The No. 1 Eagles opened up pool play at the 2012 NAIA National Championship on Tuesday, November 27, with a straight sets win over host school Morningside.
Concordia, the No. 1 team and only undefeated team in the country earned an automatic bid to the 2012 NAIA Volleyball National Championship, marking the eighth trip and seventh straight in school history. Concordia owns a record of 30-9 at the tournament and finished Runner-Up last season. They entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed for the second consecutive season.
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has released the pool assignments and schedule for the 2012 NAIA Volleyball National Championship final site presented by CNOS Foundation. Twelve National Championship Opening Round winners met up with 12 teams with byes and invaded the Tyson Events Center/Gateway Arena in Sioux City, Iowa, from Nov. 27 - Dec. 1.
Pool Play Bracket - Championship
No Eagles recorded more than 10 kills on Tuesday night, as Concordia used a balanced attack. Madison Ekis led the team with eight kills and two aces. Fei Gao and Le Mi each had seven kills, with Mi hitting .700 with two blocks. Briana Hughes had five blocks and six kills, hitting .645. Reanna Schelhaas added six kills. Concordia hit .327 and held Morningside to -0.11. The Eagles won the battle at the net, eight blocks to three.
"We were very balanced tonight and everyone played well," Concordia head coach Dan Fisher said. "Our middle blockers both hit for high percentages and we passed really well."
The top-seeded Eagles started the first set up 8-2, led by two aces from Jenee Henderson to start and kills from Mi, Ekis, and Schelhaas. The Mustangs pulled within 8-5 with a couple aces, but Concordia came right back with eight straight points. The spurt was fueled by tons of Morningside attack errors and an Ekis kill. Concordia finished on a nine to four run with kills from Israel, Gao, Briana Hughes, Mi, and two aces from Ekis to win 25-10. Concordia hit .323 on the set, compared to -.156 for Morningside.
The Mustangs stood stronger in game two. They took a 3-1 lead early, but Concordia quickly came back to tie at three with an ace from Gao and kill from Schelhaas. Two straight Gao aces and kills from Schelhaas and Mi made it 7-3 Eagles. Concordia went up 12-4 on a block from Hughes and Ekis. Morningside took some points back to pull within 16-10. An error by Concordia made it 19-15 and Concordia coach Dan Fisher used a timeout to settle the troops. The Eagles finished on 6-2 run out of the timeout to win 25-17. Kills from Hughes, Ekis, and Schelhaas, a block from Israel and Hughes, coupled with a couple Mustang errors saw the game finish. Concordia hit .205 in the set, compared to -.036 for Morningside.
Concordia dominated the third set, starting on a 5-1 run. Kills by Ekis and Mi set the tone. The Mustangs pulled within 6-4, but the No. 1 Eagles' Hughes came back with two kills and a block to lead Concordia to a 10-5 lead. Up 14-7, Concordia used a timeout, and came out with 10 of the final 16 points. Hillary Crone, Ekis, and Gao got kills, Gao and Hughes got a block, and Morningside made numerous errors leading to the 25-13 Concordia straight-set win.
The No. 1 seeded Eagles are joined in their pool by host Morningside (Iowa), No. 13 Georgetown (Kentucky), and No. 12 Indiana East. With a record of 44-3, Indiana East carries the most wins in the NAIA.
"We controlled the tempo and pace of the match tonight, which is something we focused on," Fisher said. "Georgetown and Indiana East are both good teams and we will be ready."
There are six pools with four teams in each pool and they all started action on Nov. 27. The top two teams from each pool will advance to the single-elimination bracket starting Nov. 30. The championship match will take place on Dec. 1 at 8 p.m. CST.
The No. 1 Eagles (33-0) continue pool play tomorrow at 1:45 pm PST against No. 13 Georgetown inside the Tyson Events Center/Gateway Arena in Sioux City, Iowa. Concordia and Biola were the lone GSAC teams to win on Tuesday, as Westmont and The Master's both fell.
NeuLion, the NAIA's official video-streaming company of 12 select NAIA national championship events, will be broadcasting all single elimination matches of the 2012 Volleyball National Championship. The single-elimination matches starting at 10 a.m. CT on Nov. 30 will be streamed and continue through the championship final at 8 p.m. CST on Dec. 1. Single day packages can be purchased for $9.95, while an all-tournament pass is available for $29.95. For more information and to pre-register, click here.