ST. PAUL, Minn. – Six straight NCAA Volleyball Championships and 39-match national tournament win streak on the line. Whether or not Concordia has a seventh trophy in tow when they return to campus next weekend, one thing’s certain for these student-athletes… finals start on Monday.
“It takes effort on their part, a lot of effort,” says Concordia University, St. Paul head coach Brady Starkey of the team’s balance with academics. The program has earned it’s laurels as a volleyball dynasty, but that’s only half of the picture for these student-athletes and their combined 3.37 GPA.
“They’re goal-driven people who work hard in the classroom. They understand that first and foremost, they’re here to get an education.”
“We work with our professors to get as much done as we can ahead of time. Communication with them is key, and we fit in studying whenever we can,” says the team’s setter, Amanda Konetchy, surrounded by her teammates and a table filled with computers, books and papers on Monday morning.
The senior is already a three-time All-American and recently received another round of NSIC academic honors, as did seven of her eight eligible teammates.
Golden Bear fans only get to see the results of the hours in the gym, when the team takes the court and plays at a championship caliber. But what does the daily grind look like for a student-athlete? Here’s a peek:
The team headed up to Duluth last Wednesday for the Central Region Tournament. They stayed in St. Paul long enough for players to attend most of their morning classes, but had to leave earlier than planned due to the weather. It wasn’t the 24 inches of Duluth snow that made the squad nearly miss an evening practice session, however - it was the bus’s troublesome transmission along Interstate 94.
The next three days, players camped out in lobbies of the hotel and gym in the mornings and during breaks between matches, nabbing internet access where they could. They put their books away at game time and went 3-0 to remain one of just eight teams in the nation still standing. (For fans who missed the action, they overcame top-ranked Minnesota Duluth on UMD’s home court in the Championship match.)
Without a single player on the roster who knows what it feels like to lose a postseason match, how are the Golden Bears preparing for this weekend’s Championship finale? They’re studying. This is the week before finals, after all, and the bus leaves again on Tuesday.
Concordia Volleyball Quick Facts
- 6 straight NCAA Division II trophies (2007-2012) and 39 straight NCAA tournament wins
- 11 straight NSIC conference titles
- Player names throughout the NCAA record book
- 10 AVCA Academic Team Awards in the past 10 years (3.3 team GPA or higher).
- 9 Academic All-Americans
- 2 nominees making top 9 for NCAA Woman of the Year (Mary Slinger ’09 & Ellie Duffy ‘ 13)
- Head coach Brady Starkey named Region Coach of the Year 8 times, NCAA Division II Coach of the Year in 2010 & 2011
No. 3-ranked Concordia will take on top-ranked Tampa in the NCAA Championship quarterfinals, this Thursday at 5 p.m. (CT). Watch the match FREE, visit www.cugoldenbears.com for all tournament information and viewing links.