SEWARD, Neb. – Following a second place conference finish and a GPAC tournament runner up claim, the Concordia University men’s soccer team landed six of its members on either the first or second team of the 2017 all-conference teams released on Monday (Nov. 13) by the GPAC. Bulldog first team selections included senior defender Florian Caraballo, senior forward Marcelo Hernandez and senior midfielder Micah Lehenbauer.
The three second teamers were junior goalkeeper Jack Bennett, sophomore forward Carlos Ferrer and senior midfielder Lewis Rathbone. Honorable mention accolades went to junior defender Angel Alvarez and freshman midfielder Kevin Sanchez.
Caraballo, who hails from Cordoba, Spain, drew consistent praise from tenth-year head coach Jason Weides as perhaps the top outside back in the GPAC. Caraballo was a primary reason why the Bulldogs ranked 16th nationally in terms of fewest goals allowed per game (0.8). A first team All-GPAC honoree for the second year in a row, Caraballo also contributed one goal and six assists and was named GPAC defensive player of the week twice this season.
Hernandez, a native of Quito, Ecuador, served as one of the conference’s top offensive threats this fall. He totaled 11 goals and a team best 10 assists in 19 games played. He ranked sixth in the GPAC in goals and third in the conference in assists. Also a first team All-GPAC choice in 2016, Hernandez finished his Concordia career with 19 goals and 14 assists in 36 games over two seasons.
Lehenbauer, who calls Kathleen, Ga., home, shared the team goal scoring lead with 12, a number that ranked fourth best among GPAC players. Lehenbauer moved up to the first team this season after collecting second team accolades as a junior. Over 76 career games played as a Bulldog, Lehenbauer totaled 27 goals and seven assists. He posted three game-winning goals in 2017. He turned in a hat trick in the Sept. 26 win over Mount Marty.
The Bulldogs didn’t miss a beat at the goalkeeper position while handing the job to Bennett, a native of Oxford, England. Bennett started all 20 games and played more than 1,750 minutes in goal and recorded seven shutouts this season. He made 78 saves (.830 save percentage) and ranked 18th nationally in goals against average (0.820). Bennett earned two GPAC defensive player of the week awards in 2017. His nine saves in a win at Briar Cliff represented a career high.
Ferrer, a native of Chula Vista, Calif., registered four goals and four assists while starting all 20 games. Ferrer’s ability on the attack often led to goals for the likes of Hernandez, Lehenbauer and Rathbone. An honorable mention all-conference honoree last season, Ferrer’s biggest highlight of the season was a sixth-minute goal in the GPAC tournament championship game that gave Concordia a 1-0 lead at No. 7 Hastings.
Rathbone, who hails from Manchester, England, flourished in more of an attacking role this fall. He tallied 11 of his 12 goals over the first nine games of this season. He added a goal in the GPAC semifinal victory at Northwestern. Rathbone also chipped in seven assists for the conference’s third most prolific goal scoring team. Over three seasons as a Bulldog, Rathbone recorded 19 goals and 15 assists in 55 games.
A Las Vegas, Nev., native, Sanchez earned a starting role in his first collegiate season and excelled in his role in the midfield. Alvarez, who hails from San Luis, Ariz., started all 20 games as part of the team’s stellar backline.
The 2017 Bulldogs finished their season at 16-3-1, shattering the previous school single-season record of 12 victories by the 2000 squad. Concordia appeared just outside the national top 25 poll prior to its 2-1 defeat at Hastings in the conference championship game. It was the third-straight GPAC final appearance for Weides’ program.