HASTINGS, Neb. – Hoping to celebrate a GPAC tournament title on Lloyd Wilson Field for the second-straight year, the Concordia University men’s soccer team was just the latest victim for undefeated and second-ranked Hastings, which claimed 2016 GPAC regular-season and postseason titles. In Friday night’s conference championship tilt, the Broncos won, 3-1.
Ninth-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad was attempting to run the table against the same teams, in the same order, that it knocked off during its 2015 GPAC tournament title run. Instead, the five-game GPAC postseason unbeaten run came to an end for the Bulldogs (11-7-2).
“We told the guys they have to look back and enjoy the journey and look at all the great moments throughout the year,” Weides said. “Sometimes we like to dwell on the negative, the what ifs and the buts, but there are a lot of great things this team accomplished. I’m really proud of them.
“We came up a little short today. Credit to Hastings. They played really well. I think we saw the best of them.”
It wasn’t one of the usual suspects that gave Hastings (20-0) a 21st-minute lead, but defender Daniel Linstead, who picked an opportune time for his first goal of the season. Star forward Daniel Whitehall took it from there, finding the back of the net once in the first half and then another time in the second half to help the Broncos build a commanding 3-0 lead.
Not only one of the nation’s most powerful offensive sides, Hastings also rarely concedes goals. The Broncos snuffed out Concordia for most of the night on Friday, limiting the visitors to 12 shots – three on goal. Lewis Rathbone, who had three combined header goals over wins in the quarterfinals and semifinals, was shut down. He fired two shots, including one on goal.
The lone goal came outside the run of play. A Hastings foul in the box led to a penalty kick goal for Marcelo Hernandez in the 79th minute.
Though the title game showing fell beneath their own lofty expectations, the Bulldogs made a leap forward in 2016 with a more complete and consistent regular season. Concordia hosted a GPAC tournament quarterfinal game for the first time since 2001 and went on the road to upset 13th-ranked Midland, 3-2, in the conference semifinals.
The 2017 Bulldogs will have many of their current essential components back in place. However, they will bid farewell to reliable senior goalkeeper Mark Horsburgh, who raised his profile with a heroic performance during the 2015 conference tournament. Two other seniors started on Friday: Hernandez and center back Andrew Mussell.
“I think he played well for us throughout the whole season,” Weides said of Horsburgh. “Come playoff season and the end of the regular season, Sparky played really, really well. He was a huge factor in our run last year.”