Bulldogs to return to Hastings for rematch of 2015 title game

By Jacob Knabel on Sep. 27, 2016 in Men's Soccer

SEWARD, Neb. – The most recent loss for Hastings men’s soccer? It occurred Nov. 12, 2015, when the underdog Bulldogs emerged from Lloyd Wilson Field with a 1-0 victory in the GPAC tournament championship game.

It marked the most significant victory in the history of the Concordia men’s soccer program, which made its first-ever national tournament appearance in 2015. With one incredible postseason run, the Bulldogs wiped away some of the frustrations that had built up during the regular season.

Since that game, the Broncos have recovered in impressive fashion. They’ve won each of their first nine games of 2016 under first-year head coach Aaron Champenoy, who replaced 17-year head coach Chris Kranjc.

Concordia and Hastings are now set to go head-to-head on Wednesday in Hastings. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. CT in a showdown that comes early in the conference season.

“I expect to see a fun game,” said head coach Jason Weides following Concordia’s 2-1 GPAC-opening victory over Northwestern on Sept. 24. “It’s going to be a very difficult game. They’re off to a great start this year – No. 5 in the nation and deservedly so. They’ve been playing really, really well. They don’t concede many goals and they score a lot of them. That’s a pretty good combination.”

This year’s Bulldogs are off to a better start than the 2015 team reached new heights. Concordia owns a mark of 4-1-2 and has allowed just four goals all season. The Bulldogs, who remade their entire backline after 2015, rank 12th amongst all NAIA men’s soccer programs in terms of fewest goals allowed per game (0.57). They will face their most challenging task yet in trying to hold down a Bronco attack that averages 3.2 goals per game.

On the flip side, Weides hopes his team can continue to improve in the goal-scoring department. The Bulldogs got an encouraging sign in their conference opener when junior Marcelo Hernandez broke out with a pair of goals. The transfer and native of Quito, Ecuador, possesses the ability to pepper the back of the net throughout conference play. He’s thrilled to be back on the field after waiting out the 2015 season.

“I love this university so it was easy to adapt,” Hernandez said last week. “Of course it was hard last year (sitting out). I just want to keep helping my team with whatever I have to do.”

This won’t be the first trip to Hastings this season for Concordia, which played two neutral matches at Lloyd Wilson Field back on Sept. 9-10. This journey west simply comes with more juice and more hype. Even this preseason, the Bulldogs were still buzzing about that chilly November night when it accomplished something very few had expected.

“It was just unbelievable,” said senior Carlos Acosta prior to the start of the 2016 season. “It’s something to be really proud of. We made history. We’re the first ones in the history of the program (to win the GPAC). That’s something to really love. I can’t even tell what I feel. It’s unbelievable.”

While Hastings will carry a nine-game winning streak into Wednesday’s action, Concordia boasts a streak of its own. The Bulldogs are unbeaten over their last seven games against GPAC opponents (5-0-2). During that stretch Concordia has given up only five total goals.

Wednesday provides the Bulldogs an opportunity to prove that last season’s win was no fluke.

“They have a lot of motivation,” Weides said of the Broncos. “Our guys have a lot of motivation, too. They really want to get back at us for last year so we’re expecting to see the best of them.”