Bennett, Bulldogs live to fight another day in GPAC postseason

By Jacob Knabel on Nov. 1, 2018 in Men's Soccer

SEWARD, Neb. – It just feels different when you get into a win-or-go-home atmosphere that comes with playoff time. The anxiety and tension multiplied inside Bulldog Stadium when Thursday night (Nov. 1)’s GPAC quarterfinal tilt between the Concordia University men’s soccer team and Midland went to a penalty kick shootout. In the end, senior goalkeeper Jack Bennett came up with the save that clinched the game and another postseason celebration.

Eleventh-year head coach Jason Weides’ program has now advanced to at least the GPAC semifinals in five-straight seasons. The Bulldogs (10-4-4) got the better of the Warriors in the shootout, 4-3.

“When it gets to that, you know anything can happen,” Weides said. “You put up 10 shooters and the reality is that all 10 could miss and all 10 could make. Regardless of their quality, it just comes down to the finest of margins when you get in a shootout. On one hand it’s really fun and exciting. On the other hand it’s great if you win and really demoralizing if you lose. Ultimately it was a great game between two good teams. We were fortunate enough to walk away with it.”

Fans of the Bulldogs have gotten their money’s worth of late. This marked the fifth time in Concordia’s last seven outings that it has gone to overtime. With the game locked in a stalemate after 110 minutes, a PK shootout had to settle it. Three years earlier, the Bulldogs got past Midland in the GPAC semifinals in a shootout, 4-3. Weides didn’t mind seeing history repeat itself.

In the latest shootout, Joao Pedro Verissimo, Carlos Orquiz, Carlos Ferrer and David Carrasco each converted their PK’s. That meant it all came down to Midland shooter and leading goal scorer Robert Wiseman versus Bennett. With a dive to his left, Bennett made the deflection, sending him and his teammates into a jubilant frenzy.

“It’s my first time in this situation in my whole career, actually,” Ferrer said. “It’s definitely different, very different, but we have the quality to put the goals into the back of the net. We knew Jack was going to stop at least two. We just had to be confident we’d put it in the back of the net.”

In a game that featured a total of 19 shots (11-8 Concordia advantage), the goalkeepers faced their biggest challenges in the shootout. All of the nerve-racking moments late in the evening came after the Bulldogs let a 1-0 lead slip through their fingers. Ferrer had provided that advantage with a goal in the 24th minute after the Warrior keeper had mistakenly played the ball directly to him in the box.

Midland (10-8-1) had hoped to avenge a 3-1 home loss to Concordia that occurred on Oct. 24. The lone Warrior goal was delivered by Cesar Cuellar in the 55th minute. It was one of the few serious attacking threats made by Midland, which registered just two shots on goal.

As his been the case for the fifth year in a row, a GPAC tournament title for the Bulldogs will have to go through conference powerhouse Hastings (15-2), which blew out Doane, 7-0, in another conference quarterfinal match on Thursday. Concordia and Hastings had met in the GPAC championship game in each of the previous three years. The Bulldogs will be an underdog as usual, but they always give the Broncos their best shot.

“It’s much different,” Ferrer said of the playing in the postseason. “The level you play at just becomes faster. The players become stronger. It’s always a good challenge. We all want this.”

The GPAC semifinal clash with fifth-ranked Hastings will be staged at Lloyd Wilson Field with a kickoff time of 7 p.m. CT on Tuesday, Nov. 6.