SIOUX CITY, Iowa – It had been a while since the Concordia University men’s soccer team experienced a pulse pounder like this one. After a dominant run of four shutout wins in a row, the Bulldogs found themselves in a tense battle in Sioux City, Iowa, on Wednesday afternoon. Ultimately, Concordia figured out another way to win in a 2-1 decision at Briar Cliff.
A day after appearing among others receiving votes in the national poll, 10th-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad continued to meet the challenge in front of it. One of five undefeated teams left in NAIA men’s soccer, the Bulldogs moved to 10-0-1 overall and to 3-0 in conference play.
“Both teams had a lot of to play for – three really important points for both teams,” Weides said. “It was wet and muddy and made for probably not the prettiest game to watch. It was a very direct style. Footing was tough for both teams. It became a grind-it-out game. I thought we played pretty well, especially the first 30 minutes. We did a lot of defending in the second half. I think we did well to limit their opportunities, but they had the bulk of the possession the last 20 minutes. We did enough.”
One of the key storylines entering the game centered upon whether Concordia’s typically airtight defensive play could stifle the nation’s leading goal scorer, Prichard Sibanda, who racked up 20 goals over his first nine games of the season. The Bulldogs caught a break with Sibanda sidelined on Wednesday. Even so, the Chargers (8-3, 1-2 GPAC) peppered Concordia with 22 shots, including 12 on goal.
The Bulldogs withstood the onslaught in a physical affair played on a soggy Faber Field. The contest featured a combined 31 fouls and six yellow cards. Five of those six cards were issued over the final 18 minutes of game time.
Though senior Lewis Rathbone had his string of six-straight games with a goal snapped, he assisted on reigning GPAC offensive player of the week Micah Lehenbauer’s goal in the 12th minute. The 1-0 lead held up until late in the opening half when Kye Edwards found the back of the net. The game winner came in the 49th minute. Marcelo Hernandez converted a penalty kick and Concordia fought off Briar Cliff the rest of the way.
Enjoying an excellent junior season, goalkeeper Jack Bennett made nine saves in one of his biggest challenges all season. This figured to be a difficult task for Bennett and the back line while up against a team ranked fourth nationally in goals per game. Bennett made an especially noteworthy save as the clock ticked down towards the final minute of play.
With an unbeaten record this late in the year and an RV (receiving votes) now next to their name, the Bulldogs plan on getting everyone’s best shot.
“What we told the guys today is that it makes our job even harder now,” Weides said. “We have more of a target on our back. It’s nice to have that in terms of recruiting and pride. We have to be better now.”
Life on the road will pick up again on Saturday when the Bulldogs are scheduled to make a visit to Orange City, Iowa, to take on Northwestern (6-4-2, 2-1 GPAC). Kickoff is slated for 7:15 p.m. CT. Concordia hopes to continue the success it enjoyed last season when it defeated the Red Raiders once during the regular season and again in the GPAC quarterfinals.