Late PK goal thwarts Bulldog bid for GPAC title

By Jake Knabel on Oct. 25, 2017 in Men's Soccer

SEWARD, Neb. – If the 2017 Concordia University men’s soccer team is to win a GPAC championship, it will have to accomplish that feat in the postseason. Needing a win on Wednesday night (Oct. 25) to clinch at least a share of the conference regular-season title, the Bulldogs came up a hair short in their bid to upset defending national champion and seventh-ranked Hastings. The visiting Broncos escaped a loud Bulldog Stadium with a 2-1 victory.

That concludes the most successful regular season in the history of the program, at least in terms of overall number of wins. Tenth-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad will carry records of 14-2-1 overall and 7-2 in the GPAC into the postseason.

“It’s painful to have a loss here, especially against a team we felt like we were capable of beating,” Weides said. “We were playing for something very important, a share of the league championship. That’s something we hadn’t done yet and we were looking forward to doing. It’s painful, but the guys can’t be disappointed in the performance.”

The critical plays went Hastings’ way in the final 10 minutes of the game. A foul called in the box set up the game winner for one of the nation’s most dangerous attackers. Junior Daniel Whitehall failed to find the back of the net in the run of play, but he drilled an 81st-minute penalty kick goal that ended up deciding Concordia’s fate.

That’s not to say the Bulldogs quit working. The game would have been destined for overtime if not for an out-of-this-world save by goalkeeper Joe White on a well-struck shot by Carlos Ferrer at the 88-minute mark. Concordia failed to make a serious threat on the ensuing corner kick and the Broncos bled out the rest of the clock. Hastings (14-3, 8-0 GPAC) has won all GPAC regular-season championships during the conference’s existence.

This was the most challenging game yet inside conference play for the Broncos, who barely outshot the Bulldogs, 15-14. White had to make nine saves to ensure victory for the visitors. There’s no shame for Concordia, but the loss feels crushing for a program of believers.

“We fought hard, fought all the way to the end,” Weides said. “To be honest, if not for a great save from Hastings’ keeper with about a minute left, the game’s going to equalize again.

“We have to pick our heads up. This is something that we can’t let linger on. Our goal is to get back to the conference final and have a shot at getting to nationals. There’s probably a good chance we’re going to have to go through Hastings to do that. We have to be prepared the next time we play them.”

Jake Ridpath gave the Broncos a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute. The Bulldogs needed a response and got one in the 34th minute when Marcelo Hernandez tucked a free kick inside the left post. With that shot, Hernandez atoned for missing a PK back in the 14th minute. Not a single goal came during the run of play on Wednesday.

Postseason play now awaits the Bulldogs, who will have this weekend off. Concordia will be either the No. 2 or 3 seed in the GPAC tournament bracket. The Bulldogs need Northwestern (6-2 GPAC) to lose at Briar Cliff on Saturday (Oct. 28) in order to claim the second seed. Either way, Concordia will host one of four conference quarterfinal games at 7 p.m. CT on Tuesday, Oct. 31. The Bulldogs will aim to reach the GPAC championship game for the third year in a row. The remaining conference tournament dates are Nov. 4 for the semifinals and Nov. 9 for the championship.