SEWARD, Neb. – On its home turf, up against the only team that beat it during the GPAC regular season, the Concordia University Men’s Soccer team would not be denied. The Bulldogs are headed to the GPAC tournament championship game for the first time since 2017 thanks to a 1-0 semifinal victory over Dordt on Tuesday (Nov. 8). It wasn’t always pretty, and there were some missed opportunities, but Victor Meneses’ goal in the first half held up.
Fifteenth-year Head Coach Jason Weides has led the program back to the conference final for a fourth time during his tenure. The victory marked the 15th this season for Concordia and No. 150 in the coaching career of Weides. In addition, the Bulldogs extended their unbeaten streak to 11 (9-0-2), stayed undefeated at home (9-0-1) and clinched the program’s second all-time trip to the national tournament.
“It means everything to this group,” Weides said of returning to the GPAC final. “It means everything to players who wore Bulldog blue and white before and to so many guys who worked to get to this moment. Some of them were successful and some fell short of that. It feels good for this group and everything they have earned but also for the guys who helped us get here through all the years.”
Dordt (9-4-6) made a statement back on Sept. 21 when it defeated the Bulldogs, 4-3, in a sloppily played 90 minutes. The four goals allowed were uncharacteristic of a Concordia team that has tightened things up and has put together back-to-back shutout wins in postseason play. On Tuesday, the Defenders were limited to a precious few promising scoring chances. There was a tense moment around the 72-minute mark when Ethan Knott missed just right of the goal on a clean look in the box.
For the most part, Concordia had its way in terms of possession. The Bulldogs finished with advantages of 20-9 in shots and 9-3 in shots on goal. Like Johnny on the spot, Meneses found himself in position to capitalize in the 34th minute. In an attempt to clear the ball out of the box, a Dordt defender ricocheted it off a teammate, setting Meneses up to strike a rope into the back of the net. It was the second time this season that Meneses has scored the game winner in a 1-0 match.
Weides would have liked to have seen more clinical finishes throughout the night, but no one complains about wins in the postseason. Most impressively, the Bulldogs were able to limit star Dordt striker Blake Hansen (14 goals this season) to just one shot.
Said Weides, “Dordt really capitalized (on our mistakes) the first game. We knew we could clean up those mistakes, but we knew ultimately it wasn’t going to be easy. I have a lot of respect for Dordt, for (Coach) Ryan (Gresse) and the way they run the program. They’re a good team. They’re here for a reason – I knew we could play better the second time around and the guys definitely did.”
At center back, Max Bisinger has been at the heart of many of Concordia’s shutout wins this season. Said Bisinger, “It means a lot. I think the process started in the spring after last season – it was not a good season. We analyzed our mistakes and knew we couldn’t do the same ones again. We took them and learned from them really well. We applied things that we didn’t do before. One of the things is the (improved) mentality.”
Reigning GPAC Defensive Player of the Week Gabriel Mendoza made three saves while covering all 90 minutes. Mendoza has been part of a veteran starting 11 that includes a sixth-year player in Joao Pedro Verissimo, a fifth-year player in Carlos Orquiz and a graduate transfer in top goal scorer Dominic Abdel-Ahad. This is the type of moment they have been working for.
As a reward, the Bulldogs will take on perennial conference power Hastings (15-1-1) in Friday’s GPAC tournament championship game. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. CT from Lloyd Wilson Field in Hastings. Concordia also met the Broncos in the conference tournament finals played in 2015, 2016 and 2017. The Bulldogs won the ’15 game before enduring defeats in ’16 and ’17. The two sides drew during the 2022 regular season, 1-1, in Seward.