Hot first half run brings greater national respect

By Jake Knabel on Oct. 4, 2017 in Men's Soccer

NAIA coaches’ poll (Oct. 3)

SEWARD, Neb. – By just about any measure, the Concordia University men’s soccer team has cracked the nation’s top 40. Still unbeaten more than midway through the 2017 campaign, the Bulldogs (9-0-1) received votes in the NAIA Men’s Soccer Coaches’ Top 25 Poll released on Tuesday (Oct. 3). The new rankings marked the first time head coach Jason Weides’ program has received mention in the poll since the close of the 2015 GPAC tournament championship season.

On Monday (Oct. 2), Concordia moved up to No. 2 in the official GPAC rankings, paving the way for it to begin earning consideration for the NAIA top 25. In various computer ratings, the Bulldogs came in at No. 40 in the first Modified Ratings Percentage Index released last week by the NAIA and have crept up to 39th in the Massey Ratings.

“We honestly thought we were capable of this,” Weides said. “When we were putting together a schedule and looking at our returners and who we were bringing in, we thought we had a chance to be here. It’s just not as easy as thinking it. There have been several years we thought our record could be better. You have to have things fall into place. We’ve been relatively healthy this year. I don’t think it’s a surprise to our team, but our road is going to get harder. We’ll see what we can do from there.”

On Tuesday, both Jack Bennett and Lewis Rathbone earned GPAC player of the week accolades. The program has already raked in five conference weekly awards this fall. Led by top goal scorer Lewis Rathbone (11 goals), Concordia has outscored its opponents by a combined total of 31-6 – 17-0 over the past four outings.

The biggest reason why it took the Bulldogs this long to begin to appear in the national rankings is due largely to strength of schedule. Concordia’s strength of schedule is currently 162nd in the nation, according to Massey Ratings. The schedule will toughen this week with road trips to Briar Cliff (No. 38 in the MRPI) and Northwestern (No. 110 in the MRPI).