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Forum staff reports, Published November 12 2011

Cobbers sweep Bethel, roll into NCAA Division III volleyball regional finals

MOORHEAD – While Concordia senior Jenna Green had a match-high 18 kills Saturday, Bethel head coach Gretchen Hunt was impressed with another Concordia statistic – 78 digs.

A strong defensive effort helped spark the No. 7-ranked Cobbers to a 25-23, 25-22, 25-18 victory against the Royals in the regional semifinals of the NCAA Division III volleyball tournament at Memorial Auditorium before an estimated 802 fans.

“I thought Concordia as a whole played great team defense,” Hunt said. “It was really hard to score on them tonight. So I think that was the story. … They were on tonight and they were awesome. It was just a great team we were playing.”

Concordia (26-3) plays

St. Thomas (31-4) at 4 p.m. today for the Moorhead regional championship, with the winner advancing to the Elite Eight.

The Cobbers have won their last 15 matches. Their last loss was to Bethel on Sept. 21.

“We lost to Bethel early in the year and that really dug into us I think,” said Cobbers senior setter Amy Sykora, who had 38 assists. “Coming into this (match), we still had that feeling of losing to them. We didn’t want that to happen again.”

The Cobbers are 12-0 at home this season and have won 21 consecutive matches on their home court dating back to 2009. Concordia is 2-0 against

St. Thomas this season, with both wins coming at Memorial Auditorium.

“We’re excited to play them again. They obviously want to come out and beat us,” Sykora said. “Any time you play

St. Thomas, it’s competitive, and we want to beat them every time.”

Green, a 5-foot-11 outside hitter from Dilworth, led the Cobbers with 16 digs. Sophomore Alison Bruggeman (14), Sykora (11), senior Katie Vohnoutka (11) and junior Rachel Wiinanen (10) also had double digits in digs for Concordia.

“Defensively, we made great stops, we made great ups,” Mosser said. “Those plays really changed the momentum of the match. Right during the key moments of the match, we came up with the play.”

The Cobbers scored six of the first seven points in the third set en route to building an 11-5 lead. Concordia rode that strong start to a 25-18 victory in the third set, which closed out the match. Green had six kills in the final set. Cobbers senior middle hitter Ashley Beseman added five of her nine kills in the third and deciding set.

“We’re really focused, and this is one of our huge goals written on our board,” Beseman said. “So we really want to win (today) and get to the Elite Eight.”

Green, Beseman, Sykora and Vohnoutka lost in the regional final when they were freshmen.

“Our word for the day was focus,” Mosser said. “I wrote it on my tablet (Friday) night. We mentioned it several times (Saturday). We were focused, and you could see that.”

St. Thomas defeated St. Scholastica 25-15, 18-25, 35-37, 25-19, 15-12 in Saturday’s other semifinal. Senior middle hitter Taylor Cross paced the Tommies with 20 kills in that match.

BETHEL (kills-blocks-aces): Wriedt 8-0-0, Helle 5-2-0, Werner 6-2-0, Smith 5-0-0 (21 assists), Rundquist 0-0-0 (12 digs), Toter 3-0-0, Smith 0-0-1 (21 digs), Bloom 0-0-1, Ackatz 2-1-0.

CONCORDIA: Green 18-3-1 (16 digs), Vohnoutka 9-3-1, Sykora 4-0-0 (38 assists), Reed 3-0-0, Beseman 9-3-0, Bruggeman 1-2-2, Loomis 0-0-0, Tastad 3-0-0, Wiinanen 0-0-0.

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

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