The No. 1 Concordia Eagles wrapped up pool play in the 2012 NAIA National Championship in Sioux City, IA undefeated for the second-straight year, as CU defeated No. 12 Indiana East 3-1 inside the Tyson Events Center on Thursday night, November 29. Concordia, undefeated at 35-0, will move on to the quarterfinals Friday night, while the Red Wolves' season comes to a close at 44-6.
On Thursday Madison Ekis led the charge with a career high 26 kills, hitting .347 with seven digs. She really kicked it into gear late in the second set, and just took over the game. Jessica Israel was there in support with 14 kills, hitting .281 with three blocks. Reanna Schelhaas had eight kills, hitting .300, and Briana Hughes, Hillary Crone, and Le Mi each had seven winners. Crone hit .545 and Hughes hit .429 with three blocks. Elizabeth Younglove was solid all-around with 29 assists and 10 digs. Concordia hit .354, while Indiana East hit .262. Concordia was out-blocked, 10-6. Concordia coach Dan Fisher chose to use the opportunity to rest All-GSAC honoree Fei Gao.
"We adjusted rather quickly to our lineup changes, and decided we were going to get it done and win this match," Ekis said. "When that feeling kicks in you just want to kill balls."
Concordia, the #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 32-9 at the tournament and finished Runner-Up last season. They entered the tournament as the #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.
The first set was back and forth, as the Red Wolves held tough. With the score knotted at 10, back-to-back kills from Crone and Israel gave Concordia a two-point edge. Kills from Ekis and Israel tacked on two more to put Concordia up 18-14. Indiana East clawed back and got within one at 22-21. Two straight Ekis kills put Concordia up 24-21 at game point, but the Red Wolves scored three straight to tie at 24. Concordia squandered two straight game point chances, and then with Concordia up 27-26, a Red Wolf error ended the set, 28-26. Concordia hit .311, while Indiana East hit .293.
The second set was more of the same, but Indiana East took a two-point edge with the score tied at nine on two Concordia errors. It was a lead they would never relinquish. Concordia fell down 15-11, but got within one at 22-21. That was all though, as the Red Wolves scored three straight to win 25-21. Concordia hit a poor .162 in the set, compared to .276 for Indiana East.
The third game was again sideout volleyball early, then with the score tied at 10, Ekis crushed three kills to give Concordia the 13-10 lead. Indiana East got within one at 13-12, but two more Ekis kills gave them breathing room. With the count 19-15, Concordia finished strong scoring the final six points. It was led by three Ekis kills, a Mackenzie Gromek ace, and a Mi kill. Concordia hit .429 in the game, while Indiana East hit .143.
The fourth set saw Concordia race to a 5-0 lead on an Ekis kill, three straight Hughes winners, and a block from Israel and Hughes. Concordia played sideout volleyball more or less until they led 17-12. Ekis drove two into the floor to make it 19-12. Israel finished back-to-back sets from Elizabeth Younglove to end the match, 25-15. Concordia hit an insane .593 in the final set, while Indiana East hit .333.
"We got the result we wanted and kept the momentum going," head coach Dan Fisher said. "Indiana East is a good team and it was a chance for us to get better. We have spent the whole year trying to treat every game like it is the last, so I think we are ready."
The #1 seeded Eagles were joined in their pool by host Morningside (Iowa), #13 Georgetown (Kentucky), and #12 Indiana East. With a record of 44-5, Indiana East carried the most wins in the NAIA. Concordia and Georgetown both advanced out of pool play.
The #1 Eagles (35-0) continue in the quarterfinals tomorrow at afternoon at 3:45 pm PST inside the Tyson Events Center/Gateway Arena in Sioux City, Iowa against an opponent to be determined tomorrow morning.
Concordia and Biola both advanced, and Westmont was eliminated. The Master's was still in action at press time.
There were 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.
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' start at 10 a.m. CST on Nov. 30 will be streamed and coverage will continue through the championship match on 8 p.m. CST on Dec. 1. For more information and to pre-register, click here.