Top two in GPAC standings to meet at Bulldog Stadium on Saturday

By Jacob Knabel on Oct. 12, 2022 in Men's Soccer

SEWARD, Neb. – It’s always intense when the Concordia University Men’s Soccer team gets together with rival Hastings. The two sides are preparing to go head-to-head inside Bulldog Stadium on Saturday. The Bulldogs have the middle of this week off while the Broncos will first host Doane on Wednesday night. Entering the week, Hastings tops the GPAC standings with a perfect 7-0 league mark (21 points) while Concordia is in second place at 5-1-1 (9-1 overall).

This Week

Saturday, Oct. 15 vs. Hastings (9-1, 7-0 GPAC), 8 p.m.
--Live Webcast/Stats

By the numbers

·        In the official ratings, the Bulldogs come in at No. 2 in the GPAC while picking up four points this week in the NAIA coaches’ poll. A week earlier, Concordia generated three points in the national poll. The Bulldogs remain in the receiving votes category despite the 2-2 draw at Morningside (Oct. 5) that made the possible path to a GPAC regular season title more complicated. Concordia likely needs to beat Hastings on Saturday and then get some help from the rest of the league in terms of handing the Broncos a loss or tie. The Bulldog program remains in search of its first ever GPAC regular season title. The highest conference placement during the GPAC era (2000-present) was a tie for second in 2017.

·        The Bulldogs left Sioux City, Iowa, last week feeling like they let two GPAC points get away. Concordia took a 2-0 lead to halftime with the help of a goal apiece from Dominic Abdel-Ahad and Daniel Campbell. The Mustangs then got the better of play in the second half and forced the draw thanks to two goals from Robin Thomala (including one on a penalty kick). Morningside finished with a slight edge in shots, 13-10, while having a large advantage in corners, 12-1. The Bulldogs had hoped to avenge last season’s GPAC quarterfinal loss at the hands of the Mustangs.

·        The frustrations of the second half at Morningside were relieved this past weekend as Concordia took it out on Jamestown in a 6-0 rout. Less than 16 minutes into action, the Bulldogs had already built a 3-0 lead over the Jimmies. The goals came from Abdel-Ahad (9’ and 16’), Matt Schultz (15’), Max Bisinger (42’), Adrian Wambua (53’) and Miguel Navarro (69’). In set pieces, Carlos Orquiz made a big impact in placing the ball in dangerous spots. He was credited with two assists. Concordia ruled the shot count, 21-10, and the goalkeeper combination of Federico Simonetti and Nolan Fuelberth earned the clean sheet.

·        Abdel-Ahad is making a name for himself in his first season with the Bulldogs. The graduate transfer from NCAA Division II Northwest Nazarene University (Idaho) has totaled six goals over the past three games and has run his team best season goal count to nine. Among GPAC players, the native of Duesseldorf, Germany, ranks tied for second in goals (nine) and second in points (21). Abdel-Ahad’s goal scoring binge puts him on track to become the program’s first double-digit goal scorer since three Concordia players accomplished that feat in 2017: Micah Lehenbauer (12), Lewis Rathbone (12) and Marcelo Hernandez (11).

·        The Bulldogs can lay claim to being the first team in the GPAC to reach 10 overall wins this season. Weides has now led the program to at least 10 victories in 11 of the past 12 seasons. Since that stretch began in 2011, Concordia has put together a combined record of 128-70-26. In terms of postseason success, the program’s best run to this point came from 2015 through 2017 when the Bulldogs reached the GPAC tournament final each season and celebrated a conference postseason championship in 2015. The rivalry with Hastings was taken up a notch as the two programs met in the GPAC final in each of those three years. Concordia has not defeated the Broncos since the 2015 GPAC tournament championship, which resulted in a 1-0 upset of then 20th-ranked Hastings.

The opponent

Hastings has its sights set on reclaiming the GPAC regular season title after it placed third during the 2021 regular season. The Broncos then won the ’21 GPAC tournament and qualified for nationals. A powerhouse on the NAIA men’s soccer scene, Hastings has made 17 all-time trips to the national tournament and won national titles in 2010 and 2016. The ’22 edition has been dominant in outscoring its opponents, 41-7, through 10 games. The team’s top goal scorer is David Panter, who has totaled 11 goals and five assists (27 points). Among all NAIA teams, Hastings ranks fifth in goals scored per game (4.10) and 16th in goals against average (0.70). Head Coach Cole Poppen is in his second season at the helm of the program.

Next week

The Bulldogs will host Briar Cliff on Oct. 19 and then make a trip to Presentation on Oct. 22. By the end of next week, there will be only one game remaining in the regular season.