2017 Men's Soccer

16-3-1 Overall | 7-2 GPAC | Season Stats


Spring season offers further evidence of program growth

Heading into his 10th season at the helm of Concordia University men’s soccer, Jason Weides witnessed a lot of things he liked throughout the second semester. While prideful of reaching the GPAC championship game for the second year in a row, the Bulldogs are energized by a feeling that the 2016 campaign wasn’t all that it could have been.

However, there were few things to complain about this spring. Concordia and its sturdy defensive efforts did not yield a single goal in three spring contests. Expectations are again high.

“The program has obviously grown and the expectations have changed,” Weides said. “The bar has been raised to the point where our players expect to be there (in the GPAC championship). They know it’s not going to be given to them, but the expectation is that we’re in that final and competing for a conference championship. Those expectations just push each individual a little bit more. I think they’re able to instill that right away into the incoming classes.”

One unpleasant surprise for the opposition is the return of striker Marcelo Hernandez, who dazzles with his footwork. Hernandez actually participated in senior day festivities last season, but made the decision to attend grad classes at Concordia and exhaust his one season of remaining eligibility. The native of Quito, Ecuador, garnered first team All-GPAC honors and came up with four game-winning goals in 2016.

Hernandez will again be a big factor in the Bulldogs’ success this fall. Weides is happy to welcome him back with open arms.

“He’s going to get his master’s degree and he gets one more chance to play while doing that,” Weides said. “It’s a great opportunity for him to get that extra education and use up his eligibility. For us to have him for another season is great news.”

Hernandez adds sizzle offensively, but the team’s biggest strength appears to again be goal prevention. Says Weides, “We look strong defensively.” A key piece in that backline is first team all-conference performer Florian Caraballo, an outside back. A host of additional holdovers Luke Batters, Toby Down and Aries Fung possess extensive experience as defenders.

Of course there was one obvious absence from the lineup this spring: goalkeeper Mark Horsburgh, who has graduated after two years as the starter. This is the opportunity that junior-to-be Jack Bennett has been waiting for. The Oxford, England, native has bided his time and has worked closely with goalkeeper coach Dan Ball to be ready to take over at keeper. Bennett will just have to fend off the newcomers that arrive this fall.

“Jack is prepared,” Weides said. “He’s done well to learn and grow over the last two years. Though everyone wants to play, he’s been patient and has focused on daily improvement. Coach Dan Ball has been great with our keepers. He really helped Jack develop this last year. We expect that he can step up and do great things for us.”

Not yet mentioned are the captains, Micah Lehenbauer and Lewis Rathbone. A second team all-conference honoree last season, Lehenbauer equaled Hernandez for a team high with eight goals. Rathbone made a big splash in that category in the postseason. Some other familiar names are Angel Alvarez and Carlos Ferrer.

From an experience standpoint, this team is obviously further ahead of where it was this time a year ago. The confidence within the program has grown throughout Weides’ tenure, and this spring did nothing to curb that swagger.

“A year ago there were a few more unknowns just because we had such a big senior class,” Weides said. “We knew we had some good players coming in that were going to help us and we knew we had some returners that were going to be impactful. There were just so many question marks with a whole new back line. I really thought we might struggle more defensively. That was one of the pleasant surprises of the fall that we did so well defensively. I think there are less question marks about that. We have a strong group of returners coming back. Some guys had some really good spring seasons. Plus we know we have a really solid recruiting class coming in.”

Weides says he noticed a lot of gains that were made both individually and collectively this spring. The early part of the second semester is always heavy on strength and conditioning, meaning lots of time spent working out with Coach Todd Berner. That leads into futsal and indoor soccer activities while the weather is still cold and blustery. Eventually, the spring arrived and the team spent roughly six weeks training outside. That period included three games.

The spring served as a last hurrah for assistant coach Nico Luque, who has spent three seasons as Weides’ right hand man. Luque helped Weides during a time when the program has accomplished some firsts in school history – such as reaching the national tournament in 2015. Luque will still be close by. He accepted a position as a full-time assistant at Nebraska Wesleyan. Said Weides, “Nico has been a big part of our recent success. He’s certainly going to be missed. He’s a great coach and a good friend.”

The likes of Horsburgh and Luque will be difficult to replace, but what remains intact gives Weides and company plenty to be excited about. The spring season helped confirm that the Bulldogs can play with anyone, even that team to the west that just won a national title. Concordia has a genuine belief in itself.

“You can definitely see it’s a team that’s hungry for this fall and they’re going to put in the work,” Weides said. “We feel that although there was some success this past fall, we didn’t achieve some of our goals. We want to make sure that we achieve our goals this fall.”

This fall's slate revealed for men's soccer

2017 Schedule | PDF

SEWARD, Neb. – The 2017 season will mark the 10th for Jason Weides as head coach of Concordia men’s soccer. The Bulldogs will enter the fall with plenty of momentum coming off back-to-back appearances in the GPAC tournament title game. Not only that, Weides has plenty of seasoned veterans returning this coming season. The 2017 campaign is set to get underway on Aug. 26 when Sterling College (Kan.) makes a visit to Bulldog Stadium.

The regular-season slate includes 17 games, including eight in Seward. Concordia (11-7-2, 6-3 GPAC in 2016) will again play nine games against conference opponents. The Bulldogs hope to put themselves in good position to make it a very meaningful showdown with defending national champion Hastings in the final game of the regular season, Oct. 25 inside Bulldog Stadium.

One of the highlights of the nonconference portion of the schedule is a trip to the Windy City for a pair of games against sister Concordia University institutions. The Bulldogs are set to take on Concordia University Chicago on Sept. 1 and then Concordia University Wisconsin on Sept. 2. Both foes are members of the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference of NCAA Division III. CUNE will also face a difficult non-league challenge when Bellevue University (12-6 in 2016) invades Bulldog Stadium on Sept. 30.

The GPAC schedule will get underway with a journey to Mitchell, S.D., for a matchup with Dakota Wesleyan on Sept. 23. Weides’ bunch will return to the site of last year’s thrilling GPAC tournament semifinal victory on Oct. 18 when they take on Midland in Fremont. A national tournament at-large qualifier in 2016, the Warriors were ranked 14th in the 2016 postseason coaches’ poll.

Season preview: 2017 men's soccer

Head coach: Jason Weides (81-75-17, nine years)
2016 Record: 11-7-2 overall; 6-3 GPAC (3rd); GPAC tournament runner up
Key Returners: D Angel Alvarez; D Luke Batters; D Florian Caraballo; F Toby Down; F Carlos Ferrer; D Aries Fung; F Marcelo Hernandez; F Matthew Ho; MF Micah Lehenbauer; MF Lewis Rathbone
Key Newcomers: GK Jacob Elam; D Jackson Myers; MF Garrett Perry; D Kevin Sanchez; D Joao Pedro Verissimo
Key Losses: MF Carlos Acosta; GK Mark Horsburgh
2016 GPAC All-Conference: Florian Caraballo (first team); Marcelo Hernandez (first team); Micah Lehenbauer (second team); Toby Down (honorable mention); Carlos Ferrer (honorable mention); Aries Fung (honorable mention); Mark Horsburgh (honorable mention); Lewis Rathbone (honorable mention) 

Not long ago, the Concordia men’s soccer program hoped to challenge for conference championships. It hoped it could rise up and sometimes beat the perennial powers in the GPAC. It hoped to become one of the well-respected soccer programs in the state of Nebraska. Hope has transformed into tangible results and now realistically high expectations. 

The standard has been raised by back-to-back appearances in the conference tournament championship game and by big-time postseason road wins over the likes of Hastings and Midland over the past two seasons. Head coach Jason Weides has gradually led the Bulldogs up the conference standings. Now, he has perhaps his deepest, most seasoned and most talented roster yet.

“Before, we were a competitive team, but we were the underdog in many games,” Weides said. “Now I think we’re probably not going under the radar for most teams. We’re certainly going to get the best of every team now. They see us as a serious competitor. Around the GPAC the teams we play, they know they’re in for a tough game. They know they’re going to have to play their best to get a result. They know we’re capable of doing a lot of good things.”

On paper, last season may have looked like a rebuilding scenario with 13 seniors having departed from the 2015 GPAC tournament championship team. But the 2016 group proved this program has staying power, quickly reloading with a revamped backline. Weides and his staff brought in impact transfers such as defenders Luke Batters and Florian Caraballo and debuted highly touted forward Marcelo Hernandez.

There are fewer question marks facing the program than there were this time one year ago. Other than Carlos Acosta and goalkeeper Mark Horsburgh, the key pieces are back in place. A big senior class includes captains Micah Lehenbauer and Lewis Rathbone, two starters with extensive experience.

Says Lehenbauer, a second team All-GPAC choice in 2016, “I think it was a bit of a surprise last year knowing that after my sophomore year we lost about 13 seniors. We weren’t really sure how we would adjust to all that. We were able to adjust and had an even better season than my sophomore year. We’re not too worried about the new squad coming in or the people that left. We lost good players like Carlos Acosta and Mark Horsburgh, but I think we have players coming in and players that maybe didn’t get as many minutes as they might get this season that will really be able to step up.”

The Concordia uprising that has occurred the past two seasons has been brought about by balanced teams in terms of goal scoring and defending. Though often limited by injury last year, Hernandez managed to equal Lehenbauer for a team high eight goals. A native of Cordoba, Spain, Caraballo immediately became one of the league’s top defenders, earning first team All-GPAC accolades.

The roster is teeming with seniors, but Weides also welcomes in a large group of freshmen, many of which he expects to impact this year’s squad.

“Top to bottom it’s probably one of the most talented and deepest teams we’ve had,” Weides said. “We’ve kind of felt that year to year as we’ve been progressing as a program. It’s similar to 2015 in that we have a big senior class. We actually have a big freshman class as well. Those are the two biggest classes within our team this year. I think it will be a good mix.”

There are many other notable returners to mention such as defender Angel Alvarez, forwards Toby Down and Carlos Ferrer, defender Aries Fung and forward Matthew Ho. Fung joined Rathbone with honorable mention all-conference accolades. Weides also made mention of the spring improvement of junior defender Derek Eitzmann.

Many eyes will be placed upon the goalkeeper position, a spot held down for two years by Horsburgh, one of the heroes of the 2015 run to the national tournament. Weides and Bulldog teammates feel good about Jack Bennett, who has waited in the wings behind Horsburgh. Bennett is the frontrunner in goal as part of a roster that includes two additional keepers.

“Jack has been working hard the last couple years,” Weides said. “He’s done well to really improve. This last year we started to see big strides forward for Jack. He really just became a lot more consistent. He’s ready to step up at that position. We’ve got a couple newcomers that are going to help us as well.”

Beyond settling on a goalkeeper, Concordia wants to build upon a solid regular season in 2016, but things can always get better. There were a series of nonconference defeats that the Bulldogs felt like could have gone the other way. They also weren’t particularly thrilled with a 2-1 tough-luck loss at Dakota Wesleyan (missed the GPAC postseason) in the final outing of the regular season.

Lehenbauer says this year’s team wants to play quicker and make faster decisions on the fly. Those were focuses during a spring season that featured some degree of experimentation with players moving around the field. Weides will continue tinkering throughout preseason as he lands on the right combinations and formations. No matter how it shakes out, Lehenbauer and company have their eyes on reliving the postseason thrills they’ve grown accustomed to.

“It’s been so much fun. It’s really indescribable,” Lehenbauer said. “What I’ve really been thinking about is how we’ve been a team of firsts. It makes me really excited and motivated to see what our next first is going to be this season. To know that we’ve been in back-to-back GPAC championships, we know that this one is not going to come easy just like the last two. It puts a target on our back, but I’m super excited.”

This may be the best team Weides has constructed, but the pursuit of another championship will be a challenging endeavor.

“I wish it were that easy that we could just put it on the calendar and say that we’re going to be there (in the championship game),” Weides said. “We have a long road. It will be an exciting and fun road to strive to get there. We’ll do everything in our power to get back there.”

The 2017 season will officially get underway on Saturday, Aug. 26 when Sterling College (Kan.) visits Bulldog Stadium. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. CT.

Men's soccer lands at No. 3 in GPAC preseason poll

2017 GPAC preseason poll

SEWARD, Neb. – Preseason expectations continue to soar for the Concordia University men’s soccer program. After a third-place regular season finish and a second-straight appearance in the GPAC tournament championship game, the Bulldogs checked in at No. 3 in the league’s preseason coaches’ poll, released on Monday (Aug. 14).

Over the past four seasons, head coach Jason Weides has led the program to a combined record of 21-13-5. Last season Concordia earned the No. 3 seed in the conference postseason and proceeded to defeat Northwestern, 2-1, at home and then No. 13 Midland, 3-2, on the road. The Bulldogs have met Hastings in the GPAC championship contest in each of the past two years. Weides will have an experienced roster complete with nine seniors.

Concordia will kick off the 2017 season on Saturday, Aug. 26 when Sterling College invades Bulldog Stadium. Weides’ squad will also welcome York College to Seward for a matchup of instate opponents on Wednesday, Aug. 29.

2017 GPAC Preseason Men’s Soccer Coaches’ Poll
1. Hastings – 81 (9)
2. Midland – 70 (1)
3. Concordia – 66
4. Morningside – 56
5. Doane – 49
6. Northwestern – 41
7. Briar Cliff – 31
8. Dordt – 30
9. Dakota Wesleyan – 17
10. Mount Marty – 9

Hernandez ready to make most of final season as a Bulldog

One of head coach Jason Weides’ greatest recruiting successes this past offseason resulted in the return of first team all-GPAC forward Marcelo Hernandez. Last October Hernandez had celebrated senior day along with five other teammates that were set to graduate in May. A transfer from Evergreen Valley College (Calif.), Hernandez battled through a knee injury and put forth a fine effort in what appeared to be his final collegiate season.

Not so fast. Says Hernandez, “Coach Weides and my teammates didn’t push me at all. Coach Weides just put the idea (of returning) in me. That was enough for me to think about it. I could play one more year and get my master’s. I have all my life to work. Why not have another year-and-a-half of studying and one more year playing? Helping the program grow is my motivation.”

Hernandez is making up for lost time. The native of Quito, Ecuador, did not get cleared by the NAIA after arriving at Concordia prior to the 2015 season. Hernandez watched as the Bulldogs upset Hastings for the GPAC tournament title. Hernandez wanted to be an active participant in such postseason glory.

In his first season of action in Bulldog blue, Hernandez fell just short of leading Concordia to another conference tournament championship. Despite playing through pain, Hernandez managed to tally eight goals and four assists. Considering Hernandez amassed 16 goals and 14 assists in his final season at Evergreen Valley, he may have a lot bigger things in store in 2017.

“He’s going to get his master’s degree and he gets one more chance to play while doing that,” Weides said. “It’s a great opportunity for him to get that extra education and use up his eligibility. For us to have him for another season is great news.”

It’s no surprise that Hernandez would want to use up every little bit of eligibility he has left. He began playing soccer in his native country at the age of four or five. He starred for Liga de Quito. Says Hernandez, “Soccer was my passion every day. I was training until I was almost 20 when I decided to come to the United States to keep playing and to get an education.”

Hernandez journeyed to Evergreen Valley in San Jose, where he spent a year-and-a-half and played for two seasons. Hernandez knew he would have to find a new landing spot to finish his degree. His connection to Concordia came through former assistant coach Nico Luque, who had played soccer with a good friend of Hernandez. Luque and Hernandez hit it off. It helped that Luque could speak to Hernandez in Spanish.

The holdup in Hernandez’s eligibility at Concordia escaped the control of either Concordia or Hernandez. At one point, there was uncertainty about whether Hernandez would ever appear inside Bulldog Stadium. Once Hernandez trained with the team it became quite obvious that he could make a considerable impact the moment he was deemed eligible.

“It was tough that year, but I was training and playing with my teammates,” Hernandez said. “It was not so bad. They made me feel like part of the team. That helped me a lot. Then we won the GPAC. I tried to be involved with team.”

Hernandez has also been supported from afar by his father Luis Hernandez and Ximena Carrion. Marcelo says that his dad has high expectations for Marcelo. His father watches webcasts back home. He had to be proud of moments like the one that occurred last Sept. 24 when Marcelo recorded both Concordia goals, including the overtime game winner, in a 2-1 victory over Northwestern.

Should Hernandez remain healthy, like he is this preseason, more thrilling moments can be expected. In terms of pure technical ability, Hernandez ranks at the top of the Bulldog roster. With good fortune, Hernandez will enjoy the entire fall displaying those skills.

“Last year he came in and he definitely was impactful, but he was healthy maybe the first couple weeks and then was battling things all throughout the season,” Weides said. “He was probably somewhere between 70 and 90 percent healthy the rest of the season. He voiced those frustrations. He wasn’t enjoying the game as much simply because his body was keeping him from that. He’s capable of a lot, but we haven’t seen him in full health for a full season. I’m expecting him to be a dynamic player who can help us create a lot of goal scoring situations. He’s certainly a threat to other teams.”

With a sport management degree in hand, the 26-year-old Hernandez is one of the veterans of the campus. After spending the summer training with a friend in Ecuador, Hernandez is ready to be back at a place he has grown fond of.

“I like everything,” Hernandez said. “I came from a bigger city in California. The first thing I noticed is how nice the people are here. When I came here, I became part of this university right away. They made me part of this family – and that includes my teammates, my coaches and the people who work here at Concordia. It makes you work harder because you want to play for that name in front of you. You want everyone to look at Concordia as the best university.”

Hernandez has helped foster a winning attitude within a soccer program that now expects to compete with the top teams in the conference. With Hernandez healthy and reinvigorated, who knows what the 2017 Bulldogs are capable of. Give thanks for one more year of Marcelo Hernandez in Bulldog blue.

Veteran Bulldogs kick off 2017 at home Saturday

SEWARD, Neb. – A team well-stocked with seniors familiar with postseason glory, the Concordia men’s soccer team is now two days away from opening the 2017 campaign. Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference member Sterling College will serve as the visitor for Saturday’s contest inside Bulldog Stadium. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.

Sterling (0-0) at Concordia (0-0)
Saturday, Aug. 26, 3:30 p.m.
Bulldog Stadium | Seward, Neb.
Webcast: Concordia Sports Network

There should be few butterflies for a Concordia squad that features nine seniors, several of whom are either starters or key players. Two of those seniors, Florian Caraballo and Marcelo Hernandez, garnered first team all-conference accolades last fall. Two additional seniors, Micah Lehenbauer and Lewis Rathbone, serve as team captains for head coach Jason Weides’ squad. This program has been remarkably consistent over the past six years, winning either 10 or 11 games each season.

The Warriors finished 7-9-3 overall in 2016 and were picked eighth out of 12 teams in the KCAC preseason coaches’ poll. Sterling is transitioning under first-year head coach Nic Martinez, a 2010 Warrior graduate. He replaces Brandon Ponchak. Under Ponchak, Sterling played in plenty of low scoring affairs. The Warriors were outscored by a combined total of 30-21 over their 19 games in 2016.

Concordia joins Hastings and Midland as the only GPAC teams to post 10 or more wins in each of the last six seasons. The Bulldogs met the Broncos in the conference tournament championship game in both 2015 and 2016. Since the start of the 2011 season, Concordia owns a home record of 31-17-2.

After concluding play on Saturday, the Bulldogs will look ahead to hosting York College next Tuesday (Aug. 29). That will serve as the appetizer for a three-game week that will finish with a trip to the Windy City for battles with Concordia University-Chicago (Sept. 1) and Concordia University-Wisconsin (Sept. 2). Both matches will be contested on the Concordia-Chicago campus.

Bulldogs ring in 2017 by holding off Sterling

SEWARD, Neb. – The shot total told a story of domination for Concordia men’s soccer, but head coach Jason Weides’ squad had to sweat out a white knuckler in a tussle with visiting Sterling College. The retooled Warriors squad, under the direction of a new head coach, hung tight before the Bulldogs held their foe off, 3-2, on Saturday afternoon.

Weides debuted a squad heavy on both seniors and freshmen. Two freshmen – Garrett Perry and Kevin Sanchez – were part of the starting lineup. In addition, junior Jack Bennett took over the starting goalkeeper role.

“Overall it was a good start,” Weides said. “To pick up a victory, you can’t complain too much, but I think it’s pretty evident that is the start. We’re not polished at this point. We’re not at championship level, but we’ve got to start somewhere. I think there were a lot of good lessons in this game for us. Sterling gave us a really good test and pushed us really well.”

Three different goal scorers helped propel Concordia to victory. The Bulldogs felt like they should have put away more goals, but the work of Lewis Rathbone (45’), Micah Lehenbauer (53’) and Toby Down (61’) proved to be enough. It was a balanced scoring effort that has been typical of the past two Concordia squads that have reached the GPAC tournament championship game.

Down’s goal off a free kick with less than 30 minutes remaining appeared to have sunk Sterling, which had gained a 1-0 advantage courtesy of Adriano Marques’ goal in the 34th minute. Concordia seemed to have finally wore down a team it ended up outshooting, 31-4 (13-2 in shots on goal). But the Warriors kept on coming. Youssef Mourchid made a nifty move in the box and got Sterling back within a goal in the 64th minute.

The Bulldogs responded appropriately and warded off the Warriors.

“We just fought hard for each other,” Rathbone said. “At halftime we kind of changed it. We pressed differently. We were trying to force them wide. They didn’t really have anything after that.”

Rathbone sees this team as another one capable of making noise and taking the program up another notch.

“The new guys came in with a good attitude and willing to learn,” Rathbone said. “That’s what we expect from them. We try to raise a good standard here. We have high expectations and I think they knew that. We’ve raised the bar every single year since I’ve been here.”

Rathbone was one of five seniors in the starting 11. The others were Luke Batters, Florian Caraballo, Down and Lehenbauer. The four-year seniors have helped the program go a combined 33-20-9 since the start of the 2014 season.

The Bulldogs will renew their rivalry with York College on Tuesday (Aug. 29). The Panthers will visit Bulldog Stadium for an 8 p.m. kickoff. In last year’s meeting, Concordia defeated York by a score of 4-0.

Battle of Concordias highlights first full week of regular season

SEWARD, Neb. – Three games make up this week’s schedule for the Concordia University men’s soccer team, which opened up the 2017 season with a 3-2 home win over Sterling College on Aug. 26. The Bulldogs will remain at home to host rival York College on Tuesday (Aug. 29) before making their first road trip of the new campaign. Games on Friday and Saturday will take place on the campus of Concordia University, Chicago.

This week’s schedule
Tuesday, Aug. 29 vs. York College, 8 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 1 at Concordia-Chicago, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 2 vs. Concordia-Wisconsin, 11:45 a.m.

Tenth-year head coach Jason Weides appears to have a squad capable of extending the program’s run of six-straight seasons with 10 or more victories. In the season opener, Lewis Rathbone, Michah Lehenbauer and Toby Down – all seniors – each put a goal on the board as part of the victory. The contest also saw junior Jack Bennett take over the starting goalkeeper role. In addition four players made their collegiate debuts: Ryan LeTourneau, Joshua Lindquist, Garrett Perry and Kevin Sanchez.

After hosting York (6-10-2 in 2016), CUNE will test its fitness with games on back-to-back days in the Windy City. In a showdown between Concordias, the Bulldogs will go head-to-head with Concordia-Chicago (3-13 in 2016) on Friday and Concordia-Wisconsin (13-5 in 2016) on Saturday. Both CUC and CUW are affiliated with the Northern Athletics Conference of NCAA Division III. The Falcons of CUW were picked third in the preseason NACC poll. The Cougars of CUC were pegged for 10th in the conference poll.

All Bulldog home games can be streamed live via the Concordia Sports Network. For live coverage of this weekend’s matches in River Forest, Ill., check out CUC’s athletics website.

CUNE will have a week layoff following the journey to Chicago. The Bulldogs will return to action on Saturday, Sept. 9 when they are scheduled to visit Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa.

Hernandez makes return, Bulldogs shut out York

SEWARD, Neb. – Senior Marcelo Hernandez helped ignite the offensive attack while the Concordia University men’s soccer team turned in a clean sheet courtesy of a well-rounded defensive effort on Tuesday night. A game that was scoreless for nearly 40 minutes resulted in a 2-0 win over visiting York College inside Bulldog Stadium.

Concordia’s 10th-straight series win over the Panthers pushed its season record to 2-0. Head coach Jason Weides’ squad defeated Sterling College, 3-2, in last week’s season opener. In a winning effort, the latest performance left more to be desired.

“We didn’t take as big of a step forward as we would have hoped,” Weides said. “So far from scrimmage to scrimmage and our first game we’ve taken good strides forward. I think we took a little bit of a step backwards today, especially in the first half. Credit to York. They made it really challenging on us.

“I was pleased that we got much better in the second half. Now we just need to convert more of our chances.”

Still in his first season as the starting keeper, Jack Bennett made one of the finest saves in his career to date when he tapped a well-struck ball over the crossbar to avoid trouble and keep the shutout intact. He got plenty of help from the back line anchored by the likes of center back Luke Batters and left back Florian Caraballo. Their work has helped limit the team’s first two opponents to a combined total of nine shots. Concordia owned a 17-5 advantage in shots on Tuesday.

“We’re working well in the defensive aspect,” says Caraballo, who is in his second year at Concordia after playing at Marshalltown Community College. “I feel better. I feel more engaged with people and that I can trust them more. I feel more comfortable.”

On the attack, sophomore Carlos Ferrer got loose on several occasions. In teaming up with Hernandez, Ferrer slotted the ball past the keeper in the 49th minute. Later in the game, Ferrer just missed out on a second goal after being played through on a perfectly executed pass from Toby Down. Thankfully, Concordia had some breathing room built by Ferrer and a penalty kick goal from Hernandez in the 40th minute.

The Bulldogs fended off York despite the absence of senior captains Micah Lehenbauer and Lewis Rathbone. Both were held out due to injury but are expected back in the near future. Lehenbauer and Rathbone notched a goal apiece in last week’s win.

Five different players have accounted for Concordia’s five goals so far this season. Hernandez and Lehenbauer tied for a team best eight goals in 2016.

In this weekend’s action, CUNE hopes to show that is has the superior program among the Concordias. In action in River Forest, Ill., the Bulldogs will take on Concordia University, Chicago on Friday (4:30 p.m.) and Concordia University, Wisconsin on Saturday (11:45 a.m.). CUC and CUW reside in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference of NCAA Division III.

“I think it’s really exciting,” Weides said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve played any of those schools. We’re excited to see them. I’ve heard good things about a lot of different Concordias and I know there are some good tests are some really good tests and some good soccer programs amongst the other Concordias around the nation. I’m intrigued to see where we stack up against them.”

Bennett shines in shutout of CU-Chicago

RIVER FOREST, Ill. – The Bulldog men’s soccer team has now gone more than 206 minutes without allowing a goal after a second straight shutout. In Friday’s action in River Forest, Ill., CUNE toppled Concordia University-Chicago, 2-0. The host Cougars are a member of the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference of NCAA Division III.

Tenth-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad remains unbeaten at 3-0. The Bulldogs have also claimed wins over Sterling College and York College. The only downside from the past two wins was an inability to finish more of their chances in the box.

“There were a lot of really good things to feel positive about,” Weides said. “We created a ton of chances and did pretty well defensively. We didn’t give them many chances. We created so many that we really should have scored a few more. We haven’t quite learned how to see out a lead.”

Thanks to the play of goalkeeper Jack Bennett (second straight shutout) and the back line, the Bulldogs could get away with a lack of a finishing touch on the attack. CUNE held CUC to nine shots, including only five on goal. The Bulldogs even dodged a bullet in an unusual sequence in the second half that saw Bennett save a penalty kick only to be called for a foul on the rebound. The ensuing PK missed wide, preserving the shutout and a 2-0 lead.

Thirteen different CUNE players contributed to the team’s shot count of 28 (13 on goal). Bulldog goals came courtesy of Toby Down (19’) and Garrett Perry (72’). An assist was credited to Marcelo Hernandez on the first goal. Hernandez and Matthew Ho equaled a team high with four shots apiece.

CUNE is hoping to prove it’s the best among the Concordias, while also soaking up a memorable experience. Not since the 1990s has there been such a gathering of Concordia men’s soccer programs.

“It definitely feels different,” Weides said. “It started off this morning with a chapel service where all the teams got together and had kind of like an opening ceremony. I think our guys are really excited about the moment. I’ve had a lot of alums over the last 10 years ask me about playing a soccer CIT. We told them we don’t know when and if this will happen again and to relish the opportunity.”

Friday marked the opening of the 2017 season for CU-Chicago. The Cougars went 3-13 overall in 2016. The highlight for CUC on Friday was the play of keeper Roberto Aragon, who made 11 saves to allow his team to hang in the game.

The Bulldogs will remain in the Windy City overnight in preparation for Saturday’s 11:45 a.m. kickoff against Concordia University, Wisconsin. Also a member of the NACC, CUW defeat Concordia University, Ann Arbor, 2-0, on Friday. The Falcons are coming off a 13-5 season in 2016. Each of this weekend’s games can be streamed live at:https://cuchicago.edu/live

Tussle with CU-Wisconsin ends in stalemate

RIVER FOREST, Ill. – Fresh off a 2-0 victory over Concordia University, Chicago, the Bulldog men’s soccer team took aim at earning supremacy among the Concordias on Saturday. Despite playing the entire second half down a man, CUNE salvaged a 1-1 draw while up against NCAA Division III Concordia University, Wisconsin in River Forest, Ill., on Saturday afternoon.

An unbeaten run to begin 2017 will carry on for 10th-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad. A 1-0-1 weekend puts the Bulldogs at 3-0-1 overall. The Bulldogs got the best of the weekend host by a 2-0 score on Friday. Weides was particularly encouraged by the second half on Saturday.

“We were really good in the second half, especially considering we were a man down,” Weides said. “Most people who were watching the game wouldn’t have realized we were a man down. We had opportunities to actually win the game. We had one go off the post and another really close opportunity.”

CUNE appeared in danger of suffering its first loss until Marcelo Hernandez emerged with the equalizer in the 81st minute. The set piece goal was facilitated by Lewis Rathbone, who was credited with the assist. From that point on it was about seeing out at least a tie.

Junior Jack Bennett again gave a nice effort in goal. It took an impressive strike by Josiah Ochoa in the 27th minute to prevent Bennett from securing a third shutout in a row. Bennett made five saves and was aided by solid teamwork along the back line. A unit headlined by the likes of Luke Batters and Florian Caraballo has helped keep opponents to a combined total of three goals over the season’s first four games. The shot count favored CUNE slightly (14-11). However, the Bulldogs had an 11-3 shot advantage in the second half.

Weides made note of the quality play of the likes of Evan Hayden, Micah Lehenbauer (returned from injury) and Hernandez. They helped pick up the slack with all-conference defender Florian Caraballo out of the lineup. Said Weides, “I couldn’t be more proud of the way we performed in the second half in a very challenging situation.”

CUNE and CUW both went 1-0-1 for the top records among the Concordias this weekend. Concordia-Ann Arbor went 1-1 and Concordia-Chicago finished 0-2. No official trophy is awarded.

The Bulldogs now have a week off before making another road trip next Saturday. They will join the women’s team on a journey to Lamoni, Iowa, for contest at Graceland University (1-1-1). Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. CT. CUNE hopes to avenge a 1-0 home loss to Graceland last fall.

Bennett collects GPAC weekly honor

GPAC release

SEWARD, Neb. – It didn’t take long for Jack Bennett to earn accolades during his first season as a starting goalkeeper. On Tuesday, the native of Oxford, England, was named the GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Men’s Soccer Defensive Player of the Week. Bennett is the first Concordia men’s soccer player to earn a weekly award in 2017.

The 6-foot-3 junior played all 270 minutes in goal last week, allowing just a single goal while recording a pair of shutouts. In games against York College, Concordia University, Chicago and Concordia University, Wisconsin, Bennett totaled a combined 14 saves, including one that came on a penalty kick. On the season, Bennett sports an .824 save percentage and 0.75 goals against average. After two years as the backup to Mark Horsburgh, Bennett has taken over a full-time role this fall.

Bennett and the Bulldogs are off to a 3-0-1 start. They will return to action on Saturday when they travel to Graceland University for a 2:30 p.m. CT kickoff in Lamoni, Iowa. The game time was originally scheduled for 3 p.m.

Saturday road trip upcoming for Bulldogs

SEWARD, Neb. – After a mid-week bye the Concordia University men’s soccer team is ready to return to action for the first time since its journey to Chicago last week for a gathering of Concordias. The Bulldogs are aiming to keep an unbeaten season alive. They own wins over Sterling College, York College and Concordia University, Chicago as part of a 3-0-1 start to the 2017 season. Head coach Jason Weides’ squad will put its undefeated mark on the line at Graceland University on Saturday. Kickoff from Lamoni, Iowa, is set for 2:30 p.m. CT.

The Bulldogs are hopeful that a goal scoring outburst is on the horizon. So far in 2017, Concordia has been one of the nation’s best at creating chances, currently sporting NAIA ranks of 11th in shots per game (22.5) and 19th in shots on goal per game (10.5). However, the Bulldogs have averaged 2.0 goals per game. They have outscored their opponents by a combined score of 8-3. Both Toby Down and Marcelo Hernandez have found the back of the net twice to lead Concordia.

Goalkeeper Jack Bennett is the reigning GPAC defensive player of the week. In his first season as a starter, the native of Oxford, England, has played all 360 minutes in goal, allowing three goals while making 14 saves. He owns a save percentage of .824 and a goals against average of .750.

Despite a solid start to the season, the Bulldogs moved back from third in the GPAC preseason poll to No. 5 in the conference rating that was released this week by the NAIA. Meanwhile, Graceland is 2-1-1 overall with victories over Park University and Doane. Concordia will be the third GPAC team to play against the Yellowjackets. The Heart of America Athletic Conference member’s lone loss came by a 1-0 score in a home contest against Northwestern. Graceland’s first four games have featured a total of nine combined goals.

Graceland will feature live stats for Saturday’s game. Another trip to Iowa awaits next week when the Bulldogs travel to Waldorf University on Wednesday (Sept. 13). Three days later Concordia will be back at home to host Kansas Wesleyan University (Sept. 16).

Bulldogs remain unbeaten with comeback win at Graceland

LAMONI, Iowa – A bit of a slow start failed to stop the Concordia University men’s soccer team from remaining unbeaten in 2017. Goals by Lewis Rathbone and Marcelo Hernandez helped lift the Bulldogs to a 2-1 road victory over Graceland University in an evenly contested game on Saturday afternoon.

Tenth-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad now stands at 4-0-1 overall. Concordia has scored exactly two goals in three of its four wins this fall.

“We started to get a little better as the first half went on,” Weides said. “We were able to equalize late in the first half with one of our best attacks in the first half. I think we were fortunate to be 1-1 at the half. Second half we were better. We defended better individually and collectively. We felt fortunate to walk away with a win.”

The Bulldogs got the benefit of a foul call in the box in the 88th minute and the score tied at 1-1. After Luke Batters drew the foul in the box, senior Marcelo Hernandez emerged with the game winning goal via a penalty kick. Despite putting only four shots on frame in 90 minutes, Concordia left town with a win that avenged a 1-0 home loss to Graceland in 2016.

The Bulldogs finished with a slight 12-10 edge in shots. Graceland owned a 6-4 advantage in shots on goal. Goalkeeper Jack Bennett made five saves while again playing all 90 minutes. Hernandez came off the bench and led the team with three shots. Three teammates fired exactly two shots.

Concordia was forced to dig out of a 1-0 hole after Joao Luis Holtskog Aguiar scored in the 23rd minute. The Bulldogs waited until a Lewis Rathbone goal (assist by Matthew Ho) in the 41st minute to equalize. The stats reflected more well-played second half by the Bulldogs, who earned a 9-3 shot advantage over the final 45 minutes of action.

Saturday marked the college debut of Joao Pedro Verissimo, who was one of six substitutes used by Weides.

Another road trip to Iowa is upcoming on Wednesday (Sept. 13). Concordia will arrive in Forest City, Iowa, to take on Waldorf University at 3:30 p.m. CT. The Bulldogs are scheduled to return home next Saturday (Sept. 16) and host Kansas Wesleyan University.

Unblemished Bulldogs winding down nonconference play

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University men’s soccer team is still looking for that goal scoring outburst, but so far it’s done a credible job of taking care of business. For the first time in the GPAC era, the Bulldogs are unbeaten after their first five games of the season. Tenth-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad is one of two GPAC teams without a loss. Concordia is now 4-0-1 overall.

This week’s schedule
Wednesday, Sept. 13 at Waldorf University, 3:30 p.m. CT
Saturday, Sept. 16 vs. Kansas Wesleyan University, 3:30 p.m. CT

The Bulldogs escaped Lamoni, Iowa, with a 2-1 victory in last week’s only outing. Concordia overcame a 1-0 deficit with goals by Lewis Rathbone and Marcelo Hernandez. A foul in the box led to Hernandez’s game winner on a penalty kick in the 88th minute. Hernandez took over the team lead with three goals on the year. Once again, Jack Bennett played all 90 minutes in goal. He and the Bulldogs have allowed their opponents a total of four goals this season. The game number for Concordia has been two. It is 4-0 when scoring two or more goals.

Weides has led back-to-back teams to the GPAC championship game, but neither of those squads were unbeaten after their opening five contests. The 2017 Bulldogs are believed to be the first in program history without a loss through five games since the 1974 edition started out 7-0. The ’73 squad started out 6-0-1. Weides’ 2011 group opened up 6-1-1 and finished the campaign at 11-5-3 overall.

Concordia will attempt to avenge a 1-0 overtime loss to Waldorf last fall. The Warriors went 12-6-1 last season and are off to a 4-3 start in 2017. Waldorf has already tallied 31 goals, though 20 of them came in a 20-0 win over Nebraska Christian. The Warriors are 2-2 so far against GPAC opponents. Meanwhile, Kansas Wesleyan (1-3) enters the week having lost three in a row since a 2-1 season opening win over Doane.

The conference season will get started on Sept. 23 when the Bulldogs travel to play at Dakota Wesleyan.

Webcast links:
-Saturday vs. Kansas Wesleyan

Rathbone's first career hat trick keeps Bulldogs unbeaten

FOREST CITY, Iowa – The first hat trick of senior Lewis Rathbone’s career helped the Concordia University men’s soccer team overcome a shots disadvantage of a 2-to-1 ratio in Wednesday afternoon’s action in Forest City, Iowa. Rathbone’s big day lifted the Bulldogs to a 4-2 victory over host Waldorf University.

The contest marked the second straight road contest that required 10th-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad to shake off a 1-0 deficit. Another come-from-behind win moved Concordia to 5-0-1 overall. In back-to-back matches, the Bulldogs have avenged 2016 losses.

“It’s nice in a sense to get redemption from results last year,” Weides said. “Those are three points essentially that we left on the table last year that we didn’t leave on the table this year. Maybe we didn’t play 90 minutes of great soccer, but we played well enough to get the result. That’s a promising thing.”

Not since 1974 has the program remained unbeaten this many games into a season. That doesn’t mean the Bulldogs are unfamiliar with success. A member of back-to-back teams to reach the GPAC tournament final, Rathbone broke a 1-1 tie in the 17th minute and then put Concordia in control with another goal in the 32nd minute. For good measure, Rathbone found the back of the net just after halftime, giving his team a commanding 4-1 lead.

Rathbone has been put in a position to score more goals this season with more of an attacking role. The native of Manchester, England, was deadly accurate on Wednesday, capitalizing on three of his four shots.

“He’s done good things for us this season. He’s in a position now to probably score more goals,” Weides said. “Part of the reason we have him in that position is because he has the ability to create chances. He’s naturally a little higher up in the field this year. He’s adapted well to that position. He’s definitely had to change his game from what he’s played the last couple years. It’s a completely different role.”

In terms of shots faced, junior goalkeeper faced his most stiffest test. The Warriors (4-3) put 10 of their 26 shots on frame, forcing Bennett to make a career high eight saves. The only real disappointment for Weides was a lull that let in Jean Bonnin’s goal in the 74th minute. With Waldorf down a man at that point, Concordia was able to see out its fifth victory of the campaign.

Senior Marcelo Hernandez knotted the game at 1-1 in the 11th minute. Hernandez’s fourth goal of the year was a quick response to the score by Jose Beltran in the fifth minute. Hernandez and Rathbone were responsible for taking seven of the team’s 13 shots. Carlos Ferrer assisted on a pair of goals.

The 1973 and 1974 squads are the only ones in program history to extend an undefeated run this far into a season. The ’73 team started out 6-0-1 before losing while the ’74 squad got out to a 7-0 start before suffering its first defeat.

The Bulldogs will return home for the first time since Aug. 29 when they host Kansas Wesleyan University (1-4) on Saturday. Kickoff is again set for 3:30 p.m. CT. Concordia has recorded home wins over Sterling College and York College.

Rathbone stays hot, Bulldogs stay unbeaten

SEWARD, Neb. – Lewis Rathbone continued his goal scoring splurge on Saturday while helping ensure that the Concordia University men’s soccer team remained unbeaten. The program’s longest undefeated run to open a season since 1974 carries on after the Bulldogs earned a 3-0 win over visiting Kansas Wesleyan inside Bulldog Stadium.

Tenth-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad will enter conference play with an overall record of 6-0-1. Only two other teams in school history have managed to go undefeated through a season’s first seven games. The 1973 (6-0-1) and 1974 (7-0) Bulldogs were the first to accomplish the same feat. Concordia is now the only team in the GPAC without a loss.

“This was maybe one of our more complete games from start to finish,” Weides said. “We actually started a game a little faster than we have. We’ve started slow and had to come back in several games. It’s nice for once to not have to respond from a deficit. I just think as the game wore on we got a little bit better. Kansas Wesleyan is a very good program.”

Weides had a feeling Rathbone would find the back of the net more often this season. Three days after recording the first hat trick of his career in a 4-2 win at Waldorf University, Rathbone burned the Coyotes (1-4) with his sixth and seventh goals of the year. His first one, assisted by Marcelo Hernandez, came in the 15th minute. He then added another early in the second half to put the game out of reach.

The contest could have been a lot more nerve racking had it not been for junior Jack Bennett’s save of a penalty kick in the 34th minute. Instead of going to the locker room with some momentum, Kansas Wesleyan faced a 2-0 deficit at the half. The Coyotes, a member of the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, struggled to muster many opportunities on the attacking end. They were outshot 12-8 (8-4 in shots on goal). Bennett made four saves while picking up his third shutout of the season.

“Sparky (Mark Horsburgh) was a good keeper and I learned a lot of things from him,” Bennett said. “It was good to be behind him for two years. I feel like I’m a better goalkeeper for it.”

Sandwiched in between Rathbone’s two goals was a score from Carlos Ferrer in the 25th minute. Ferrer was facilitated on the play with an assist from Micah Lehenbauer. Ferrer and Rathbone combined to take seven of the team’s 12 shots.

“We knew he had that in him all the time,” Weides said of Rathbone’s emergence. “It’s good to see him get in those goal scoring positions. He’s going to put a few of those away for sure. He had a great strike on that third goal.”

Rathbone and company even signed autographs after the game. Youths from a Kearney soccer club attended the game and hung out on the field before and after the win.

The Bulldogs will take a mid-week bye before returning to action next Saturday (Sept. 23) for a trip to Dakota Wesleyan (3-4). Kickoff from Mitchell, S.D., is set for 6:30 p.m. CT. Concordia will attempt to avenge last season’s 2-1 defeat at Dakota Wesleyan.

Perfect week allows Bulldogs to sweep GPAC men's soccer honors

GPAC release

SEWARD, Neb. – Another week of undefeated action led to the Concordia University men’s soccer team sweeping GPAC weekly accolades. On Tuesday (Sept. 19), the conference named Lewis Rathbone the GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Men’s Soccer Offensive Player of the Week and Jack Bennett the GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Men’s Soccer Defensive Player of the Week. Bennett collected the same defensive award on Sept. 5.

Rathbone has been on a goal scoring binge for head coach Jason Weides’ squad. He recorded his first career hat trick in leading the victory at Waldorf University. He then added another pair of goals in the home win over Kansas Wesleyan University. A native of Manchester, England, Rathbone has scored at least one goal in three-straight games. His seven goals on the year are already a career high. A member of back-to-back GPAC tournament finalists, Rathbone has produced 14 goals in his collegiate career.

Bennett has played all 630 minutes in goal for the Bulldogs this season. Last week he compiled 12 combined saves during wins over Waldorf, 4-2, and Kansas Wesleyan, 3-0. Bennett made a penalty kick save that helped preserve his third shutout of the season in the victory over Waldorf. A native of Oxford, England, Bennett is in his first season as the starting goalkeeper. He owns a goals against average of 0.86 and a save percentage of .838.

The Bulldogs (6-0-1), the lone undefeated team remaining in the GPAC, will return open up conference action on Saturday with a trip to Dakota Wesleyan (3-4). Kickoff from Mitchell, S.D., is set for 6:30 p.m. CT.

Unblemished mark follows Bulldogs into conference play

SEWARD, Neb. – The 2017 Concordia University men’s soccer team has already equaled the 1973 and 1974 teams for the longest unbeaten run to begin a season in program history. Now the Bulldogs can own the record all to themselves. Tenth-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad has been idle since a 3-0 win over Kansas Wesleyan University on Sept. 16 and now looks forward to the opening of conference play. Concordia and Dakota Wesleyan (3-5, 0-0 GPAC) will kick off at 6:30 p.m. CT on Saturday (Sept. 23) in Mitchell, S.D.

The Bulldogs have run through their first seven games unscathed and are on the heels of last week’s nonconference victories over Waldorf University and Kansas Wesleyan. Stellar performances in those wins allowed Jack Bennett and Lewis Rathbone to earn GPAC weekly awards. A native of Manchester, England, Rathbone has been on a tear, scoring at least one goal in three straight games. Five of those goals were knocked in last week. Meanwhile, Bennett has played all 630 minutes in goal this season and has recorded three shutouts.

Despite being undefeated, Concordia remained at No. 5 in this week’s official GPAC ratings. Only two teams in all of NAIA soccer (Bluefield-Va. and Oklahoma City) have notched more wins so far this year than the Bulldogs. Led by Rathbone’s team high and career best seven goals, Concordia has outscored its opponents by a combined tally of 17-6. The only opponent thus far to prevent the Bulldogs from victory was Concordia University, Wisconsin, which played CUNE to a 1-1 draw on Sept. 2.

Dakota Wesleyan has given Weides’ program fits in recent years in contests played in Mitchell. Last season the Tigers held serve at home though they were outshot, 24-4, in a matchup that was dominated by the Bulldogs in just about all aspects but the scoreboard. Dakota Wesleyan is coming off a 3-0 loss to the University of Mary on Wednesday. Prior to that defeat, the Tigers topped Presentation College and Grace University in succession.

Saturday’s game can be seen live via Dakota Wesleyan’s Stretch Internet portal.

Concordia will be at home twice next week. It will host Mount Marty (3-2) at 8 p.m. CT on Sept. 26 prior to a visit from Bellevue University (3-5-1) at 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 30. The Bulldogs are 3-0 at home in 2017.

Program record broken in GPAC opening win

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – As part of an extended stay in South Dakota, the Concordia University men’s soccer team continued to take care of business. In a game that had been scheduled to be played a day earlier, the Bulldogs blew out Dakota Wesleyan, 5-0, on Sunday. Due to inclement weather, the contest had been postponed and then moved to O’Gorman High School in Sioux Falls, S.D.

The long wait didn’t affect the play of 10th-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad. Concordia remained unbeaten at 7-0-1 and broke the program record for longest unbeaten streak to begin a season.

“We didn’t bring it up but I think guys are aware,” Weides said of the record. “We talked the other day about some goal setting and the guys had thrown out that they wanted the opportunity to breaks some records. That’s not our focus but if we do all of the little things right, we think we’ll have some opportunity to break some records along the way. Our focus is on doing the details right. It’s nice to know that we’re able to achieve more than what some good teams have done in the past.”

The 2017 team has made a habit of avenging defeats from last season. The Bulldogs did it again on Sunday, atoning for a 2-1 loss at Dakota Wesleyan in the final game of the 2016 regular season. Since that downer, Concordia’s only defeat came against last season’s national champion. Lewis Rathbone and company cut through the Tigers (3-6, 0-1 GPAC) by outshooting them, 19-3.

Marcelo Hernandez opened up the scoring with a goal in the 14th minute. Florian Caraballo then assisted on two of the next three first half goals, including one by Micah Lehenbauer and one by Rathbone. Caraballo set up one of Rathbone’s two goals with a fine hustle play in which he scurried to save the ball from going out of bounds. Rathbone knows what to do with the ball in dangerous spots. He now has seven goals over the past three games.

Rathbone deservedly gets plenty of credit and accolades for his work on the attack, but Weides says there is credit to go around.

“We had a lot of guys play today and everyone who stepped on the field did a really good job of keeping the level of play really high,” Weides said. “We were able to play everyone who came with us this weekend, which was really nice.”

Jack Bennett started in goal before eventually giving way to freshman Jacob Elam. Neither goalkeeper faced a shot on goal during a dominant defensive outing. Concordia has recorded four shutouts on the season.

Previously, the 1973 and 1974 teams shared the program record for longest unbeaten streaks to begin a campaign. Both of those squads remained undefeated through the first seven games of their seasons.

The Bulldogs will now return home for this week’s action. Mount Marty (3-2, 0-0 GPAC) will pay a visit to Bulldog Stadium on Tuesday (Sept. 26) for an 8 p.m. CT kickoff.

Fresh off conference opener, Concordia returns home

SEWARD, Neb. – After spending plenty of quality time together during a two-night stay in South Dakota, the Concordia University men’s soccer team will get comfortable at home this week. The Bulldogs broke a school record on Sunday for the longest unbeaten run to a begin a season. Concordia moved its record to 7-0-1 courtesy of a 5-0 victory over Dakota Wesleyan in the GPAC opener for both sides.

This week’s schedule
Tuesday, Sept. 26 vs. Mount Marty, 8 p.m. CT
Saturday, Sept. 30 vs. Bellevue, 3:30 p.m. CT

Prior to this season, the Bulldog men’s soccer program had never begun a season without a loss in the first eight games. The 1973 and 1974 teams both went undefeated through the opening seven games of their respective seasons. A participant in back-to-back GPAC tournament championship games, Concordia has outscored its opponents by a combined total of 22-6. The Bulldogs rank as the stingiest defensive team in the conference with an average of 0.75 goals allowed per game.

On the attacking end, senior Lewis Rathbone has been on a tear, putting forth multiple goal efforts in three straight games. His nine goals are a career high and rank as the 12th highest total in the nation. Rathbone has accounted for 41 percent of his team’s goals in a breakout season. In the outing in Sioux Falls, S.D., against Dakota Wesleyan, Marcelo Hernandez, Micah Lehenbauer and Toby Down added a goal apiece.

Mount Marty (3-2, 0-0 GPAC) already owns more victories than it had all of last season. The Lancers are hoping for a more successful trip to Seward after leaving with an 11-0 loss last season. On the other hand, Bellevue got the best of Concordia, 4-1, in 2016. That game was part of a nine-game winning streak for the Bruins (4-5-1), a perennially strong program.

Both of this week’s home games can be viewed live on the Concordia Sports Network.

After finishing play with Bellevue, the Bulldogs will play exclusively against GPAC opponents the rest of the way. Road trips to Briar Cliff (Oct. 4) and Northwestern (Oct. 7) are coming up next week.

Lehenbauer strikes for hat trick as unbeaten streak reaches nine

SEWARD, Neb. – An improved Mount Marty squad entered Bulldog Stadium with a solid 3-2 start, attempting to cool off a Concordia University men’s soccer team off to a historically impressive start. The Lancers were unable to handle the attacking pressure placed upon them and were yet another Bulldog victim. Tuesday’s chilly affair ended in a 6-0 score.

The program record unbeaten streak has extended to nine. Tenth-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad is now 8-0-1 overall and 2-0 in conference play. Concordia had just one day between league games after opening GPAC action with a 5-0 win over Dakota Wesleyan on Sunday.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had that before,” Weides said of the stretch of two league games in three days. “It’s something unique, but I think our guys responded really well. We had a lighter practice yesterday but still got some things accomplished. It makes preparation a little harder when you have such a short turnaround. The guys felt prepared and responded well to it.”

The shot count (32-6) reflected the one-sided tilt. The Lancers actually did a commendable job of keeping the ball out of the net in the opening half. However, the Bulldogs turned on an all-out assault over the first 15 minutes of the second half. During a splurge of three scores in less than three minutes, Micah Lehenbauer tacked on his second goal of the night, top goal scorer Lewis Rathbone made sure to join the fun and Toby Down drilled a penalty kick.

The second half started to resemble something of a scrimmage after Lehenbauer sewed up a hat trick. Before coming off at the 72-minute mark, Lehenbauer narrowly missed a fourth goal with a strike that loudly crashed into the left post.

“It’s definitely been a fun one. It’s about time I get my first hat trick,” Lehenbauer said. “I felt like it was definitely coming eventually.” Joked Lehenbauer, “I learned a lot from Lewis with all his scoring. I took some notes off what he’s been doing. Overall it was just a good team performance. We try to focus on the little things.”

Though Concordia has ramped up its goal scoring in its two GPAC outings, Weides would have you know that his team is getting terrific play from players in a variety of roles. The Bulldogs have recorded three shutouts in a row. There’s a collective pride in what has happened through nine games.

“It means a lot to go without a loss this far into the season,” Lehenbauer said. “It’s kind of like I said at the beginning of the season. We want to be that team of firsts. It’s really something special. At the same time, we know every game we’ve got work to do. We’re just focusing on the next one.”

The game’s first goal came from Lehenbauer off an assist from Marcelo Hernandez in the fifth minute. Thirty-one minutes later, Hernandez was set up by Lehenbauer for a goal that made it 2-0. In goal for Concordia, keepers Jack Bennett and Jacob Elam made two saves apiece as part of the shutout.

The Bulldogs will be back at home on Saturday to host their final nonconference game of the regular season. Bellevue (4-5-1) will serve as the opponent for a game set to kickoff at 3:30 p.m. CT from Bulldog Stadium. Concordia hopes to avenge a 4-1 loss at Bellevue last season.

Breakout goal scorer Rathbone enjoying every minute

Lewis Rathbone is goals. We mean that in more ways than one. He simply seems to be having way too much fun while playing the sport he was groomed to love.

What about life after college, Lewis? “I’m not even thinking about that,” says the Manchester, England, native. “I’m just enjoying every minute.”

Fair enough. Rathbone is in the midst of a goal-scoring tear for a Concordia men’s soccer team with the longest unbeaten run in program history. The Bulldogs stand at 8-0-1 following their 6-0 rout over Mount Marty. Rathbone got into the act by finding the back of the net for the fifth-straight game. His 10 goals on the year have shattered a career high as the ninth highest total for any player in the NAIA this season.

It appears head coach Jason Weides’ decision to move Rathbone into more of an attacking role has paid off for undefeated Concordia. Weides and his staff always felt like Rathbone had it in him to be a proficient goal scorer. This year’s mix of players allowed them to unleash him.

“In the past we needed him in a little deeper position with more of a defensive responsibility,” Weides said. “We just really needed him in that role. We certainly thought he could be better used higher up the field. We wanted him to understand, that was what we needed him for. He bought into that. Looking at his skillsets, we thought he could be more valuable higher up the field in goal scoring positons.”

The wide smiles that come after his frequent goals help paint the picture of a thriving athlete realizing his full potential. The mild mannered Rathbone is having just as much fun off the field. He lives in a house near campus with teammates Florian Caraballo, Toby Down, Aries Fung, Marcelo Hernandez and Micah Lehenbauer. Between the six, five different countries are represented: Ecuador, England, Hong Kong, Spain and the United States.

The uniqueness of the opportunity and the special nature of having the constant companionship of half a dozen people from different backgrounds is not lost on Rathbone. The transfer from Evergreen Valley College and his fellow housemates were responsible for every single goal during Sunday’s 5-0 win over Dakota Wesleyan. There’s true camaraderie on and off the field.

“It was a good laugh,” Rathbone said. “Everybody was saying we were going to rename the team. We’re really close. We’re around each other all the time. We don’t take that for granted. We’re just going to do everything possible to try and accomplish our goals. It’s exciting. Every day you wake up and it’s a new day. Let’s go and get it.”

‘Let’s go and get it’ seems like an appropriate tagline for Rathbone, who has especially impressed Weides with his competitiveness. A passion and fire for the game can be traced back to Rathbone’s roots. A fan of the beloved hometown Manchester United, Rathbone and the game of soccer were inseparable from an early age.

Said Rathbone of his hometown, “Everyone just loves football, especially in Manchester. Obviously you have the two teams now and big rivalries. It was never forced on me. I just always had a soccer ball at my feet. That’s all I can remember, just going out and always playing. My dad always wanted to play with me, too. It just came natural. I always wanted to play.”

In regards to his family, Lewis is the first to venture to the United States for the opportunity to earn an education and play soccer. Parents Stephen and Louise supported their son’s big dreams of attending college in America. They simply wanted him to make sure it was the right landing spot for him.

In the fall of 2014, Rathbone played alongside Hernandez at Evergreen Valley (Calif.). Recruited by Weides and then assistant Nico Luque, Hernandez was the first to make the journey from California to Nebraska. Hernandez told Rathbone of the positive experiences he enjoyed at Concordia. Hernandez also made a pitch to Weides and company. Rathbone was someone who could help the program grow. Sight unseen, Rathbone agreed to sign at Concordia without even a single campus visit. Both sides were taking a blind leap of faith.

“It worked out perfectly,” said Rathbone, who spoke to Luque nearly every day during the summer before he arrived. “They just really wanted me to come here. That was a massive deal for me. They were excited for me to get started. I can’t respect Nico and Jason enough. They did a lot to get me here.”

The respect is mutual. Rathbone has earned it. He’s a great teammate. He’s a NAIA Scholar-Athlete. Now he’s looking like a first team all-conference type of player for a team hopeful of contending for another GPAC championship. Rathbone tasted a GPAC tournament title in 2015 and now he wants more.

“I would describe him as an immense competitor,” Weides said. “Once you start playing a game or training, he’s an immense competitor. He loves to compete. Off the field, he’s such a mild mannered guy. I think he’s really grown as a leader in the time he’s been here. That’s the change that has helped him the most. He has stepped up into that leadership role. I couldn’t be more proud of how he’s progressed and developed.”

Such leadership qualities will greatly serve the business administration and accounting major in his career aspirations. Rathbone hopes soccer will be part of life after college. That life might also include a profession in the business world. He may even stay in the United States. That seems like something for Lewis Rathbone of the future to worry about.

The here and now is just too much fun not to soak it up. Says Rathbone, “It’s going to be tough to separate from the guys. I have my sole focus on this season. I’ll worry about that when it comes after the season.”

Unbeaten streak hits 10 with win over Bellevue

SEWARD, Neb. – It’s been a season of avengement for the Concordia University men’s soccer team. Handed a 4-1 loss by Bellevue University last year, the Bulldogs showed the program’s growth by picking up perhaps its most significant victory of the season to date. Concordia remained unbeaten with a 3-0 win over the Bruins inside Bulldog Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Eleventh-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad keeps on rolling. The Bulldogs remained undefeated at 9-0-1 overall, extending the program’s longest unbeaten streak. They did so by beating a perennially strong Bellevue program.

“Sometimes playing a nonconference game that’s in the middle of your conference season can be a challenge,” Weides said. “You’re so focused on conference play. You saw that last year. We just didn’t give our best effort (at Bellevue). I think the guys had a great mentality moving to this game. Bellevue is a very good team. They’ve had some unfortunate results this year, but they’re a good team. This is a good step forward for the program.”

Concordia had to come from behind to win twice during its early nonconference run. No comeback was necessary on Saturday. Red hot Lewis Rathbone extended his goal-scoring streak to six games by skillfully heading in a ball played from Kevin Sanchez. Rathbone has 11 goals overall this season and 10 over the past seven outings.

The Bulldogs weren’t done. Carlos Ferrer finished a pass from Marcelo Hernandez in the 31st minute, making for a 2-0 halftime advantage. Fresh off a hat trick in the 6-0 win over Mount Marty, Micah Lehenbauer found the back of the net in the 60th minute. A complete reversal of last season’s meeting had been polished off.

The Bulldogs finished with a 13-10 edge in shots. Junior Jack Bennett was called upon to make five saves to preserve the team’s sixth shutout of the season. It’s now been more than two weeks since Concordia last conceded a goal.

“I feel like a lot of the chances that Bellevue got came in set play situations,” Weides said. “They’re actually quite good in those situations so I thought we did well to defend them and keep a clean sheet. I’m just really impressed with our whole team in that regard. Jack made a couple nice saves and our backline played really well.”

Weides’ bunch is one of only six remaining undefeated teams in all of NAIA men’s soccer. Concordia is also one of four teams in the GPAC yet to suffer a conference loss. The only opponent to prevent the Bulldogs from claiming victory was Concordia University, Wisconsin, which earned a 1-1 draw in a battle of Concordias on Sept. 2.

The Bulldogs will return to conference play next week with a road trip to Briar Cliff (8-1, 1-0 GPAC) for a 3:30 p.m. CT kickoff in Sioux City, Iowa on Wednesday (Oct. 4). Last season a Marcelo Hernandez goal in overtime lifted Concordia to a 2-1 win over the Chargers in a game played in Seward. Wednesday’s showdown will feature two teams with one combined loss.

“It’s going to be a tough week for sure,” Weides said. “Both games at their places and both are tough environments to play in. Briar Cliff is off to a really great start. They’re very dangerous. They have the nation’s leading goal scorer right now. They’re just playing really well. We expect a great test.”

Concordia set for pair of road trips to western Iowa

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University men’s soccer team continues to meet every challenge placed in front of it. The unbeaten streak has grown to 10 games (9-0-1) with seven contests remaining in the 2017 regular season. Last week the Bulldogs claimed wins over Mount Marty and Bellevue University and remain one of six NAIA men’s soccer teams yet to suffer a defeat. Now they hope to keep the streak alive on the road.

This week’s schedule
Wednesday, Oct. 4 at Briar Cliff, 3:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 7 at Northwestern, 7:15 p.m.

Head coach Jason Weides’ squad moved up another notch to No. 2 in the official GPAC rankings released on Monday (Oct. 2). The bump in the conference poll could result in Concordia appearing among others receiving votes in the national poll for the first time since the close of the 2015 campaign. The Bulldogs have ramped up their level of dominance of late, posting four-straight shutouts while winning those games by a combined score of 17-0.

Concordia attackers feasted last week. Ranked eighth nationally with 11 goals, senior Lewis Rathbone has scored at least one goal in six games in a row. In the 6-0 victory over Mount Marty, senior Micah Lehenbauer recorded the first hat trick of his career. He added another goal in the 3-0 triumph over Bellevue, a team that began the receiving votes in NAIA coaches’ poll. From a defensive standpoint, Concordia ranks sixth nationally in terms of fewest goals allowed per game (0.6) behind junior goalkeeper Jack Bennett.

Typically airtight Bulldog defense will be put to the test by the nation’s leading goal scorer in Prichard Sibanda, who has found the back of the net 20 times. Spurred by Sibanda, Briar Cliff (8-2, 1-1 GPAC) ranks as the NAIA’s sixth most prolific scoring team (4.4 goals/game). The only two Chargers losses this season have been on the road – at Park University (Mo.) and at No. 9 Hastings. Briar Cliff is 5-0 at home.

Northwestern (6-4-2, 2-1 GPAC) has seen its season end in the GPAC quarterfinals while up against Concordia in both 2015 and 2016. This season, the Red Raiders have had their share of close calls against quality opponents, including a 1-1 tie with Benedictine College (Kan.), a 2-1 double overtime loss to No. 12 Baker University (Kan.) and a 2-1 loss to Midland. Northwestern’s Tyler Limmer has been a reliable goal scorer, netting 31 goals since the start of the 2015 season.

Both of this week’s games will be carried live on the web via Stretch Internet. Links: at Briar Cliff | at Northwestern.

Bulldog Stadium will welcome Concordia back next week for home dates with Doane (Oct. 11) and Morningside (Oct. 14).

Bennett, Lehenbauer make for sweep of GPAC honors

GPAC release

SEWARD, Neb. – The wins and the weekly GPAC awards keep on rolling in for the Concordia University men’s soccer program. On Tuesday (Oct. 3), the conference named Jack Bennett the GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Defensive Player of the Week and tabbed Micah Lehenbauer the GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Offensive Player of the Week. Head coach Jason Weides’ team has reeled in five total conference player of the week awards in 2017.

A first-year starter at goalkeeper, Bennett has claimed his third GPAC defensive player of the week award this season. Over last week’s victories over Mount Marty and Bellevue University, Bennett played a total of 154 minutes without allowing a goal. He made seven combined saves, including five against the Bruins. Bennett and company have recorded four-consecutive shutout wins. The native of Oxford, England, ranks 12th nationally in goals against average (0.651).

Lehenbauer enjoyed a breakout goal scoring week, recording a hat trick and an assist versus Mount Marty. He added another goal in the victory over Bellevue. The senior from Kathleen, Ga., has posted six goals and two assists in nine games this season. His career stat line includes 21 goals and seven assists in 66 games.

Two challenging road games await the Bulldogs (9-0-1) this week. They will play at Briar Cliff (8-2, 1-1 GPAC) on Wednesday and at Northwestern (6-4-2, 2-1 GPAC) on Saturday. Concordia is ranked second in the official GPAC ratings released by the NAIA on Monday (Oct. 3).

Concordia men’s soccer GPAC weekly winners in 2017
Oct. 3 – Jack Bennett / Micah Lehenbauer
Sept. 19 – Jack Bennett / Lewis Rathbone
Sept. 5 – Jack Bennett

Hot first half run brings greater national respect

NAIA coaches’ poll (Oct. 3)

SEWARD, Neb. – By just about any measure, the Concordia University men’s soccer team has cracked the nation’s top 40. Still unbeaten more than midway through the 2017 campaign, the Bulldogs (9-0-1) received votes in the NAIA Men’s Soccer Coaches’ Top 25 Poll released on Tuesday (Oct. 3). The new rankings marked the first time head coach Jason Weides’ program has received mention in the poll since the close of the 2015 GPAC tournament championship season.

On Monday (Oct. 2), Concordia moved up to No. 2 in the official GPAC rankings, paving the way for it to begin earning consideration for the NAIA top 25. In various computer ratings, the Bulldogs came in at No. 40 in the first Modified Ratings Percentage Index released last week by the NAIA and have crept up to 39th in the Massey Ratings.

“We honestly thought we were capable of this,” Weides said. “When we were putting together a schedule and looking at our returners and who we were bringing in, we thought we had a chance to be here. It’s just not as easy as thinking it. There have been several years we thought our record could be better. You have to have things fall into place. We’ve been relatively healthy this year. I don’t think it’s a surprise to our team, but our road is going to get harder. We’ll see what we can do from there.”

On Tuesday, both Jack Bennett and Lewis Rathbone earned GPAC player of the week accolades. The program has already raked in five conference weekly awards this fall. Led by top goal scorer Lewis Rathbone (11 goals), Concordia has outscored its opponents by a combined total of 31-6 – 17-0 over the past four outings.

The biggest reason why it took the Bulldogs this long to begin to appear in the national rankings is due largely to strength of schedule. Concordia’s strength of schedule is currently 162nd in the nation, according to Massey Ratings. The schedule will toughen this week with road trips to Briar Cliff (No. 38 in the MRPI) and Northwestern (No. 110 in the MRPI).

Undefeated Dawgs fend off Chargers

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – It had been a while since the Concordia University men’s soccer team experienced a pulse pounder like this one. After a dominant run of four shutout wins in a row, the Bulldogs found themselves in a tense battle in Sioux City, Iowa, on Wednesday afternoon. Ultimately, Concordia figured out another way to win in a 2-1 decision at Briar Cliff.

A day after appearing among others receiving votes in the national poll, 10th-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad continued to meet the challenge in front of it. One of five undefeated teams left in NAIA men’s soccer, the Bulldogs moved to 10-0-1 overall and to 3-0 in conference play.

“Both teams had a lot of to play for – three really important points for both teams,” Weides said. “It was wet and muddy and made for probably not the prettiest game to watch. It was a very direct style. Footing was tough for both teams. It became a grind-it-out game. I thought we played pretty well, especially the first 30 minutes. We did a lot of defending in the second half. I think we did well to limit their opportunities, but they had the bulk of the possession the last 20 minutes. We did enough.”

One of the key storylines entering the game centered upon whether Concordia’s typically airtight defensive play could stifle the nation’s leading goal scorer, Prichard Sibanda, who racked up 20 goals over his first nine games of the season. The Bulldogs caught a break with Sibanda sidelined on Wednesday. Even so, the Chargers (8-3, 1-2 GPAC) peppered Concordia with 22 shots, including 12 on goal.

The Bulldogs withstood the onslaught in a physical affair played on a soggy Faber Field. The contest featured a combined 31 fouls and six yellow cards. Five of those six cards were issued over the final 18 minutes of game time.

Though senior Lewis Rathbone had his string of six-straight games with a goal snapped, he assisted on reigning GPAC offensive player of the week Micah Lehenbauer’s goal in the 12th minute. The 1-0 lead held up until late in the opening half when Kye Edwards found the back of the net. The game winner came in the 49th minute. Marcelo Hernandez converted a penalty kick and Concordia fought off Briar Cliff the rest of the way.

Enjoying an excellent junior season, goalkeeper Jack Bennett made nine saves in one of his biggest challenges all season. This figured to be a difficult task for Bennett and the back line while up against a team ranked fourth nationally in goals per game. Bennett made an especially noteworthy save as the clock ticked down towards the final minute of play.

With an unbeaten record this late in the year and an RV (receiving votes) now next to their name, the Bulldogs plan on getting everyone’s best shot.

“What we told the guys today is that it makes our job even harder now,” Weides said. “We have more of a target on our back. It’s nice to have that in terms of recruiting and pride. We have to be better now.”

Life on the road will pick up again on Saturday when the Bulldogs are scheduled to make a visit to Orange City, Iowa, to take on Northwestern (6-4-2, 2-1 GPAC). Kickoff is slated for 7:15 p.m. CT. Concordia hopes to continue the success it enjoyed last season when it defeated the Red Raiders once during the regular season and again in the GPAC quarterfinals.

Unbeaten ride ended by Northwestern

SIOUX CENTER, Iowa – The Concordia University men’s soccer team responded admirably from an early deficit in a tight battle between two of the GPAC’s top programs. Ultimately, the unbeaten season fell by the wayside when Northwestern’s Tyler Limmer banked the golden goal in the 107th minute of a 2-1 double overtime game that culminated late in Sioux Center, Iowa, on Saturday (Oct. 7) evening.

The program record of 11-consecutive games without a loss has finally come to an end for 10th-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad. Concordia dropped to 10-1-1 overall and to 3-1 in conference play.

“It was a really good response,” Weides said of the early disadvantage. “We did start the game pretty poorly and made some mistakes early on. We got better as the game wore on. The last 20-25 minutes of the first half we really started to look ourselves. It wasn’t panic mode. We were confident we could get one back. I thought the team really responded well. It was a great goal by Micah (Lehenbauer).”

Finding themselves in a 1-0 hole after less than three minutes of play, the Bulldogs were in a position that hasn’t been completely unfamiliar to them. They came back for nonconference wins over Sterling College (Kan.) and Graceland University (Iowa) after conceding the first goal of the game. It took until the 75th minute before Lehenbauer equalized. It seemed the Bulldogs were on the verge of yet another victory.

However, the Red Raiders (8-4-2, 4-1 GPAC) capitalized in the second overtime off of a goal kick. Limmer struck for his second goal of the night and the celebration was on for Northwestern. The Red Raiders were able to avenge two losses to Concordia in 2016.

The Bulldogs fell despite a 15-8 advantage in the shot column. They very nearly scored in the second overtime when Carlos Ferrer’s shot went just over the crossbar. On the other side, Northwestern took its chances well. It had only three shots on goal the entire night.

Now Concordia will have to respond to a loss for the first time in 2017. Given the mental makeup of his squad, Weides feels confident moving forward.

“We talked about how there is adversity within a game. Every game you’re going to face some challenges and have to overcome adversity,” Weides said. “That happens from day to day and game to game. When you have a loss you find a way to pick yourself up. We’re going to try to learn from it and grow. That’s one thing this team has done really well. When we’ve had an opportunity to get better the guys have done a great job improving in the next performance.”

Concordia will happily make a return to Bulldog Stadium for two home dates next week. The next hurdle will be Wednesday’s (Oct. 11) clash with Doane (2-11, 1-4 GPAC). The Tigers picked up their first conference victory with a 2-0 home triumph over Dordt on Saturday. In last season’s meeting in Crete, the Bulldogs dealt Doane a 3-2 loss.

Concordia picks up United Soccer Coaches honor

SEWARD, Neb. – Once again, the Concordia University men’s soccer program has raked in the United Soccer Coaches College Men’s Team Academic Award for the 2016-17 academic year, as announced on Oct. 5. Head coach Jason Weides’ team also earned NAIA Scholar-Team status last season after posting a collective GPA of 3.23. Four Bulldogs represented the program with NAIA Scholar-Athlete accolades last fall.

United Soccer Coaches (formerly the NSCAA) announced the Team Academic Award Winners at the high school and college levels to recognize exemplary performance in the classroom during the 2016-17 academic year. A total of 837 collegiate teams (293 men, 544 women) earned the Team Academic Award, including 195 schools who had both their men's and women's programs among the recipients.

United Soccer Coaches annually celebrates the academic achievements of high school and college soccer teams whose student-athletes collectively demonstrate a commitment to excellence in their studies over the course of a full school year. College Team Academic Award recipients are active members of the United Soccer Coaches College Services Program with a composite grade point of average of 3.0 or better on a 4.0 scale for all players on the roster.

The 2015-16 Bulldogs’ work in the classroom produced the sixth highest GPA among all NAIA men’s soccer programs. They were also named a NAIA Scholar-Team and tied for the GPAC lead for most NAIA Scholar-Athletes with seven.

Bulldogs look for response to first loss in week at home

SEWARD, Neb. – For the first time this season, the Concordia University men’s soccer team is aiming to respond to a loss. Fortunately, tenth-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad will be back at Bulldog Stadium where it is a perfect 5-0 this season. The guests this week will be Doane on Wednesday and Morningside on Saturday.

This week’s schedule
Wednesday, Oct. 11 vs. Doane (2-11, 1-4 GPAC), 8 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 14 vs. Morningside (6-2-3, 2-1 GPAC), 8 p.m.

A 2-1 double overtime defeat versus Northwestern on Oct. 7 put a stop to the longest unbeaten run in program history. Last week the Bulldogs picked up votes in the national poll on the strength of their impressive start. Concordia went 10-0-1 before suffering defeat. The Bulldogs were ranked 40th in the first Modified Ratings Percentage Index released by the NAIA on Sept. 27. After checking in at No. 2 in last week’s official GPAC ratings, Concordia slid back to fourth with Monday’s (Oct. 9) new poll.

Saturday will be senior night at Bulldog Stadium. Eight seniors will be honored: Luke Batters, Florian Caraballo, Toby Down, Aries Fung, Alex Goodwin, Marcelo Hernandez, Micah Lehenbauer and Lewis Rathbone. Over the past four seasons, the four-year seniors have helped the program to a combined record of 42-21-10 with a conference tournament title and national tournament appearance in 2015. Down and Lehenbauer have been fixtures each season. Lehenbauer has collected 23 goals and seven assists over 68 career games.

Doane’s 2-11 record is a bit misleading when considering that five losses have been decided by just a single goal. The Tigers ended a 10-game losing streak with a 2-0 home victory over Dordt last week. So far this season, Doane has been outscored by a combined total of 32-14. Daniel Maganda has found the back of the net five times.

Morningside finally won a game without drama last week when it picked up a 4-0 home victory over Jamestown. Its previous nine contests either ended in draws or came down to margins of a single goal. The Mustangs have competed admirably with some of the strongest teams on their schedule. They earned a 1-1 tie with then No. 3 Grand View University (Iowa) and dropped a 2-1 overtime decision at Midland, a 2016 national qualifier. The top offensive threat for Morningside is Joao Soares (seven goals, six assists).

Both of this week’s games will be featured live on the Concordia Sports Network. Just three regular-season matches will remain on the schedule after this week concludes. Next week the Bulldogs will be at Midland (Oct. 18) and at Dordt (Oct. 21).

Batters and company clip Doane

SEWARD, Neb. – It never seems to matter what the records show when Concordia and Doane get together in men’s soccer. In the 10-year tenure of head coach Jason Weides, every single meeting between the two nearby rivals has resulted in either a one-goal margin or a draw. In Wednesday’s affair, the Bulldogs held off a Tiger comeback attempt and earned a 2-1 win on a chilly night inside Bulldog Stadium.

Concordia effectively brushed off its first and only loss of the 2017 season. An unblemished 6-0 at home, the Bulldogs have moved to 11-1-1 overall and to 4-1 in conference play.

“Doane is better than what its record shows. I think they played well tonight and caused us some problems,” Weides said. “Credit to them. I think they forced us into not performing our best. On one hand, it was a response with three points and a win in terms of bouncing back. We still have a great room for improving our performance. The great news is we’re 11-1-1 and we can still get a lot better.”

Senior Luke Batters made his presence known beyond just his regular contributions as a center back. Career goal No. 1 for the native of Runcorn, England, proved to be the game winner. The 35th-minute goal was one of three set-piece shots that Batters put on frame. He came up just short of a multi-goal game against Doane keeper Nishesh Yadav, who tallied nine saves on the night.

The Tigers (2-12, 1-5 GPAC) have been somewhat of a tough luck outfit having now lost six times by just a single goal. They seemed to be energized by a Daniel Maganda score in the 60th minute. Doane made it a tense final 30 minutes despite being outshot, 19-8 (11-8 in shots on goal).

All season long, Concordia has found ways to win, even when playing at less than its best.

“Going into the game we were pretty confident,” Batters said. “Today we had a bad start. We had two goals and then as soon as they scored, they were on us all the time. We did a good job of shutting them down and defending. We were winning all the first balls.”

Senior forward Micah Lehenbauer extended his string of consecutive games with a goal to seven. A well-played cross from Florian Caraballo set up Lehenbauer for a point-blank shot in the 14th minute. The Bulldogs led the rest of the way. However, there were certainly some nervous moments. Goalkeeper Jack Bennett made a critical save in the 77th minute to preserve the one-goal lead.

The Bulldogs, one win away from tying a single-season program record for victories, hope to continue a perfect season at home when the resume action on Saturday. Concordia and visiting Morningside (7-2-3, 3-1 GPAC) are set to kick off at 8 p.m. CT from Bulldog Stadium. Last year’s meeting in Sioux City, Iowa, resulted in a 3-0 Concordia win. Weides and the rest of the Bulldogs expect to play a more complete game on Saturday.

“We’re going into every game like its final,” Batters said. “We’re treating every game like it’s the last game we play together. We have a lot of seniors this year and we just all don’t want to leave. We’ll do our best to keep winning.”

Concordia keeps pace near top of GPAC standings

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University men’s soccer team walked off the field feeling much better than it did three days earlier in a 2-1 win over Doane. This time around, the final minutes were much less tense as the Bulldogs claimed a 3-0 victory over visiting Morningside on a night when Concordia honored its senior class. Two of those seniors contributed a goal apiece.

It continues to be a special season for 10th-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad, which has equaled a school record for most wins in a single campaign. The Bulldogs have moved to 12-1-1 overall and to 5-1 in conference. They are one game (three points) behind first-place Hastings in the GPAC standings.

“They really responded well,” Weides said of the latest performance. “We really got after them about their performance (versus Doane). We didn’t think it was up to snuff. I’m super proud of them because they played really well. They deserved the three points tonight.”

Three different players found the back of the net for Concordia. Senior Toby Down began the scoring with a 17th-minute goal. Down got behind the Mustang defense and knocked in a perfectly executed cross from fellow senior Marcelo Hernandez. It took a good 50 minutes, but the Bulldogs finally got some breathing room in the 67th minute when another terrific pass from Carlos Ferrer led to Hernandez’s goal.

For good measure, freshman Garrett Perry added a goal in the 80th minute. In a tremendous individual effort, Perry stole a throw in and proceeded to bury a strike from outside the 18, tucking it just inside the right post. While the seniors were under the spotlight, the rookie Perry showed another glimpse of what makes the future of the program exciting.

Anyone who’s paid attention to this 2017 team also knows Concordia can play a little defense. Goalkeeper Jack Bennett and company recorded their seventh shutout of the season and limited Morningside (7-3-3, 3-2 GPAC) to a grand total of four shots – just two on goal. One of the chances forced Bennett to make a highlight reel worthy diving save to his left early in the second half.

This group of seniors is the winningest class in the history of the men’s soccer program. Those who have been around for four years have combined for a record of 43-21-10 with a GPAC tournament title and at least 10 wins each season. Down, a native of Kowloon, Hong Kong, is keenly aware of how far the program has come.

“We just wanted to be better than that game (versus Doane),” Down said. “Every day you want to be better than the day before. I think we definitely were. It’s always nice to get a win. I think that’s the difference between this year and previous years is we’re getting the ugly wins. I know when I first got here we went to like seven overtimes.”

The Bulldogs outshot Morningside, 10-4. The Mustangs had entered the night with a three-game win streak that saw them defeat Mount Marty, University of Jamestown (N.D.) and Dakota Wesleyan. In perhaps its most impressive result of the season, Morningside played then No. 3 Grand View University (Iowa) to a 1-1 draw back on Aug. 30.

Just three games remain on the regular-season schedule. The next hurdle will be Wednesday’s (Oct. 18) trip to Fremont for a 7:30 p.m. CT kickoff at Midland (8-5, 4-1 GPAC). The Warriors were a 2016 national tournament at-large qualifier and are one of the GPAC’s best teams on an annual basis.

Stretch run filled with meaningful games

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University men’s soccer team has positioned itself nicely heading into the final three games of the regular season. Currently tied for second place in the GPAC with a 5-1 conference record, the Bulldogs have a prime opportunity to earn another GPAC tournament quarterfinal home game or perhaps even a conference regular-season title if things break right. Concordia will begin the stretch run Wednesday with a trip to Midland.

This week’s schedule
Wednesday, Oct. 18 at Midland (8-5, 4-1), 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 21 at Dordt (7-8, 1-5), 3:15 p.m.

Tenth-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad stands at 12-1-1 overall, putting in one win away from breaking a program record for the most wins in a single season. The 12 victories are a high-water mark during Weides’ tenure, which began in 2008. Weides guided the Bulldogs to 11 wins apiece in 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016. Weides was a junior defender for the 2000 squad that went 12-7 overall (4-4 GPAC) and now shares the school single-season wins record with the current team.

In last week’s outings, Concordia picked up wins over Doane, 2-1, and Morningside, 3-0, to remain just a game (three points) behind first-place Hastings in the league standings. Keeper Jack Bennett and company recorded their seventh shutout of the season. Goals were scored by four different Bulldogs during the week. The race for the team’s top goal scorer has tightened with Lewis Rathbone (11) leading the way and Micah Lehenbauer (nine) and Marcelo Hernandez (eight) close behind.

Midland slipped back to fourth in this week’s official GPAC ratings. However, the Warriors remain a threat to claim one of the top seeds in the conference tournament. Their only loss in conference play came by a 2-0 decision versus No. 8 Hastings. The Warriors have a net zero goal differential having scored 21 goals and allowed 21. Their leading goal scorer is Robert Wiseman, who has six goals.

Dordt’s lone win in conference play came over Dakota Wesleyan, 3-2, on Sept. 30. So far this season, the Defenders have allowed 30 goals and have surrendered the same number. Garrett Goodson and Mason Faucett pace the team with seven goals apiece. Goalkeeper Seth Lewison sports a goals against average of 2.130.

Both of this week’s contests will come with some form of live coverage. Wednesday’s game at Midland can be live streamed HERE. Saturday’s match at Dordt can be tracked via live stats HERE.

Concordia will wrap up the regular season next week when it hosts Hastings at 8 p.m. CT on Wednesday, Oct. 25. The two sides met in both the 2015 and 2016 GPAC tournament championship games.

Bulldogs stage dramatic win at Midland

FREMONT, Neb. – Four of five October games have now come down to a margin of a single goal for the Concordia University men’s soccer team. It just keeps finding ways to win. Despite surrendering an equalizing goal with two ticks left in regulation, the Bulldogs celebrated a walk-off, double overtime winner, 2-1, at Midland on Wednesday evening (Oct. 18).

The win means 10th-year head coach Jason Weides’ program has checked off another accomplishment. At 13-1-1 overall, the 2017 squad has broken a school record for most wins in a single season. Now 6-1 in conference play, Concordia also remains in the hunt for a GPAC regular-season title.

“The hope is that they can keep on pushing and add to that (win total),” Weides said. “I don’t think we’re satisfied with stopping there. There have been some good teams that they surpassed to take that record. It’s great for them. We’ve been waiting a while to break that record. There have been other teams in the last 10 years that were capable of breaking that record. This team has done a really good job. It’s not our ultimate goal though.”

The euphoria the Warriors (8-6, 4-2 GPAC) experienced after Connor McFadden’s goal just before the gun eventually turned into agony. The first overtime faded away, setting the stage for Micah Lehenbauer’s heroics. Lewis Rathbone assisted Lehenbauer on the golden goal in the 104th minute. The celebration was on.

Heedum Field in Fremont has been the site of other great moments for the program. It’s the same place where Concordia has left with GPAC semifinal wins each of the last two years. Another team effort got it done on Wednesday.

“We were awfully close to seeing the game out in regulation,” Weides said. “I’m most proud of the response. It was a challenging moment to concede an equalizing goal with two seconds left. I think a lot of lesser teams fold and make excuses. Our guys did a good job of looking forward.”

Senior Marcelo Hernandez knocked in the game’s first goal in the 78th minute. It was one of three shots Hernandez put on frame. On the defensive end, the Bulldogs got another solid effort from the back line and keeper Jack Bennett, who came up with several critical saves. He was credited with six saves on the night.

Midland outnumbered Concordia in the shot count, 18-12 (9-7 Bulldog advantage in shots on goal). The Warriors began 2017 ranked 13th in the NAIA preseason coaches’ poll after qualifying for the national tournament last season. The seven saves from Jack Hughes helped the Warriors nearly salvage a draw.

The Bulldogs will be on the road for their second-to-last outing of the regular season. They are slated to take on Dordt (8-8, 2-5 GPAC) at 3:15 p.m. CT in Sioux Center, Iowa, on Saturday. The Defenders picked up a 7-1 win at Mount Marty on Wednesday. In last season’s meeting, Concordia topped Dordt, 3-0, in Sioux Center.

As it stands, only No. 8 Hastings (12-3, 6-0 GPAC) holds an edge over the Bulldogs in the conference standings (both teams have 18 points). Northwestern (6-1 GPAC) is tied for second with Concordia. The Broncos and Bulldogs will meet in Seward next Wednesday (Oct. 25).

Five Bulldogs score in rout at Dordt

SIOUX CENTER, Iowa – There was no sign of a letdown three days after a dramatic double overtime win at Midland for the Concordia University men’s soccer team. The Bulldogs claimed a 5-0 win at Dordt in a contest played in Sioux Center, Iowa, late in the afternoon on Saturday (Oct. 21). Concordia continues to breathe down the neck of eighth-ranked Hastings in the GPAC standings.

Tenth-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad continues to grow its program record win total. The Bulldogs have moved to 14-1-1 overall and to 7-1 in conference play. The seven GPAC wins are also a new school standard. They have now clinched a home game in the GPAC quarterfinals set to take place Oct. 31.

“The guys played really well,” Weides said. “We did a really good job of forcing Dordt into not their strongest performance. Credit to the way our guys pressed and played and limited their opportunities. It was a really good performance. I think there was an opportunity to be distracted. Our guys are really trying to vie for some important goals this season. Sometimes you get in these situations and people want to think about tomorrow. We were really trying to focus on today.”

Concordia buried five of its eight shots into the back of the net, courtesy of five different goal scorers. Both Florian Caraballo and Ryan LeTourneau netted their first career goals. LeTourneau knocked the game’s final tally in the 88th minute to add an exclamation mark. Other goals were turned in by Marcelo Hernandez (23’), Matthew Ho (27’) and Micah Lehenbauer (51’). Lehenbauer has pulled even with Lewis Rathbone for the team goal scoring lead with 11 apiece. Rathbone chipped in a pair of assists on Saturday.

Goalkeeper Jack Bennett was not tested with a single shot on goal. Just a few days after racking up seven goals in their win at Mount Marty, the Defenders (8-9, 2-6 GPAC) were completely stifled on the attack by a stellar Concordia team effort. The wide spread on the scoreboard gave Weides a chance to substitute liberally in the second half.

“Top to bottom, we played really well,” Weides said. “No. 1 it was great to see Florian get his first goal of the season. He’s played so well. It was a good finish. We had a lot of quality goals. They were five good goals. We were actually able to play everybody we traveled with, which doesn’t happen that often. Everybody who stepped on the field, whether they played a few minutes or a bunch of minutes, played really, really well.”

Saturday’s kickoff was delayed by about an hour due to lightning that pushed back the start of the women’s game that was originally scheduled for 1 p.m. CT. Concordia ended up winning four of its five GPAC contests played outside of Seward.

The Bulldogs will close the regular season with their most anticipated home game of the campaign. Defending national champion and eighth-ranked Hastings (13-3, 7-0 GPAC) will invade Bulldog Stadium for an 8 p.m. CT kickoff on Wednesday (Oct. 25). The two sides met in the conference tournament championship games in both 2015 and 2016. A win would allow Concordia to clinch at least a share of the GPAC regular-season title for the first time in program history.

Concordia ready to vie for regular-season title on Wednesday

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University men’s soccer team aims to play the role of dragon slayer on Wednesday when eighth-ranked Hastings makes a visit to Bulldog Stadium. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. CT for a showdown between sides currently occupying the top two spots in the conference standings. Tenth-year head coach Jason Weides’ has gradually built up a program that can seize at least a piece of the GPAC championship pie with a win on Wednesday.

Concordia (14-1-1, 7-1 GPAC) is not yet satisfied despite the 2017 squad already owning program records for overall wins and conference wins in a single season. Among all 191 NAIA men’s soccer programs, the Bulldogs possess the fourth best winning percentage (.906). Now Concordia can focus on its most anticipated home game of this fall.

“It was really hard,” Weides said of keeping his team from looking ahead to Hastings prior to Saturday’s 5-0 win at Dordt. “Overall we did a good job of it. I think we all struggled, our coaches included. It was really challenging not to think about the what ifs, the scenarios and the projections. When we left the locker room (at Dordt), we were able to leave the elephant in the room.”

The ‘elephant in the room’ may as well have been a bucking Hastings Bronco. The defending national champions should expect to get Concordia’s best shot on Wednesday. While the Bulldogs are the underdog on paper, all they have to do is look back to their 2015 GPAC tournament title game upset at Hastings for inspiration. Few people would have given Concordia much of a shot, but the night of No. 12, 2015, turned into one of the most memorable days in program history.

With only one loss all season, the Bulldogs have built a winning culture. They have made it to two GPAC championship games in a row. For the 2017 squad, Wednesday night will be the ultimate test.

“It definitely is a big challenge to know that you have Hastings as your last game,” said senior Micah Lehenbauer. “It’s one that even at the beginning of the season you circle it. It’s the one that you’re pointing towards. It was really stressed before the game against Dordt that the game against Hastings didn’t matter if we couldn’t get the result against Dordt.”

Concordia got the result it was looking for in a blowout win that featured yet another Lehenbauer goal. Weides didn’t have to sweat out the latest victory, which came three days after Midland forced overtime via an equalizing goal with two seconds left in regulation. Lehenbauer came to the rescue with a header goal that came off a throw in in the 104th minute. It’s just been that sort of magical ride.

“It’s indescribable, really,” Lehenbauer said of that golden goal feeling. “There’s all that emotion knowing that the game’s over and you don’t have to run anymore. It’s indescribable. You have all your teammates hugging you and running towards you. There’s no feeling like it in the world.”

Lehenbauer has been on a tear. He’s recorded 10 of his 11 goals over the past nine games. Concordia is the only team in the GPAC to have three players with 10 or more goals. Lehenbauer and Lewis Rathbone have 11 apiece while Marcelo Hernandez has chipped in 10 goals. Meanwhile, junior goalkeeper Jack Bennett ranks 13th nationally in goals against average. Bennett made numerous key saves in the win at Midland.

It’s likely going to take another stellar game from Bennett and the rest of the Bulldogs’ central figures to knock off a dominant Hastings team. The Broncos have outscored GPAC opponents 37-4 through their first seven conference contests. The Concordia back line will have to keep tabs on Daniel Whitehall, who has scored 68 goals in his collegiate career. On the other hand, the Bulldogs have outnumbered conference rivals, 26-5.

Wednesday’s occasion will be deserving of a raucous crowd. An upset of the Broncos would make for another monumental day for Concordia men’s soccer.

“It would mean a lot,” Lehenbauer said. “It reflects on the hard work that has been put in on past seasons. The guys that have graduated and the guys that are still up-and-coming shows how the program has been growing. Coach has put in a lot of hard work and time as well.”

Regardless of Wednesday’s result, the Bulldogs will be one of the top three seeds in the conference tournament. They will host one of four quarterfinal games at 7 p.m. CT on Tuesday, Oct. 31. Other GPAC postseason dates are Saturday, Nov. 4 for the semifinals and Thursday, Nov. 9 for the championship game.

All Bulldog home games can be watched live via the Concordia Sports Network.

Caraballo claims GPAC weekly honor

GPAC release

SEWARD, Neb. – A key part of the Concordia University men’s soccer back line, senior Florian Caraballo has been named the GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Defensive Player of the Week, as announced by the league on Tuesday (Oct. 24). The Bulldogs have claimed a total of six GPAC weekly awards this fall. Four different players have combined for those six honors.

A native of Cordoba, Spain, Caraballo helped limit last week’s opponents to one combined goal in wins over Midland and Dordt. Caraballo contributed an assist in the double overtime win in Fremont and then notched his first career goal three days later in Sioux Center, Iowa. With the victory at Midland, Concordia eclipsed a school record for most wins in a single season.

Caraballo earned first team all-conference accolades last season while starting all 20 games. Caraballo and company rank fifth nationally in terms of fewest goals allowed per game (0.69). The Bulldogs have recorded eight shutouts, including four in conference play, this season.

Concordia (14-1-1, 7-1 GPAC) will host No. 8 Hastings (13-3, 7-0 GPAC) at 8 p.m. CT on Wednesday. A win would clinch at least a share of the GPAC regular-season title for the Bulldogs. Conference tournament action will begin with the quarterfinals on Tuesday, Oct. 31.

GPAC players of the week in 2017
Oct. 24 – Florian Caraballo
Oct. 3 – Jack Bennett / Micah Lehenbauer
Sept. 19 – Jack Bennett / Lewis Rathbone
Sept. 5 – Jack Bennett

Late PK goal thwarts Bulldog bid for GPAC title

SEWARD, Neb. – If the 2017 Concordia University men’s soccer team is to win a GPAC championship, it will have to accomplish that feat in the postseason. Needing a win on Wednesday night (Oct. 25) to clinch at least a share of the conference regular-season title, the Bulldogs came up a hair short in their bid to upset defending national champion and seventh-ranked Hastings. The visiting Broncos escaped a loud Bulldog Stadium with a 2-1 victory.

That concludes the most successful regular season in the history of the program, at least in terms of overall number of wins. Tenth-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad will carry records of 14-2-1 overall and 7-2 in the GPAC into the postseason.

“It’s painful to have a loss here, especially against a team we felt like we were capable of beating,” Weides said. “We were playing for something very important, a share of the league championship. That’s something we hadn’t done yet and we were looking forward to doing. It’s painful, but the guys can’t be disappointed in the performance.”

The critical plays went Hastings’ way in the final 10 minutes of the game. A foul called in the box set up the game winner for one of the nation’s most dangerous attackers. Junior Daniel Whitehall failed to find the back of the net in the run of play, but he drilled an 81st-minute penalty kick goal that ended up deciding Concordia’s fate.

That’s not to say the Bulldogs quit working. The game would have been destined for overtime if not for an out-of-this-world save by goalkeeper Joe White on a well-struck shot by Carlos Ferrer at the 88-minute mark. Concordia failed to make a serious threat on the ensuing corner kick and the Broncos bled out the rest of the clock. Hastings (14-3, 8-0 GPAC) has won all GPAC regular-season championships during the conference’s existence.

This was the most challenging game yet inside conference play for the Broncos, who barely outshot the Bulldogs, 15-14. White had to make nine saves to ensure victory for the visitors. There’s no shame for Concordia, but the loss feels crushing for a program of believers.

“We fought hard, fought all the way to the end,” Weides said. “To be honest, if not for a great save from Hastings’ keeper with about a minute left, the game’s going to equalize again.

“We have to pick our heads up. This is something that we can’t let linger on. Our goal is to get back to the conference final and have a shot at getting to nationals. There’s probably a good chance we’re going to have to go through Hastings to do that. We have to be prepared the next time we play them.”

Jake Ridpath gave the Broncos a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute. The Bulldogs needed a response and got one in the 34th minute when Marcelo Hernandez tucked a free kick inside the left post. With that shot, Hernandez atoned for missing a PK back in the 14th minute. Not a single goal came during the run of play on Wednesday.

Postseason play now awaits the Bulldogs, who will have this weekend off. Concordia will be either the No. 2 or 3 seed in the GPAC tournament bracket. The Bulldogs need Northwestern (6-2 GPAC) to lose at Briar Cliff on Saturday (Oct. 28) in order to claim the second seed. Either way, Concordia will host one of four conference quarterfinal games at 7 p.m. CT on Tuesday, Oct. 31. The Bulldogs will aim to reach the GPAC championship game for the third year in a row. The remaining conference tournament dates are Nov. 4 for the semifinals and Nov. 9 for the championship.

Bulldogs open postseason by hosting Briar Cliff Tuesday

SEWARD, Neb. – A new season has arrived. After tying for second place in the regular season, the Concordia University men’s soccer team is ready to make a run at a third-straight appearance in the GPAC tournament championship game. As the No. 3 seed, the Bulldogs will host sixth-seeded Briar Cliff at 7 p.m. CT on Tuesday (Oct. 31) in one of four conference quarterfinal matchups.

Tenth-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad made a serious push for a GPAC regular-season title last week when it hosted defending national champion Hastings. The game was deadlocked, 1-1, until a penalty kick goal by Daniel Whitehall proved to be the game winner in the 81st minute. The Broncos ended up securing the league’s No. 1 seed by going a perfect 9-0 in GPAC play.

Despite the loss, Concordia enjoyed its best regular season in program history by piling up a school record 14 victories. This has been Weides’ most dominant team since he took over as head coach in 2008. The Bulldogs own an impressive +34 goal differential (47 goals scored, 13 goals allowed). Concordia is the only team in the GPAC to have three players with double-figure goal totals. The team goals leaders have 11 apiece: Marcelo Hernandez, Micah Lehenbauer and Lewis Rathbone.

“The journey this season is no different from others in that there’s been a lot of challenges along the way,” Weides said. “It’s not like it’s all been easy and roses and that we’ve all been on a happy parade the whole time. What I really like about this team is they seem up for the challenges. They want to take a challenge head on. We’ve had great accomplishments during the regular season. Now it’s about adding to them.”

Tuesday’s game will be a rematch of a 2-1 Bulldog win at Briar Cliff on Oct. 4. The Chargers boast the nation’s leading goal scorer in Prichard Sibanda, who has tallied 26 goals. Meanwhile, Rodrigo Oliveira ranks second among NAIA players with 15 assists. Briar Cliff picked up an impressive 3-0 home win over Midland on Oct. 24. The Chargers have gone 4-3-1 away from home.

Weides has led his team to at least the semifinal round in three-consecutive seasons. The Bulldogs broke through in 2014 with a quarterfinal win at Doane. They built upon that in 2015 and knocked out each of the top three seeds on the road during their thrilling GPAC tournament championship run. In the 2016 postseason tournament, Concordia defeated both Northwestern and No. 14 Midland before falling, 3-1, at No. 2 Hastings in the title game.

Tuesday’s winner will play either second-seeded Northwestern or seventh-seeded Doane in the GPAC semifinals on Saturday. Should Doane upset Northwestern, the Bulldogs would host the Tigers at 7 p.m. CT on Saturday. Otherwise, Concordia will hit the road and head to Orange City, Iowa, and hope to avenge one of its two regular-season defeats.

2017 GPAC Men’s Soccer Tournament

Tuesday, Oct. 31 – Quarterfinals
No. 8 Dordt (8-10, 2-7 GPAC) at No. 1 Hastings (15-3, 9-0 GPAC), 7 p.m.
No. 5 Morningside (9-5-3, 5-4 GPAC) at No. 4 Midland (10-7, 6-3 GPAC), 7 p.m.
No. 6 Briar Cliff (11-5-1, 4-4-1 GPAC) at No. 3 Concordia (14-2-1, 7-2 GPAC), 7 p.m.
No. 7 Doane (5-12-1, 3-5-1 GPAC) at No. 2 Northwestern (11-5-2, 7-2 GPAC), 7 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 4 – Semifinals
No. 1/8 vs. No. 4/5, time TBA
No. 3/6 vs. No. 2/7, time TBA

Thursday, Nov. 9 – Championship
Time TBA

Late Lehenbauer goal pushes Bulldogs back to GPAC semifinals

SEWARD, Neb. – For more than 86 minutes, sixth-seeded Briar Cliff posed a serious threat of upsetting the third-seeded Concordia University men’s soccer team. The Bulldogs attacked with urgency in the waning 10 minutes and finally got on the board and warded off the Chargers, 1-0, in Tuesday night’s chilly GPAC quarterfinal affair in Seward.

For the season year in a row, 10th-year head coach Jason Weides will guide his program to the conference semifinals. It took a total team defensive effort in order to survive and advance this time around. Concordia bumped its overall record to 15-2-1.

“We really enjoy being around these guys and we don’t want to see it end,” Weides said. “We have aspirations of achieving great goals. We’re trying to step toward that and we did that today. I thought it was just really good defending as a team. We held Briar Cliff, a dangerous team near the top of the nation in terms of goals scored, to two shots on goal.”

Goalkeeper Jack Bennett made two saves when called upon while recording the shutout. He had a relatively inactive night thanks to the work of a backline spearheaded by outside back Florian Caraballo. Briar Cliff’s Prichard Sibanda entered the evening with a national best total of 26 scores. On this particular night, Sibanda donned a large blue cast on his right arm. He was limited to three shots – none on frame.

On the other end, the Chargers (11-6-1) did a commendable job of their own in holding off a Concordia attack that boasts three players with double figure goal totals this season. In the 87th minute, the Bulldogs finally broke loose on a sequence that began with Caraballo’s cross into the box from right to left. Freshman Garrett Perry centered one touch to senior Micah Lehenbauer whose left-footed one-timer sailed to the left of keeper Charlie Enright.

Briar Cliff had been playing with fire for too long. It allowed Concordia to take each of the game’s final seven shots.

“We knew we were going to get one eventually,” Lehenbauer said. “It was just a matter of getting that one chance. We talked about it pregame. It’s not really even that we were playing Briar Cliff. We were really playing ourselves, sticking to our game and making sure we’re doing what we’re good at. We know we’re very good on the counter and at playing those crosses in.”

Lehenbauer and the rest of the seniors know what it takes to pull out nailbiters in the postseason. The group of four-year players has now been part of seven GPAC postseason victories since 2014. They want to rekindle the magic they found during their 2015 conference tournament championship run.

“It means a lot,” Lehenbauer said of the team’s winning pedigree in the postseason. “That’s where the adrenaline kicks in. Once you know what’s at stake, it’s about putting in those extra minutes and grinding it out.”

Perry was active off the bench. It appeared the freshman from Corona, Calif., had given the Bulldogs the lead in the 73rd minute. However, officials gathered and ruled that Perry had been offside. Additionally, seniors Marcelo Hernandez (four shots) and Lewis Rathbone (six shots) very nearly cracked the scoreboard. Concordia outshot the Chargers, 16-8.

Up next will be a trip to Orange City, Iowa, for a GPAC semifinal battle at second-seeded Northwestern (12-5-2). Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. CT on Saturday. The Bulldogs will be aiming to avenge the 2-1 double overtime defeat the suffered in Orange City back on Oct. 7. This will be the third-straight season the two sides have met in the postseason.

“It’s two teams that haven’t conceded many goals this season,” Weides said. “It’s two teams with a ton of shutouts and a great defensive record and two teams that are playing well right now so it should be a fun match.”

Saturday’s winner will play either top-seeded Hastings or fourth-seeded Midland in the championship game on Thursday, Nov. 9.

GPAC semifinal trip to Northwestern up next

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

Bulldogs headed back to GPAC title game for third-straight year

ORANGE CITY, Iowa – Whatever barrier had stood in the way of major postseason road victories had faded into oblivion by the standard-setting teams of 2015 and 2016. In many ways, the 2017 Concordia University men’s soccer team has already raised the bar even higher. On Saturday night (Nov. 4) in Orange City, Iowa, the third-seeded Bulldogs avenged one of their two regular-season losses by edging second-seeded Northwestern, 2-1, in a GPAC semifinal clash.

Tenth-year head coach Jason Weides’ program will be headed to the GPAC championship game for the third year in a row. As usual, Hastings stands in the way of a potential conference title. But for now, Concordia (16-2-1) will take a moment to bask in this victory.

“It means a lot to get a win against a good team,” Weides said. “We felt like we underperformed the first time around (in a double overtime loss versus Northwestern on Oct. 7). We knew we could be so much better, and I think we were a lot better. I think our guys are capable of winning no matter if it’s at home or on the road. The opportunity is all we care about and now we’ll get an opportunity in the final.”

This Bulldog team always seems to have a response when faced with a challenge. The game could have been turned on its head in the 70th minute when Tyler Limmer drilled an equalizing penalty kick goal for the Red Raiders (12-6-2). Perhaps another nerve-racking overtime was coming on the horizon.

Just a minute later, Northwestern again faced a deficit when Toby Down rebounded his own deflected shot and reloaded with a terrific finish from 10-12 yards out. From that point on, the Red Raiders scurried in attempt to produce another equalizer that never came. Over the final 10 minutes, Concordia survived four Northwestern shots, including a header that was saved by keeper Jack Bennett.

Bennett made five saves on the night. Each one obviously proved crucial and so did a particular play made by defender Angel Alvarez. Weides commended Alvarez for a slide tackle he made on Limmer in the first half that thwarted a potentially dangerous chance for the Red Raiders. Limmer had been on the run hoping to give Northwestern an early 1-0 advantage.

The Bulldogs pounced in the 12th minute when Marcelo Hernandez played a ball to Lewis Rathbone, who slotted it by keeper Matt Scott for his 12th goal of the season. It was one of only six shots Concordia put on frame. Scott was credited with four saves.

This marks the third year in a row that the Bulldogs have defeated the Red Raiders on their way to the GPAC championship contest. Concordia topped Northwestern in the quarterfinals of the 2015 and 2016 postseason tournaments.

On the other side of the bracket, defending national champion Hastings got past fourth-seeded Midland, 3-2, after facing a 1-0 deficit. The Bulldogs would love to recreate their 1-0 upset of the Broncos that occurred in the 2015 championship game. These two sides have gotten extremely familiar with one another.

“We have similar ambitions as Hastings – to go to nationals,” Weides said. “The only way that either team can 100 percent guarantee that is to win this game. We have to win to advance. I think you’re likely to see a very good game. It’s two great teams battling it out to achieve a team goal. We know there’s a good chance to achieve our goals we’re probably going to have to beat Hastings in these moments.”

The championship game will be staged at Lloyd Wilson Field on the Hastings campus. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. CT on Thursday, Nov. 9.

Caraballo honored for second time in three weeks

GPAC release

SEWARD, Neb. – A major factor in the Concordia University men’s soccer team’s run to the conference tournament championship game, senior Florian Caraballo has been named the GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Men’s Soccer Defensive Player of the Week for the second time in three weeks. The program has pulled in seven GPAC weekly awards this fall.

Caraballo and the Bulldog backline has made the 2017 team one of the toughest to score upon in the nation. Concordia is allowing only 0.74 goals per game, ranking 12th best among all NAIA men’s soccer teams. Last week Caraballo and company limited Briar Cliff and Northwestern to one combined goal while claiming GPAC quarterfinal and semifinal victories. A native of Cordoba, Spain, Caraballo assisted on the game-winning goal in the 87th minute versus Briar Cliff. Caraballo has recorded one goal and six assists while starting 18 games.

Tenth-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad will attempt to claim its second GPAC tournament title in three seasons when it goes head-to-head with No. 6 Hastings (17-3) at 7 p.m. CT on Thursday. The Broncos have earned the right to host the title game as the conference’s regular-season champion. The winner will receive an automatic berth to the national championships.

GPAC players of the week in 2017
Nov. 7 – Florian Caraballo
Oct. 24 – Florian Caraballo
Oct. 3 – Jack Bennett / Micah Lehenbauer
Sept. 19 – Jack Bennett / Lewis Rathbone
Sept. 5 – Jack Bennett

They meet again: Concordia-Hastings to battle in GPAC final

SEWARD, Neb. – It’s become an annual thing: Concordia University men’s soccer making a drive west on I-80 to meet Hastings in the GPAC tournament championship game. The Bulldogs and the No. 6 Broncos will match up in the GPAC title contest on Lloyd Wilson Field at 7 p.m. CT on Thursday. Concordia also met in the conference final in 2015 and 2016.

The 2015 meeting was more to tenth-year head coach Jason Weides’ liking. On a historic night for the program, the Bulldogs upset the then 19th-ranked Broncos, 1-0, on Nov. 12, 2015. A similar outcome would propel Concordia to another national tournament berth.

“We have similar ambitions as Hastings – to go to nationals,” said Weides following last week’s semifinal victory. “The only way that either team can 100 percent guarantee that is to win this game. We have to win to advance. I think you’re likely to see a very good game. It’s two great teams battling it out to achieve a team goal. We know there’s a good chance that to achieve our goals we’re probably going to have to beat Hastings in these moments.”

The road back to the GPAC championship game has included wins over Briar Cliff and Northwestern for the third-seeded Bulldogs. With its 2-1 win at Northwestern on Nov. 4, Concordia (16-2-1) avenged one of its only two losses during the regular season. The Red Raiders had tied the game with a penalty kick goal in the 70th minute, but the Bulldogs quickly responded with Toby Down’s game winner just a minute later.

Seniors like Down have reached at least the conference semifinals each season of their collegiate careers. That class has helped the program to a GPAC tournament record of 7-2-1 since the start of the 2014 season. The one tie resulted in a shootout victory at Midland in the 2015 conference semifinals. Seniors are responsible for much of the team’s offensive firepower with Micah Lehenbauer (12), Lewis Rathbone (12) and Marcelo Hernandez (11) having combined for 35 goals. Fellow senior Florian Caraballo just picked up his second GPAC weekly defensive award in three weeks.

Hastings escaped Seward with a 2-1 win on Oct. 25 and locked up its 18th-straight GPAC regular-season title. This postseason, the Broncos have protected their home turf with a 4-1 win over eighth-seeded Dordt and then a 3-2 triumph over fourth-seeded Midland. As a result of what occurred in the semifinals, Hastings will be without Daniel Whitehall (22 goals, seven assists) and Marc Tautz (nine goals, 11 assists) on Thursday. Concordia’s task will still be a significantly challenging one while faced with an opponent that has won 18-straight games against GPAC opponents.

Thursday’s game can be seen live online by accessing Hastings’ Stretch Internet portal. The winner is guaranteed a spot in the opening round of the national championships, which will take place Saturday, Nov. 18.

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. 1 Hastings 3, No. 4 Midland 2
No. 3 Concordia 2, No. 2 Northwestern 1

Thursday, Nov. 9 – Championship
No. 3 Concordia (16-2-1) at No. 1 Hastings (17-3), 7 p.m.

Record-breaking season halted in GPAC final

HASTINGS, Neb. – A missed penalty kick late in the first half turned the tide in favor of seventh-ranked Hastings in a battle for the GPAC tournament championship on Thursday (Nov. 9) evening. Despite taking an early lead, the Concordia University men’s soccer team fell at the hands of the conference’s top seed, 2-1, at Lloyd Wilson Field in Hastings.

Tenth-year head coach Jason Weides’ squad missed out on an opportunity to upset the Broncos on their home turf. The Bulldogs (16-3-1) made their third-straight appearance in the GPAC postseason final. They had entered the night with hopes of duplicating their 1-0 championship win at Hastings in 2015.

“You want to limit Hastings’ quality chances and I think we did that,” Weides said. “Against teams like this you have to make them score good goals. I just thought defensively we did quite well in limiting their chances. I thought we were better in the attack this time than the first time around (versus Hastings). We had a bit more possession, a bit more dangerous on the break.”

Concordia held a 1-0 lead for more than 30 minutes of first half action. Senior Toby Down set up the game’s first goal with a perfectly played cross into the box from right to left. An unmarked Carlos Ferrer played the ball into the back of the net, causing a stir among the strong contingent of Bulldog fans that made the trip. Barely five minutes had elapsed when Ferrer celebrated by pointing his approval at the visiting fans. Concordia had brought the fight to the Broncos.

For the most part, the Bulldogs limited the opposition’s number of dangerous opportunities. Even without leading goal scorer Daniel Whitehall, Hastings pounced for goals in the 36th and 44th minutes in rare breakdowns for Concordia. Less than four minutes after Marcelo Hernandez’s penalty kick got denied by Joe White, Lucas Venegas knocked in what proved to be the game winner just before halftime.

The Bulldogs dodged some bullets during the second half to remain within striking distance. Concordia goalkeeper Jack Bennett made a pair of quick reflex saves in a five-second span in the 83rd minute. The Bulldogs just couldn’t muster anything on the attack in the waning moments. The national tournament bound Broncos (18-3) outshot Concordia, 24-8.

The 2017 team set a new standard for the program, shattering the previous single-season school record of 12 wins. Four-year seniors such as Toby Down and Micah Lehenbauer helped the Bulldogs go a combined 48-23-10 since the start of the 2014 season. They completely redefined how success will be measured moving forward. It’s no wonder the hugs and the tears poured out amidst the chilly November air.

“These moments are really tough,” Weides said. “It’s hard to be reflective and think about the journey when everybody is really struggling, because we fell short of our goal. We wanted to move on and we wanted to keep playing. You see some smiles, but it’s hard to keep that smile going because you know there are a lot of great things this season and over the course of four years that those seniors have done. They’re leaving the program in great shape. We talk about leaving a legacy and they left a great legacy.”

Though Concordia rose as high as third amongst “others receiving votes” in this week’s national coaches’ poll, it is out of range as it relates to receiving a national tournament at-large bid. The Bulldogs appeared on the national stage in 2015 after making a surprise GPAC postseason championship run as a No. 6 seed. Weides and company will regroup next season without perhaps the greatest senior class in program history.

Bulldogs land six on GPAC first/second teams

GPAC release

2017 All-GPAC

First Team
Florian Caraballo
Marcelo Hernandez
Micah Lehenbauer

Second Team
Jack Bennett
Carlos Ferrer
Lewis Rathbone

Honorable Mention
Angel Alvarez
Kevin Sanchez

SEWARD, Neb. – Following a second place conference finish and a GPAC tournament runner up claim, the Concordia University men’s soccer team landed six of its members on either the first or second team of the 2017 all-conference teams released on Monday (Nov. 13) by the GPAC. Bulldog first team selections included senior defender Florian Caraballo, senior forward Marcelo Hernandez and senior midfielder Micah Lehenbauer.

The three second teamers were junior goalkeeper Jack Bennett, sophomore forward Carlos Ferrer and senior midfielder Lewis Rathbone. Honorable mention accolades went to junior defender Angel Alvarez and freshman midfielder Kevin Sanchez.

Caraballo, who hails from Cordoba, Spain, drew consistent praise from tenth-year head coach Jason Weides as perhaps the top outside back in the GPAC. Caraballo was a primary reason why the Bulldogs ranked 16th nationally in terms of fewest goals allowed per game (0.8). A first team All-GPAC honoree for the second year in a row, Caraballo also contributed one goal and six assists and was named GPAC defensive player of the week twice this season.

Hernandez, a native of Quito, Ecuador, served as one of the conference’s top offensive threats this fall. He totaled 11 goals and a team best 10 assists in 19 games played. He ranked sixth in the GPAC in goals and third in the conference in assists. Also a first team All-GPAC choice in 2016, Hernandez finished his Concordia career with 19 goals and 14 assists in 36 games over two seasons.

Lehenbauer, who calls Kathleen, Ga., home, shared the team goal scoring lead with 12, a number that ranked fourth best among GPAC players. Lehenbauer moved up to the first team this season after collecting second team accolades as a junior. Over 76 career games played as a Bulldog, Lehenbauer totaled 27 goals and seven assists. He posted three game-winning goals in 2017. He turned in a hat trick in the Sept. 26 win over Mount Marty.

The Bulldogs didn’t miss a beat at the goalkeeper position while handing the job to Bennett, a native of Oxford, England. Bennett started all 20 games and played more than 1,750 minutes in goal and recorded seven shutouts this season. He made 78 saves (.830 save percentage) and ranked 18th nationally in goals against average (0.820). Bennett earned two GPAC defensive player of the week awards in 2017. His nine saves in a win at Briar Cliff represented a career high.

Ferrer, a native of Chula Vista, Calif., registered four goals and four assists while starting all 20 games. Ferrer’s ability on the attack often led to goals for the likes of Hernandez, Lehenbauer and Rathbone. An honorable mention all-conference honoree last season, Ferrer’s biggest highlight of the season was a sixth-minute goal in the GPAC tournament championship game that gave Concordia a 1-0 lead at No. 7 Hastings.

Rathbone, who hails from Manchester, England, flourished in more of an attacking role this fall. He tallied 11 of his 12 goals over the first nine games of this season. He added a goal in the GPAC semifinal victory at Northwestern. Rathbone also chipped in seven assists for the conference’s third most prolific goal scoring team. Over three seasons as a Bulldog, Rathbone recorded 19 goals and 15 assists in 55 games.

A Las Vegas, Nev., native, Sanchez earned a starting role in his first collegiate season and excelled in his role in the midfield. Alvarez, who hails from San Luis, Ariz., started all 20 games as part of the team’s stellar backline.

The 2017 Bulldogs finished their season at 16-3-1, shattering the previous school single-season record of 12 victories by the 2000 squad. Concordia appeared just outside the national top 25 poll prior to its 2-1 defeat at Hastings in the conference championship game. It was the third-straight GPAC final appearance for Weides’ program.

Unforgettable season, unforgettable senior class

The 2017 Concordia University men’s soccer team did not simply set a new program standard for wins in a season, it shattered the record and laughed in its face. By season’s end, the Bulldogs boasted an overall mark of 16-3-1, far exceeding the previous best of 12 wins in a season by the 2000 team that 10th-year head coach Jason Weides played for. The campaign also brought a third-straight trip to the GPAC tournament final.

Nearly every time a challenge presented itself, this group proved equal to the task. On the day (Oct. 18) this team broke the school wins record, Midland shocked Concordia with a goal in the final seconds that forced overtime. Then in double overtime, senior Micah Lehenbauer ended the game with the golden goal, causing a ruckus on the Bulldog sideline. The goal and the ensuing celebration stand out as one the most thrilling moments of an overall thrilling season.

“There’s no doubt it was a good season and something those guys can be proud of,” Weides said. “They accomplished a lot and set a lot of records along the way with Concordia men’s soccer history. There have been some good teams in Concordia’s history. It’s still hard because we wanted more. As we look back, we need to remember all of the things that we did accomplish.”

The only thing missing from this fall was the type of euphoria felt by the 2015 team that surprised then 19th-ranked Hastings in the conference tournament game. Instead, a large group of nine seniors were forced to deal with realization that their careers had ended along with a 2-1 loss at No. 7 Hastings in the conference final on Nov. 9. An at-large national tournament bid was a long shot despite one of the nation’s largest win totals and a second-place GPAC finish.

A shot at nationals may have died on that November day, but the memories and the achievements of the senior class will live on. They helped Concordia polish off the winningest four-year stretch in program history. Not only were many of the seniors part of the 2015 championship, they also collaborated on a four-year record of 48-23-10, a national tournament berth and long lasting memories. Six seniors were part of the starting lineup when the Bulldogs took the field for the GPAC final.

“I think what I’ll miss the most is it’s just been a fun group of guys to be around,” Weides said. “We enjoyed coming to training every day and interacting with each other. They worked hard, but there were also those lighter moments in the day. Each one of those guys was fun to be around and they all have a professional attitude. I’m just going to miss being around them every day.”

In terms of production, the seniors will be particularly difficult to replace. The senior accounted for 42 of the team’s 51 goals during the program’s most dominant season ever. Each of the team’s first team All-GPAC representatives were seniors in Florian Caraballo, Marcelo Hernandez and Micah Lehenbauer. Thirty-five goals came from three players: Lehenbauer (12), Rathbone (12) and Hernandez (11).

Concordia was also adept at preventing goals, surrendering only 16 in its 20 games. That fact may not have been possible without the services of Caraballo, a transfer from Marshalltown Community College and native of Cordoba, Spain. One of the top defenders in the GPAC, Caraballo even found a way to contribute six assists as a senior.

“He was great. He’s been great since he got here,” Weides said. “He’s a big game player. He was good all year long. He’s the model of consistency in training and in games. You always knew what you were going to get. There was never a bad game. There was never a bad practice. He was always at a high level. He’s such a good defender and one of the most technical players we have on the team. He was at his best all the time.”

Weides also mentioned non-seniors that surpassed expectations, such as junior defender Angel Alvarez, junior goalkeeper Jack Bennett and junior defender Derek Eitzmann. From year-to-year, Weides always seems to employ a steady keeper, even after graduating multi-year starters. A native of Oxford, England, Bennett bided his time behind Mark Horsburgh before moving into a starting role this season. His own work ethic combined with the teaching of goalkeeper coach Dan Ball helped him rank 14th nationally in goals against average.

It all added up to the program’s most successful season in program history by just about any measure. Not only did the 2017 Bulldogs break school records for overall wins and conference wins (seven), they went 8-1 at home, racked up nine shutouts and posted a sparkling goal differential of +35, by far the best of the Weides era, which began in 2008. The program really turned a corner in 2011 and has remained a serious competitor ever since, even as the stars come and go.

“The work put in during the offseason has been a big part of our progression the last seven years,” Weides said. “This senior class was known for working hard in the offseason. Now we’ve got big shoes to fill. We’re expecting to bounce back with a great year next year with different personnel. We’re really excited to get going and add some good guys to the mix. I’m really interested to see how this team develops. We’re really excited about some guys that didn’t play much this year. We’re excited about how they’re going to grow.”

The seniors leave behind an impressive legacy that Weides hopes will be continued by the next wave of up-and-comers. The sophomore class is led by the likes of second team all-conference selection Carlos Ferrer and Matthew Ho. Meanwhile, three freshmen saw considerable action in 2017: Garrett Perry, Joao Pedro Verissimo and Kevin Sanchez. All of the young players will have an opportunity to further prove themselves during the spring season. One thing’s for sure – the seniors will leave a tough act to follow on the heels of a memorable 2017 run.

Eitzmann, Waldron collect NAIA Scholar-Athlete honors

2017 NAIA Scholar-Athletes

SEWARD, Neb. – A pair of student-athletes represented the 2017 record breaking Concordia University men’s soccer program on the list of Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athletes released on Friday (Dec. 2). Bulldogs Derek Eitzmann and Mickey Waldron are the program’s latest Scholar-Athletes. A junior from Lincoln, Neb., Eitzmann is majoring in chemistry. Also a junior from Lincoln, Waldron is majoring in biology and chemistry.

In order to be nominated by an institution’s head coach or sports information director, a student-athlete must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale and must have achieved a junior academic status. A total of 492 men’s soccer student-athletes across the nation were named 2017 Scholar-Athletes by the NAIA.

Concordia University ranks as the NAIA’s all-time leader in number of Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athletes with 1,310 and counting. The Bulldogs have been a regular national leader for both scholar-athletes and scholar-teams and are coming off a 2016-17 academic year that resulted in 78 more scholar-athletes and 19 scholar-teams. The 2015-16 season produced a GPAC best 92 Bulldog scholar-athletes and a national best 20 NAIA Scholar-Teams. The 2014-15 season culminated with GPAC-leading totals of 94 Bulldog scholar-athletes and 17 NAIA Scholar-Teams. During the 2013-14 academic year, Concordia garnered 101 Scholar-Athlete honorees (most in the NAIA) and 17 NAIA Scholar-Teams (tied for fourth nationally).