By Jake Knabel, Sports Information Director
Head Coach: Jason Weides (39-46-8, five years)
2012 Record: 11-8 overall; 4-6 GPAC (8th)
Returning Starters: 8
Key Returners: Brendan Buchanan (GK), Chris DeFeyter (MF), Sean Doran (D), Nathan Douglas (F), Justin Lawrie (D), Gideon Soenksen (MF), Kevin Soenksen (MF), Dean Stevens (F)
Key Losses: Ian Euler (MF), Eric Fox (D), Chris Podlich (GK), Aaron Skipworth (F), Ben Walker (D)
Key Newcomers: Carlos Acosta (MF), Mark Campbell (D), Mark Horsburgh (GK), Donal Landrum (F)
2012 GPAC All-Conference: Nathan Douglas (first team), Sean Doran (second team), Aaron Skipworth (honorable mention)
Concordia men’s soccer enters 2013 coming off back-to-back 11 win seasons, totals that fell just one victory off the school record set in 2000. Head coach Jason Weides, now in his sixth season at the helm, has successfully built the program into one capable of beating anyone in the GPAC.
“I think we exceeded some people’s expectations, but we knew we had the talent to do more,” Weides says.
Last season the Bulldogs jumped out to a 6-1 record, including a 2-1 upset of then No. 20 Grand View (Iowa) while extending their home winning streak to 10 games. The impressive run at home was finally broken up in a 2-1 overtime grudge match against perennial power and eventual conference champ Hastings inside Bulldog Stadium.
Concordia slumped to a 5-7 mark over the final 12 games and slid back to eighth in the conference.
“Last year we started out strong and didn’t quite play at our best towards the end of the season,” Weides said. “I think that’s a key for us. Obviously we want to focus on that first half of the season and be victorious and play to our potential then as well, but the back half of the season is pretty important for us to maximize our potential, keep guys healthy and keep hungry.”
The Bulldogs still managed an 11-8 overall record while a host of underclassmen gained invaluable experience. The 2012 roster featured 17 freshmen, many of whom played key roles and will return in 2013.
Sean Doran, a native of Dublin, Ireland, made a huge impact during his rookie season. The 6-foot-4 defender provided a physical and intimidating presence on the back line. He even made significant contributions offensively with five goals and four assists, often using his size to head in goals off of set pieces.
Other sophomores like Justin Lawrie, Gideon Soenksen and Dean Stevens saw considerable action on the pitch in their first collegiate seasons. The trio combined for 53 starts in 2012.
“Those guys are veterans now,” Weides said. “Even though those guys were all freshmen last year, the bulk of them played and started in every game. They have a wealth of experience underneath them now. I think we’ll be better prepared to take on some of those challenges that you face throughout a season.”
Concordia will attempt to conquer those challenges by looking to senior leader Nathan Douglas, easily the most decorated member of the squad. Douglas earned first team All-GPAC and Capital One Academic Third Team All-America honors as a junior when he scored 11 goals for the second consecutive season.
The key will be finding another compliment to Douglas on the attack. Concordia’s all-time goal scorer, Aaron Skipworth (31 career goals), departs. Douglas exudes confidence that his team will improve upon its total of 33 goals in 2012.
“The biggest strength this year I believe will be our offensive firepower,” Douglas said. “We have some good attacking recruits coming in as well as returning guys that can bag a few goals here and there. It should be a definite turnaround from our goal scoring rate in 2012.”
If Concordia gets production in the neighborhood of what the Winnipeg, Canada, native aspires to rack up – 20-plus goals and All-America honors – it will be right on track to set a new school record for wins. But it’s not as if Douglas has to do it alone with the expected emergence of guys like junior Kevin Soenksen and Stevens, who both found the back of the net three times last season.
Plus Weides adds transfer Donal Landrum via Arizona Western Community College, where Landrum tallied six goals and five assists in 20 games in 2012.
“We’ve got some returning players who I think can have some big years,” Weides said. “We’ve talked about Kevin Soenksen before. I think he’s a guy who’s on the verge of a breakout-type season. Guys like Dean Stevens who played similar roles up there attacking whether it was at the wing position or at forward. He’s also capable of scoring a lot of goals.”
Midfielder Chris DeFeyter and goalkeeper Brendan Buchanan are among the other returners who saw plenty of action in 2012. DeFeyter will again be a key figure in the midfield while Buchanan will fight to stave off senior Skylar Lewis and newcomer Mark Horsburgh of Edinburgh, Scotland, for the privilege to stand in goal.
“Brendan got a lot of minutes last year and started quite a few games so I think he’s well-prepared to take that role and run with it,” Weides said. “But we’ve also got some great competition for him.”
Whoever wins the goalkeeper job will have the support of Doran, Lawrie and incoming freshman Mark Campbell of Dublin, Ireland, among others, as they attempt to strengthen an already solid backline. The Bulldogs allowed only 22 goals in 2012.
The biggest factor in Concordia moving into the upper half of the GPAC may center around on the growth of the sophomore class. As the team’s leader, Douglas will be pushing the younger players hard.
“I think as one of two seniors on the team and the only returning upperclassmen starter that it's important for me to help out the younger lads and give them some advice whether they like it or not,” Douglas said. “It is important that the younger guys keep improving technically, physically, mentally and tactically and I believe, based on my experience in the game and having played at a pretty high level, I can contribute to some of that growth.”
Douglas sees his Concordia career beginning to wind down and is determined to keep the Bulldogs from falling victim to the October swoons that have plagued the team in recent seasons. Like always, Douglas is thinking big.
“We have to decide as a team how bad we really want this,” Douglas said. “I can tell you right now it’s my last year and I want this conference championship bad, and I will be sure to let everyone know that.”
Based on upon a 3-1-2 spring season in which the Bulldogs came through with several highlight reel goals, Weides sees no reason for anything but optimism.
“We had a good record in the spring,” Weides said. “We also put ourselves in some precarious situations a couple times in the spring. Our team showed a lot of cohesion in our ability to respond to challenges. I think that’s something we’ll be well-prepared for this fall.”
The Bulldogs will kick off the 2013 season on Friday, Aug. 30 when Benedictine (Kan.) visits Seward for a 7:30 p.m. clash.