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Eric Peterson, Published November 05 2011

Cobbers rally past St. Thomas for MIAC volleyball tournament championship

MOORHEAD – Concordia had its home dominance challenged Saturday, but that didn’t prevent the Cobbers from winning a championship at Memorial Auditorium.

Jenna Green had 20 kills to help lead Concordia to a 24-26, 25-18, 22-25, 25-22, 15-8 victory against St. Thomas for the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference volleyball championship.

The No. 8-ranked Cobbers (25-3) hadn’t lost a set at home this season until Saturday and had won 33 in a row at home dating back to last season. Concordia has won 19 consecutive home matches.

“I think it was a good test of our endurance and focus,” said Green, a senior hitter from Dilworth. “This was a great matchup for us going into the NCAA tournament. It really pushes us.”

The Cobbers are 10-0 at home this season, and the first nine victories had all ended in Concordia sweeps.

“Winning was just the most important part overall,” said Concordia senior hitter Katie Vohnoutka of the home consecutive sets streak ending.

The Cobbers clinched a spot in the NCAA Division III tournament, which starts Friday at a site to be determined. Concordia will have to wait until Monday to find out if its one of the eight regional hosts. Each region features eight teams, and the winners of each regional advance to the Elite Eight.

“It’s going to be real hard not to have us host,” Concordia coach Tim Mosser said. “I really think we deserve to host. The kids worked really hard for it. If we were to host, it would be great.”

St. Thomas (29-4) appeared to have the Cobbers on the ropes Saturday. The Tommies had a 2-1 sets lead and scored the first four points in the fourth set. That’s when Mosser took a timeout to calm his team.

“I rarely take timeouts, and I took a timeout early in that set because I could tell we were a little bit scared and a little bit timid,” Mosser said. “I just had to remind them how good they were when they’re confident. You saw the turnaround.”

After the timeout, the Cobbers countered with the next five points to push back into the lead. The set went back and forth from that point.

Sophomore middle hitter Alison Bruggeman’s block staked the Cobbers to a 24-22 lead in the fourth set.

Concordia scored set point on a St. Thomas hitting error to force a decisive fifth set.

“We relaxed a little bit and Concordia made a good run,” said St. Thomas coach Thanh Pham, whose team had its 16-match winning streak snapped. “They are a veteran team and stuck with it and we’re very determined to take it to us.”

Concordia’s momentum mushroomed from that point. The Cobbers scored seven of the first nine points in the fifth set. Concordia built a 10-4 lead after a Danelle Loomis ace, setting the boisterous home crowd into a frenzy. Bruggeman, senior hitter Ashley Beseman and freshman hitter Kelly Reed each came up with important kills and blocks in the final set.

“We knew they needed to step up and they did. That’s the sign of a championship team,” Mosser said. “If we hadn’t had the supporting cast, frankly, we wouldn’t have won because they were really on Jenna and Katie.”

Vohnoutka finished with 17 kills and 11 digs. Bruggeman chipped in 12 kills. Cobbers senior setter Amy Sykora had 52 assists and 16 digs.

“It’s awesome we got conference championship, but we’re moving on,” Green said. “NCAAs, bring it on.”

ST. THOMAS (kills-blocks-aces): Maher 4-0-1 (55 assists), Greenfield 18-0-1, Foley 14-3-0, Brimeyer 12-3-0, Peters 4-0-0, Cross 15-1-0, Wachter 0-0-1 (34 digs), Nass 0-0-0, Potts 3-0-0, Johnson 0-0-0.

CONCORDIA: Green 20-0-1 (22 digs), Vohnoutka 17-1-0, Sykora 3-0-1 (52 assists), Reed 6-3-0, Beseman 9-3-0, Bruggeman 12-1-1, Loomis 0-0-2, Hampton 0-0-0, Post 0-0-0, Wiinanen 0-0-1 (20 digs), Ross 1-0-0, Rotunda 0-0-0.

All-MIAC tournament team

Katie Vohnoutka, Concordia

Jenna Green, Concordia

Ashley Maher, St. Thomas

Kaitlain Wachter, St. Thomas

Amy Werner, Bethel

Lexi Alm, St. Benedict


Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com