In 15 seasons under coach Brady Starkey, the Concordia (St. Paul) volleyball team has won eight NCAA Division II national titles and 91 percent of its matches.
Among those outstanding numbers, this season has stood out for Starkey.
Following a victory over Minnesota Duluth on Saturday for the Central Region championship, Starkey said: “I’ve been doing this a long time and this is one of the more impressive things I’ve seen. We graduated a ton of players from last season’s team. I’m really impressed. I’m really proud of this group and team.”
Last year, with a senior-dominated lineup, the Golden Bears went 35-2 — winning their final 19 matches — en route to the national championship. Six key contributors — including five former All-America players — from that team graduated.
This year’s squad, with a revamped lineup — and only three seniors on the roster — will try to earn the program’s ninth national championship in the past 11 seasons. On Thursday in Pensacola, Fla., the Golden Bears will play New Haven (Conn.) (26-7) in the national quarterfinals.
The Golden Bears (31-3) are the top seed in the tournament.
After losing to Southwest Minnesota State at home in the championship match of the NSIC tournament on Nov. 19, the Golden Bears regrouped to win the region tournament in Marshall, Minn.
The Golden Bears have been led by junior Brooklyn Lewis (508 kills) and senior Mariya Sampson (386 kills). Junior Elizabeth Mohr leads Division II in assists per set (13.1) and is second in total assists (1,651). Freshman Tori Hanson leads the team with 480 digs.
Mohr was named to the first All-America team and Lewis to the second team on Tuesday.
“We’ve taken it week by week,” said senior Shelby Seurer, who has 297 kills. “It feels really, really good to be playing solid volleyball.”
Said Starkey, summing up the season: “We have a great record, but we’ve had moments when we’re not great. But this team doesn’t panic.”