SEWARD, Neb. – A new season has arrived. After tying for second place in the regular season, the Concordia University men’s soccer team is ready to make a run at a third-straight appearance in the GPAC tournament championship game. As the No. 3 seed, the Bulldogs will host sixth-seeded Briar Cliff at 7 p.m. CT on Tuesday (Oct. 31) in one of four conference quarterfinal matchups.
Tenth-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad made a serious push for a GPAC regular-season title last week when it hosted defending national champion Hastings. The game was deadlocked, 1-1, until a penalty kick goal by Daniel Whitehall proved to be the game winner in the 81st minute. The Broncos ended up securing the league’s No. 1 seed by going a perfect 9-0 in GPAC play.
Despite the loss, Concordia enjoyed its best regular season in program history by piling up a school record 14 victories. This has been Weides’ most dominant team since he took over as head coach in 2008. The Bulldogs own an impressive +34 goal differential (47 goals scored, 13 goals allowed). Concordia is the only team in the GPAC to have three players with double-figure goal totals. The team goals leaders have 11 apiece: Marcelo Hernandez, Micah Lehenbauer and Lewis Rathbone.
“The journey this season is no different from others in that there’s been a lot of challenges along the way,” Weides said. “It’s not like it’s all been easy and roses and that we’ve all been on a happy parade the whole time. What I really like about this team is they seem up for the challenges. They want to take a challenge head on. We’ve had great accomplishments during the regular season. Now it’s about adding to them.”
Tuesday’s game will be a rematch of a 2-1 Bulldog win at Briar Cliff on Oct. 4. The Chargers boast the nation’s leading goal scorer in Prichard Sibanda, who has tallied 26 goals. Meanwhile, Rodrigo Oliveira ranks second among NAIA players with 15 assists. Briar Cliff picked up an impressive 3-0 home win over Midland on Oct. 24. The Chargers have gone 4-3-1 away from home.
Weides has led his team to at least the semifinal round in three-consecutive seasons. The Bulldogs broke through in 2014 with a quarterfinal win at Doane. They built upon that in 2015 and knocked out each of the top three seeds on the road during their thrilling GPAC tournament championship run. In the 2016 postseason tournament, Concordia defeated both Northwestern and No. 14 Midland before falling, 3-1, at No. 2 Hastings in the title game.
Tuesday’s winner will play either second-seeded Northwestern or seventh-seeded Doane in the GPAC semifinals on Saturday. Should Doane upset Northwestern, the Bulldogs would host the Tigers at 7 p.m. CT on Saturday. Otherwise, Concordia will hit the road and head to Orange City, Iowa, and hope to avenge one of its two regular-season defeats.
2017 GPAC Men’s Soccer Tournament
Tuesday, Oct. 31 – Quarterfinals
No. 8 Dordt (8-10, 2-7 GPAC) at No. 1 Hastings (15-3, 9-0 GPAC), 7 p.m.
No. 5 Morningside (9-5-3, 5-4 GPAC) at No. 4 Midland (10-7, 6-3 GPAC), 7 p.m.
No. 6 Briar Cliff (11-5-1, 4-4-1 GPAC) at No. 3 Concordia (14-2-1, 7-2 GPAC), 7 p.m.
No. 7 Doane (5-12-1, 3-5-1 GPAC) at No. 2 Northwestern (11-5-2, 7-2 GPAC), 7 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 4 – Semifinals
No. 1/8 vs. No. 4/5, time TBA
No. 3/6 vs. No. 2/7, time TBA
Thursday, Nov. 9 – Championship