Experienced men's soccer squad displays across-the-board spring improvement

By on May. 21, 2015 in Men's Soccer

Experienced men’s soccer squad displays across-the-board spring improvement

By Jake Knabel, Director of Athletic Communications

Other than a wealth of draws, head coach Jason Weides had little to complain about in regards to a solid spring performance put forth by his Concordia University men’s soccer squad. The Bulldogs moved on without graduating seniors Brendan Buchanan and Chris DeFeyter, but 15 players who started at least one game in 2014 remain part of a deep and experienced roster.

The current group of seniors-to-be, led by first team all-conference performer Gideon Soenksen, has been a driving force in cultivating a hard-working, determined attitude.

“They are the most prepared that they’ve ever been heading into their senior season,” Weides said. “I think we’ve seen that throughout this offseason. With such a large group of seniors and upperclassmen, I think that’s really helping our team prepare for next season. I see some guys that are hungrier than ever. We have guys that have been really ambitious, but we’re seeing more guys join that mix. That experience is going to pay off.”

Up against three junior colleges, one NCAA Division II institution and GPAC rival Nebraska Wesleyan, the Bulldogs won once and tied four times during a competitive spring that provided a good measuring stick for the fall. No doubt Soenksen continues to impress Weides, but others such as Justin Lawrie and 2014 newcomer Micah Lehenbauer grabbed attention by making steady progress since the fall.

Already a critical piece in the backline having appeared in all 58 games the past three seasons, Lawrie may be on the verge of becoming a star. He successfully marked up dangerous opposing attackers all spring.

“To me a guy who has really shined this offseason is Justin Lawrie,” Weides said. “He was able to earn honorable mention all-conference in the fall and he just continues to get better. One-v-one he was stellar this spring, shutting down some really quality opponents that we faced.”

Voted Concordia’s most improved player by teammates after the 2014 season, Lehenbauer appears poised to earn additional minutes in 2015. Said Weides of the Kathleen, Ga., native, “He’s been a real pleasant surprise to the team. He’s quickly becoming a guy that we’re counting on.”

Based on the dynamics of this fall’s roster, the biggest shoes to fill may be those of Buchanan, who turned in an big senior season that included an 11-save effort in a heartbreaking 2-1 season-ending overtime loss to conference champion Hastings in the GPAC semifinals. Mark Horsburgh and Eli Etzel got the first cracks this spring at replacing Buchanan.

Additional competition for time in goal will arrive when athletes report for preseason training.

“It’s come along well,” Weides said. “Obviously Brendan had a great season for us. He made some real highlight saves for us throughout the season and was a key player. We’ve got a couple other keepers. Mark Horsburgh has had some playing time in his first two years. He’s continuing to step forward. Also Eli Etzel was our third string last year. He’s getting better. He’s one of the most coachable, hard-working kids that you’ll see. We feel pretty confident in that position. I think there will be some good competition.”

Competition will be healthy throughout a roster that could also see the addition of a high impact transfer. The incoming recruiting class includes natives of China, England as well as local talent from nearby Lincoln.

With the veteran presences of standouts like Soenksen, Concordia likes its chances of getting another shot at a return to the GPAC semifinals. Soenksen is prepared to work as hard as he possibly can.

“I think Gideon’s just continued to do what he’s always done,” Weides said. “He’s been an example of what the offseason should look like for our guys. He’s constantly putting in extra time and getting touches. If he can’t find anyone to knock the ball around with, he finds a wall.”

That approach is representative of a veteran team that expects to add to the program record run of four-straight seasons of 10 wins or more.