The good news is that Great Plains Athletic Conference football teams are getting better every year.
That can be bad news, too, as far as making the NAIA playoffs.
“We can’t get out of each other’s way,” Doane coach Matt Franzen said. “Us, Nebraska Wesleyan and Concordia are all very comparable teams. We’ve all beaten each other.”
Top-ranked Morningside (8-0, 7-0) already has clinched at least a share of the GPAC title. Second-place Northwestern (6-2, 5-2) has an outside chance at a playoff spot but must get past the Mustangs on Saturday.
Pile up three losses, as is the case for Dakota Wesleyan, Doane and Concordia, and it takes a miracle to get in, Franzen said.
Concordia coach Vance Winter agrees.
“Once you hit that 3, it’s tough,” he said.
Both coaches say they’ll look back at the end of the season and be able to pick out a few crucial plays in every loss that turned the game.
But they see the positives, too.
“We are getting closer,” said Winter, whose team had started 6-0 before losing its last three. “We know we’re on the right path.”
Hastings College was the last Nebraska team in the GPAC to qualify in 2009. To become the next one, Winter said a team will need to find and retain the right players. Older players have the experience to get through the GPAC meat grinder.
“Morningside has raised the bar. They’ve gotten better and better,” Winter said. “I think the thing that’s challenging is everybody has gotten better in the league. You can’t have any poor performances.”
The Mustangs made it to the national championship game last year. That kind of playoff success has helped them add difference makers every season to a strong core of players.
“I think that’s what sets them apart,” Franzen said. “We are in a position where we could do that, we could become that. We need to have a couple of really good years. Once you make the playoffs, it kind of feeds on itself.”
Milestone on volleyball court
University of Nebraska at Kearney middle Ellie Pesavento reached 1,000 career kills with nine in last week’s 3-1 win at Fort Hays State. The Omaha Marian graduate has 1,017 kills for a Loper squad (24-3, 10-2) that is battling to repeat as MIAA regular-season and tournament champions.
UNK’s MJ Massanet was named the MIAA hitter of the week Monday. She averaged 4.62 kills and 4.08 digs per set in three wins. She’s had at least 10 kills in 12 straight matches, recording 10 double-doubles in that stretch.
In other volleyball news:
» Central Community College defeated North Platte Community College 25-17, 25-20, 25-22 in the Region IX tournament final and advanced to the District G playoffs this weekend, where it will play Bismarck State in a best-of-three series. The winner advances to nationals.
Skyler Erickson had 17 kills and Megan Anderson and Shuraya Frauendorfer combined for eight stuff blocks for Central (30-10).
North Platte (22-15) finished with its second straight winning season. Coach Sally Thalken earned her 900th career win and finished the season with 901 to remain the winningest active coach in Division II.
» Chadron State’s seniors got the perfect prize on senior night — their first RMAC victory at home in four years.
One of those seniors, Barbie DeCent, had 21 kills in a 3-2 win over Colorado Christian. Jessica Jester, the other senior, had 10 kills.
“We really played with a lot of passion and perseverance,” coach Janel Baily said. “They showed how much the match meant to them and played with a lot of heart. It was a great way to end our home season, and I’m pleased to send the seniors out with a win.”
» Bellevue University has scheduled a White Out for its home basketball opener against Hastings College at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The Broncos (1-0) are No. 23 in the NAIA preseason poll. The Bruins (2-0) are No. 19.
» The Hastings men (16-2, 9-1) and the Morningside women (13-2-3, 9-0-1) are the top seeds for the GPAC soccer tournament.
The men open Wednesday, with Dordt at Hastings at 6 p.m.; Concordia at Northwestern at 4; Dakota Wesleyan at Doane at 4:30 and Morningside at Midland at 1.
The women start Thursday with Mount Marty at Morningside at 7 p.m.; Doane at Hastings at 6; Northwestern at Midland and Concordia at Briar Cliff each at 1.
» The UNK women’s soccer team (8-8-2, 5-4-2) earned the fifth seed for the MIAA tournament and will play fourth seed Washburn on Tuesday in Topeka, Kan.
» Manhattan Christian shut out Grace University 4-0 last weekend in the National Christian College Athletics Association Division II Central Region championship soccer match to earn a spot at nationals.
The teams met in the volleyball championship, too, with third-ranked Manhattan Christian earning the national berth with a 3-0 win. Grace’s Katie Loewen, Chelsea Entz, Channa Hess and Meghan Ward were named to the all-region team.
» Glen Clinton had 19 carries for 242 yards in Chadron State’s 59-17 victory over Western New Mexico.
In four career games against Western New Mexico, Clinton has carried 99 times for 817 yards. His performance Saturday gives him a career-high 1,363 yards rushing this season and 4,501 for his career.
» Kellen Werner, a senior linebacker from Grand Island, became UNK’s all-time leader in tackles in the school’s Division II era when he made 13 in Saturday’s loss to Central Missouri. Werner has 293 career stops.
Redshirt freshman Tyke Kozeal of Sargent may challenge the record in three years. He has 91 tackles this fall, three fewer than Werner.