Concordia (St. Paul) took a big step toward a seventh consecutive NCAA Division II volleyball title on Thursday night. The third-ranked Golden Bears defeated Tampa 18-25, 25-17, 25-19, 25-22 in the national quarterfinals at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The Spartans (32-2) were ranked No. 1 this season and lost to Concordia in the title match a year ago. Tampa’s only previous loss this season was to the Golden Bears in four sets on Sept. 14 in Denver.
Kayla Koenecke had 14 kills, Emily McDonough 13 and Riley Hanson 12 to lead Concordia, which hit .350 to Tampa’s .270.
The Golden Bears (33-3) will play No. 25 Wheeling Jesuit in Friday’s semifinals. Concordia now has a 40-match winning streak in NCAA tournament play, last losing in a regional final to Minnesota Duluth in 2006.
Senior outside hitter Taylr McNeil of Eagan was named the Gatorade player of the year in Minnesota.
She led the Wildcats (30-2) to the Class 3A state championship with 563 kills and a .502 hitting percentage. McNeil signed with South Carolina last month.
• The Gophers women’s gymnastics team was picked to finish third in the Big Ten in a preseason coaches’ poll behind Michigan and defending champion Nebraska. Sophomore Lindsay Mable and senior Dusti Russell of Minnesota were named among the gymnasts to watch. Mable was the conference’s freshman of the year last season.
• The North Dakota Strong campaign, which included donations collected at UND home athletic events, raised $33,129.98 for breast cancer research, which will be donated to Altru Health System, a member of Mayo Clinic’s Health Network.