CRETE, Neb. – White knucklers have defined the Concordia-Doane series when it comes to men’s soccer. Not surprisingly, another one-goal game ensued. On Wednesday the Bulldogs shook off a 1-0 deficit by registering three-straight goals to pull out a 3-2 victory over the host Tigers.
With the win, ninth-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad has clinched the No. 3 seed for the GPAC tournament and the right to host in the conference quarterfinals on Nov. 3. Concordia has also equaled a program record for most GPAC wins in a season while improving to 9-5-1 overall and to 6-2 in league play.
“We certainly thought we were going to have to come back from half and battle back from a deficit,” Weides said. “That was a bit of a fortunate break in that we played a cross in that ended up being on frame and their keeper didn’t deal with it well. Within just a couple minutes, suddenly we were up 2-1 at half. It made the first half feel better than what it was.”
Though it looked like Doane would take a 1-0 lead to the break, the Bulldogs netted a pair of 44th-minute goals to reverse the course of the game. Sophomore Aries Fung spurred the furious first-half finish by assisting Alex Grocott’s first career goal. Thirty-six seconds later Concordia stunned the Tigers with another goal, this one from Fung himself on a brilliant strike.
Then in the 57th minute, junior Micah Lehenbauer added breathing room that the Bulldogs would need by notching his team best eighth goal of 2016. It wasn’t going to be easy against Doane. It never is. Nine of the previous 12 matchups between the two sides had gone to overtime.
An extra session seemed plausible when Daniel Maganda drilled a penalty kick goal in the 81st minute, drawing the Tigers within one. Concordia locked in and did not allow a single Doane (7-7-1, 4-4 GPAC) shot the rest of the game to sew up a contest with major conference standings implications.
Both teams took 12 shots. The Tigers owned a slight 6-5 advantage in shots on goal. Keeper Mark Horsburgh made four saves for Concordia, which allowed more than one goal for just the fourth time this season.
The Bulldogs have nailed down their highest GPAC finish during Weides’ tenure. Concordia has not hosted a GPAC tournament game since Weides played in the early 2000s. Last season the sixth-seeded Bulldogs celebrated the conference tournament title after knocking off each of the top three seeds, all on the road. With Wednesday’s win, Weides’ squad has also guaranteed a first for the program – a sixth-straight winning season.
“Our goal was to finish in the top four,” Weides said. “We’ve had some good teams over the past few years that were capable of that. We had fallen short of that goal. It’s great for these guys to achieve it. The season hasn’t been everything we wanted, but now we are where we wanted to be. Now it’s about setting new goals and finishing the season strong.”
The Bulldogs will conclude the regular season on Saturday with a trip to Dakota Wesleyan (2-12, 1-6 GPAC) for a 3:30 p.m. CT kickoff. A 3-2 come-from-behind win in Mitchell, S.D., in 2015 helped spark Concordia to its big late-season run.