Concordia opens NCAA national tournament with a win at Washburn

Box Score

Maria Steinhagen led the Golden Bears with 16 kills and hit .519 as Concordia-St. Paul defeated California (Pa.) 30-26, 30-25, 30-22 Thursday afternoon in Lee Arena in the NCAA Women’s Volleyball National Championship. The Golden Bears (34-4) advanced to the semifinal, played Friday at 4 p.m. Central against the Grand Valley State/West Texas A&M winner.

“Our girls did a good job of controlling the ball and keeping it off the floor,” said Concordia head coach Brady Starkey.

The Golden Bears hit .206 as a team while California managed just a .099 percentage.

The Vulcans started promisingly, taking an 8-3 lead in game one. Concordia fought back and a California service ace tied the match at 11-11. Whitney Meierotto followed with a kill to give the Bears their first lead.

California tied the match five times after that, the last at 21-21, but a kill from Katie Benick later gave CSP a five-point lead and then Kate Bennett put game one away with a kill.

After an even start to game two, the Golden Bears regained the momentum and built a 16-9 lead. A California attack error pushed the lead to 12 at 23-11. The Vulcans then scored four straight points off four Bear errors to make the score 24-15.

Concordia got within two points of winning its second game before California went on a 4-0 run to make the score 28-24. Steinhagen stopped that run with a kill and then after giving up a kill by California’s Joanna Nist, Steinhagen gave her team a 2-0 lead in the match with the decisive kill.

“Concordia made some errors to help us,” said Melissa Myers, California head coach. “But 23-11 is a big gap.”

The Golden Bears opened game three on a 4-0 run before California fought back to tie the match at 6-6. Two straight Concordia errors gave the Vulcans a 10-7 lead and then they held onto the lead until Steinhagen’s kill tied the game at 15-15. The two teams played evenly until Concordia ended the game on a 7-0 run to clinch the match.

Meierotto ended the match with 10 kills and 16 digs for a double-double while Mary Slinger led the back row with 20 digs. Maggie McNamara set 45 assists with 10 digs and three blocks.

California was led by Joanna Nist with 13 kills and Benick with 11. Nist added 10 digs for a double-double while Marta Hodge led the team with 18 digs.

“It wasn’t a pretty match, but it was one of those things were we did a good job of stopping runs,” said Starkey. “I guess that’s what it takes.”

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