2023 GPAC women’s soccer semifinal preview: Concordia vs. Midland

By Chase Benton on Nov. 3, 2023 in Women's Soccer

SEWARD, Neb. – The two-seeded Dawgs advanced to the GPAC semifinals with a 2-1 win over seventh-seeded Jimmies, besting them twice this season, in their final year of the conference. With all the highest seeds advancing, CUNE shifts their eyes to third-seeded Midland, with a chance to snap their regular season (1-1) tie from their bout in late September. The two teams are set to square off in Seward on Tuesday (Nov. 7) at 7 p.m. CT. After a regular season that achieved more than the outside noise, the Concordia University Women’s Soccer team earned second place, just two points shy of their second GPAC championship (2017). Just missing the mark fuels the team’s fire to finish with their style of play and energy through the GPAC tournament. The program will appear in the conference semifinals for the ninth time since 2011, as first year Head Coach Nick Smith looks for his second tournament win in days. The squad’s record is 13-3-3 overall and 8-1-3 in the conference, reaching 13 wins for the first time since 2018.

Next Match

GPAC Semifinals: Tuesday, Nov. 7 vs. Midland (11-4-4, 7-2-3 GPAC), 7 p.m.
--Live Webcast | Live Stats | Location: Bulldog Stadium (Seward, Neb.)
--Admission: $10 for adults/senior citizens, $3 for K-12; only those with NAIA passes and GPAC student ID’s are admitted free of charge.

By the numbers

·       The Dawgs earned a host slot and a two-seed, aligning their path with seventh-seeded Jamestown for their quarterfinal clash. Raining down 18 total shots, Concordia scored two in the first half and held on for their first conference tournament victory (2-1) since winning the postseason tournament in 2020. CUNE looked comfortable under the lights at Bulldog Stadium, asserting their offensive dominance by scoring on their second shot of the match. Ruiz seized the ball in the box and created room for herself, crushing the first goal past the keeper in the early going. Piling on a 10-2 shot advantage in the first 45 minutes, Andrews found her chance in the 36th minute, scoring off a rebounded save and knocking in her second goal in two games. The Jimmies responded with an early second half score, putting pressure on the home squad. Goalkeeper Bradi Ore collected two massive total saves, keeping the Jimmies from the equalizer in the final minutes.

·       Concordia finds confidence in the past postseason success the program has enjoyed in recent years. Over the previous nine GPAC tournaments, the Bulldogs have reached at least the semifinals seven times and have played in the championship game six times (five straight years from 2014 through 2018). The program celebrated GPAC postseason championships in 2014, 2016 and 2020. While this will be Coach Smith’s first tournament run toward a championship, it won’t be the first for a few of his players. Center-back Grace Soenksen, goalkeeper Bradi Ore and midfielder Hannah Haas were a part of the 2020 championship squad.

·       The two teams were both 3-0 in conference play before the Warriors stepped into Bulldog Stadium for the first time on Sept. 27. Concordia dominated the first 45 minutes of play with an 8-1 shot advantage, leading to Soenksen’s screamer of a goal in the 39th minute. Coming out of the break, the tide turned as Ashley Atkinson made the Bulldogs pay with an early second half equalizer. Keeper Bradi Ore (two saves) and the Bulldogs hung tough in the face of an opponent that was receiving votes nationally. The tide would turn back in the second part of the last 45 minutes, as Concordia would have their two quality chances in the final minutes, unable to snap the tie. The team left frustrated with a knotted final after having a 9-1 corner kick edge, and more than a few chances go by the wayside.

·       Garner was the team high goal scorer (eight) in 2022, but the sophomore sharp shooter has surged to a new level on the offensive end of the field. She has more than doubled last season’s output with a conference leading 19 goals (T-eighth in NAIA), just shy of the program’s single season top five. The Kearney, Neb. product, is averaging 1.06 goals per game and has a seven game winning goals, which is good enough for second all time in the program for a single season. KG has a .339 shot percentage, which is the highest in the conference (30 shots or more). The Dawgs will need to lean on her offensive prowess to move deep into the tournament.

·       The highly decorated fifth year Soenksen, will command the back end as she has continually erased the conference's top goal scorers in their attack. With a mixed bag of veterans to newcomers on the back line, Concordia has allowed only 14 goals through their 19 matches this season. Their opponents have totaled 139 shots, 102 less than their offense, as Concordia has a +37 goal differential (top five in school history). Ore has only allowed 11 goals through her 1,351 minutes of play. She has earned six complete shutouts putting her in the top five in the program and third in the conference for goals against average (0.73).

·       The offense for the Dawgs has scored 51 goals (2nd in GPAC) on 31 assists (3rd in GPAC). With 10 different players having scored, the leaders are Garner and Savannah Andrews (13, 5th in GPAC). The two were racing for first in the conference before an injury set Andrews back in the Morningside match but has come on with two goals in the last two matches. Sierra Springer emerged in the middle of the season as a starter and has been given significant minutes since, scoring five goals (two game winners) and a team high five assists. Elena Ruiz rounds out the top four goal scorers with five (two game winners), starting off the season hot. Haas, Garner and Andrews had four assists apiece.

The opponent

The Warriors defeated sixth-seeded CSM (4-0) in the quarterfinals, avenging an early season (1-0) loss to the Flames at home. Their conference record for the regular season was 7-2-3 with the only other loss coming from first-seeded Hastings. Midland had a midseason coaching change to interim Head Coach Tatum Tremain and the squad has gone unbeaten (4-0-2) since. MU finished their regular season with a 10-0 drubbing of Mount Marty. The Warriors present a unique challenge having posted four straight shutouts, including the quarterfinal match. The two teams have a similar makeup with team stat lines, and are side by side in many offensive and defensive categories in the conference. Leading goal scorers, Hanna Schimmer (16) and Ami Lewis (10) are their dynamic duo in the attacking third. Schimmer and Rosa Schellmann both assisted five goals apiece.

GPAC tournament pairings

Quarterfinals – Thursday, Nov. 2
(1) Hastings def. (8) Dakota Wesleyan, 3-0
(4) Dordt def. (5) Morningside, 3-2
(3) Midland def. (6) College of Saint Mary, 4-0
 (2) Concordia def. (7) Jamestown, 2-1

Semifinals – Tuesday, Nov. 7
(4) Dordt at (1) Hastings, 7 p.m.
(3) Midland at (2) Concordia, 7 p.m.

Championship – Friday, Nov. 10
Highest remaining seed hosts, time TBA