– Concordia (St. Paul) will get the chance to defend its NCAA Division II national volleyball title.

The Golden Bears defeated Minnesota Duluth 25-23, 25-20, 20-25, 25-16 on Saturday afternoon to win the Central Region title, advancing to the Elite Eight in Pensacola, Fla. Their first match will be Thursday against an opponent to be determined after the qualifying teams are reseeded.

"I'm proud of this team and so excited for them," said Concordia coach Brady Starkey, whose team has won eight national titles the past 10 years. "I thought we did a good job controlling our nerves for our team.

"They came ready to play and compete and did that from the get-go."

Mariya Sampson and Brooklyn Lewis had 14 kills each for Concordia (31-3), the second seed in this region and ranked third in the AVCA's poll. Hope Schiller and Shelby Seurer had 11 kills apiece for the Golden Bears, who hit .294 to UMD's .184.

"It feels good to be playing solid volleyball this time of year," Seurer said. "There have been times [we] were a little shaky, but we were really solid as a team the last three matches."

The fifth-seeded Bulldogs (26-7) had upset top-seeded Southwest Minnesota State 3-0 in Friday's semifinals but couldn't stop Concordia.

Sarah Kelly led UMD with 14 kills and 13 digs and hit .344.