GPAC semifinal trip to Northwestern up next

By Jacob Knabel on Nov. 2, 2017 in Men's Soccer

SEWARD, Neb. – During its 2015 GPAC tournament championship run, the Concordia University men’s soccer program had to get past Northwestern on the road in order to complete a storybook postseason. The Bulldogs hope for a repeat of history on Saturday evening when they again battle the Red Raiders in Orange City, Iowa. Kickoff for Saturday’s GPAC semifinal clash is set for 7 p.m. CT.

This marks the fourth-straight season that head coach Jason Weides’ program has advanced to at least the conference semifinals. The players know exactly what it’s like to be in this spot.

“It definitely helps,” Weides said of the team’s postseason experience. “It starts to set expectations. Now everybody thinks that those are the minimum standards – to get to the semis and to get to the finals. It’s not like, ‘Hey, if everything breaks right, we could get there.’ These are the expectations for everybody now.”

It took a stellar team defensive effort on Tuesday night for third-seeded Concordia to hold off sixth-seeded Briar Cliff in the semifinals. The contest remained scoreless until a well-executed cross and one-touch pass from Garrett Perry led to a Micah Lehenbauer goal in the 87th minute. Goalkeeper Jack Bennett and company recorded the team’s ninth clean sheet of the season. On the other hand, the Bulldogs have yet to be held off the board all year.

Lehenbauer has now taken over the team lead with 12 goals on the year. Right on his heels are Marcelo Hernandez and Lewis Rathbone with 11 goals apiece. Through 18 games, Concordia (15-2-1) has outscored its opponents by a combined total of 48-13 for the best goal differential during Weides’ 10 years leading the program.

Northwestern (12-5-2) is also a hot team. Its only loss over the past nine games was a 3-1 defeat to conference regular-season champion Hastings on Oct. 21. That nine-game stretch includes the Red Raiders’ 2-1 overtime victory over the Bulldogs on Oct. 7. Northwestern possesses a similar goal differential (43-17) to Concordia. Its top goal scorer is Tyler Limmer, who ranks third in the conference with 14 goals.

On paper, this looks like another dogfight. Each of the last five matchups between the two sides have been decided by a margin of a single goal.

Said Lehenbauer after Tuesday’s win, “If we play like we did today then I think we have a good shot at taking it to them. It’s going to be a good game. I can guarantee it.”

Whichever team emerges victorious in Orange City will advance to play either top-seeded Hastings (16-3) or fourth-seeded Midland (11-7) in the GPAC postseason championship game next Thursday (Nov. 9). Concordia and Hastings met up in the title game in both 2015 and 2016.

Watch Saturday’s game live via Northwestern’s Stretch Internet portal.

2017 GPAC Men’s Soccer Tournament

Tuesday, Oct. 31 – Quarterfinals
No. 1 Hastings 4, No. 8 Dordt 1
No. 4 Midland 2, No. 5 Morningside 0
No. 3 Concordia 1, No. 6 Briar Cliff 0
No. 2 Northwestern 4, No. 7 Doane 2

Saturday, Nov. 4 – Semifinals
No. 4 Midland (11-7) at No. 1 Hastings (16-3), 7 p.m.
No. 3 Concordia (15-2-1) at No. 2 Northwestern (12-5-2), 7 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 9 – Championship
Time TBA