SIOUX CENTER, Iowa – Sandwiched between showdowns with nationally-ranked GPAC rivals, Saturday’s (Oct. 21) contest at Dordt could have caught the Concordia University women’s soccer team looking ahead. A lightning delay of an hour failed to stop the Bulldogs from continuing their bid for a GPAC regular-season championship. An Esther Soenksen goal was all Concordia needed to claim a 1-0 win over the Defenders in a match played in Sioux Center, Iowa.
Unbeaten in its last 17 games against conference opponents, fifth-year head coach Greg Henson’s squad improved to 12-2-3 overall and to 8-0-1 in conference play. With one game left in the regular season, the Bulldogs are one win (or draw) away from another GPAC championship.
“Dordt’s a good program and it’s always a tough place to play up here,” Henson said. “The weather conditions didn’t make anything easier. We knew we had to come up and get a win. We weren’t too concerned about whether it was a pretty win or an ugly win. We knew we had to grind one out. There were a couple scary moments in the second half. Lindsey Carley stepped up and made some big saves for us to preserve the shutout.”
Shutouts have become the norm for Concordia, which has now blanked eight of its nine GPAC opponents this season. Carley made five saves while earning her second shutout of the week. Solid defensive play helped the Bulldogs overcome a shot disadvantage of 16-6.
Junior captain Maria Deeter did much of the work to set up Soenksen for a tap in goal in the 59th minute. Career goal No. 30 for the Lincoln Lutheran High School product was a big one for a program that’s become used to making big plays in big moments.
The Bulldogs have now clinched at least the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament that will begin with the quarterfinals on Nov. 2. Concordia has advanced to the GPAC championship game in three-consecutive seasons. None of those previous finalist teams were in position to win the regular-season title heading into game No. 18.
“The team is excited about the position they’ve put themselves into,” Henson said. “It’s our job as coaches to try to keep from putting extra undue pressure on them. We’ve done all the hard work to put ourselves in position to compete for the regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in postseason. We want to enjoy the moment tonight and then get back to work on Monday.”
Dordt (10-6, 5-3 GPAC) had been on a roll of its own coming into action. The Defenders had won six of their previous seven games with the only defeat during that run being a 2-1 decision against 18th-ranked Midland.
For the second year in a row, the Bulldogs will have an opportunity to claim a GPAC title on its home turf. A year after winning the conference tournament championship in Seward, Concordia can lock up an outright GPAC regular-season title by defeating No. 20 Hastings (13-1-2, 7-0-1 GPAC) on Wednesday (Oct. 25) inside Bulldog Stadium. Kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m. CT.