, Colo., made 10-of-17 shots from the floor in yet another triumph over Hastings. Dating back to last season, Wiersema has reached double figures in scoring in 12-straight games. Wiersema ranks fourth in the GPAC in scoring average (16.8) behind Mason Walters (23.3) of Jamestown, Alex Van Kalsbeek (20.6) of Northwestern and Trey Brown (17.0) of Morningside.
· Concordia has had Hastings’ number. Last season’s four-year seniors Tanner Shuck and Brevin Sloup went a perfect 9-0 in their careers against the Broncos. The series win streak has now hit 10 after last week’s result. Hastings last beat the Bulldogs during the 2015-16 season when it took both regular-season meetings. In the matchup last week, the Broncos got only three points from their bench and allowed Concordia to shoot 53.1 percent in the second half.
· The Bulldogs were picked sixth in the GPAC preseason poll. There has not been a new official poll since then, but Concordia has gotten some love from the NAIA Hoops Report (independent of the NAIA National Office). In the most recent ratings put out by the NAIA Hoops Report, the Bulldogs were placed atop the GPAC and at No. 22 in the NAIA. Concordia has not cracked the NAIA coaches’ top 25 poll since the 2010-11 season. The program last finished a season in the top 25 in 2005 (ranked fifth prior to the national tournament).
· The lack of success on the defensive end at Briar Cliff was a departure from the early returns this season. The Bulldogs entered last weekend allowing opponents to shoot just over 40 percent from the field. Despite the rough outing, Concordia still sports GPAC rankings of second in scoring defense (68.7) and third in field goal percentage defense (.413). On the offensive end, four Bulldogs reached double figures in scoring at Briar Cliff: Carter Kent (15), Smith (14), Wiersema (11) and Jackson Hirschfeld (10).
The team’s lone scheduled home game for the entire month of December is coming up on Wednesday when Concordia will host Mount Marty (6-4, 3-2 GPAC) at 7 p.m. CT (change from original time). The Bulldogs will then be at seventh-ranked Morningside (8-1, 4-1 GPAC) for a showdown of teams near the top of the league standings (tipoff at 4 p.m.). Concordia will try to snap a nine-game series skid against the Mustangs. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs and Lancers split last season’s two regular-season meetings.