By Jake Knabel, Sports Information Director
SEWARD, Neb. – Many of the same faces who starred on the pitch for Concordia University men’s soccer in the fall are back this spring on one of the more veteran teams head coach Jason Weides has guided in his six years at the helm. Concordia possesses a deep 2014 roster that includes 12 players who started nine or more games in 2013.
The familiarity among the current core should help lessen the sting of the graduation of Nathan Douglas, the program’s all-time leading goal scorer. Weides knew that one of the biggest questions this spring centered upon how the team would react without having ‘Dougie’ to lean on.
“Any time you have a player who’s been that impactful for your program it does force you to change a few things,” Weides said. “I think that’s what this spring has been about – learning how to play without him. For the last four years we’ve had the luxury of playing with him and he’s taken a lot on his shoulders.
“We didn’t have a lot of depth at striker with Douglas not playing and some other guys who weren’t able to play. We’ve played a few guys at striker who had never really played there before.”
The early returns have been solid. Junior-to-be Gideon Soenkson, new to the striker role, has provided goal scoring this spring while helping the Bulldogs go unbeaten through four spring matches.
Soenksen (16 starts in 2013) is one of 23 holdovers participating this spring. He and other familiar names like midfielder Chris DeFeyter (second team all-GPAC in 2013) and defenders Sean Doran (second team all-GPAC), Mark Campbell, Justin Lawrie and Mark Anderson form a nucleus with a wealth of experience.
Particularly veteran in the back with the likes of Doran and senior-to-be goalkeeper Brendan Buchanan, Concordia has taken another step, as evidenced by its run of shutouts this spring.
“I think we’re seeing true strides in some guys,” Weides said. “Some who made moderate progress the first year or two are starting to make big strides. I think it will pay big dividends for next fall having the vast majority of our team back. Some of those guys have had a lot of minutes over their last couple years. This will be the first time in several years we’ve been top heavy in terms of juniors and seniors.”
DeFeyter, a senior-to-be from Scottsdale, Ariz., takes on even more of a leadership role with Douglas out of the picture. The lone team captain this spring, DeFeyter netted a career high six goals in 2013 and could be primed for even more in his final season.
“He’s been a good leader for us in the offseason and has helped set the tone,” Weides said. “We provide expectations as a coaching staff but we need that from our players as well. Chris is one of those people who has a really strong, positive winning mentality. He’s willing to put in the extra work and pass it on to the younger players. I think it can be a really great season for him.”
DeFeyter and Soenksen are among the names that have popped this spring. Weides also notes the progression he’s seen from Campbell, who has shifted to midfield from defender, as well as Will Gabbert.
The work habits of Soenksen and others appear to be a theme throughout the roster.
“Gideon Soenksen is a guy who is just tireless in the offseason, getting touches on the ball and continuing to improve,” Weides said. “We have a lot of guys who have jumped in with those guys and got a lot of extra touches. We’re starting to see our technical ability improve.”
Weides’ club has a wealth of depth with the spring roster alone, but additional reinforcements will arrive in the fall to provide competition for playing time.
“Some of our newcomers will help us,” Weides said. “We have a couple internationals that will help us and impact us immediately. We’ve got a player from Georgia who can come in and do a nice job. We also have a couple other guys from throughout the country that will step in. We expect them to raise our level of play. That’s the nice thing about every year – there’s an influx of new personalities and talents.”
Coming off a 10-9 season (6-4 in the conference) in 2013, the Bulldogs are set to open up the 2014 schedule on Aug. 29 when Bethany College (Kan.) visits Seward.