The No. 1 Concordia Eagles have proven one thing over the past two years, they are resilient, and pretty good too. On Tuesday night at No. 7 The Master's, without reigning NAIA Player of the Year Brooke Marino who was out with an injury, the Eagles fought through three tooth-and-nail games to prevail 3-2 and remain undefeated.
With the win, Concordia guaranteed themselves a share of the 2012 GSAC Championship. Madison Ekis stepped up and led the Eagles with 17 kills and 10 digs. Fei Gao added 14 kills and 16 digs. Jessica Israel had 11 kills, and Reanna Schelhaas and Le Mi had seven winners and four blocks each. Jenee Henderson had 16 assists and 11 digs. Sam Dougherty led the Mustangs with 21 kills.
"This team has found a way to overcome adversity all year," head coach Dan Fisher said. "We tried a lot of different lineups and got a lot of help from our bench."
Concordia hit .183 on the match, compared to .173 for TMC. The teams were square at 11 blocks each. The first set was back and forth early, but The Master's took a lead 10-7 after an ace. Concordia came back to tie the match at 16 on a kill by Israel. It was sideout until the teams were tied at 21, two Gao kills and a kill from Mi and Israel ended the match 25-22. Concordia hit .229 in the set, with The Master's at .194.
The Mustangs came out red hot in the second game, taking an early 9-4 lead. Concordia was never able to get closer than four, eventually losing 25-18. Concordia hit .146 and The Master's hit .303.
"They had a great crowd tonight, but our girls never stopped competing," Fisher said.
Concordia dropped the first three points of the third game, but fought back to take a 13-6 lead spurred by balanced kills and aces from Ekis and Mindy Knight. The Eagles held the seven point lead and went up by 11, 22-11, on an ace from Knight and kill from Ekis. Concordia went on to win 25-14. Concordia hit a dominant .480, while The Master's hit .120.
Set four was a true thriller. It was back and forth until The Master's took a 15-10 lead. Concordia climbed back to tie the game at 20. The Master's went ahead 24-21, but a kill from Ekis and two Mustang errors tied it at 24. The Master's had two set points and Concordia had one, before The Master's finally prevailed 29-27. Concordia hit .123 and The Master's hit .226.
Concordia jumped out 6-2 in the final set to 15. Concordia held a slim margin for the majority of the set, before The Master's pulled within one at 13-12. Madison Ekis drove one home and Le Mi and Briana Hughes combined for a block for the 15-12 win. Both teams hit negative in the set, with CU at -.059 and The Master's at -.077.
Concordia remained undefeated, 29-0 and 13-0 in the conference. Earlier in the day they earned their fifth No. 1 ranking in school history. They are guaranteed a share of the GSAC title, giving them their second in school history and second straight. The Master's fell to 25-5 and 9-4 in the GSAC. On Saturday Concordia will battle No. 4 Biola at home at 7 pm. Concordia has a chance to take sole possession of the GSAC Championship and record their second-straight undefeated GSAC schedule with the win.