Attack muzzled by Mustangs in first GPAC defeat

By Jacob Knabel on Oct. 4, 2023 in Women's Soccer

SEWARD, Neb. – For the first time in nearly a month, the Concordia University Women’s Soccer team has tasted defeat. The Bulldogs missed a prime chance to take a first half lead and never could crack the visitors from Sioux City, Iowa, while enduring a 1-0 loss to Morningside on Wednesday (Oct. 4). The Mustangs got a 25th-minute goal from Keyera Harmon and outplayed Concordia on a pleasant fall evening with virtually no wind inside Bulldog Stadium.

Head Coach Nick Smith’s youthful squad is still learning how to find results in competitive contests against other contenders at the top of the GPAC. The Bulldogs slipped to 8-3-1 overall (4-1-1 GPAC) with their first conference defeat of 2023.

“I think we had a slow start,” Smith said. “Morningside came out and they were the team that was exceeding us in work rate and energy. They made a couple of adjustments. They largely shifted to a strong side formation with three lines of two to match what our middle was doing. We failed to make the adjustment in the first half. What we’re going to see from teams now is that if they score, they’re going to sit in a little bit. Once Morningside got its goal, they became pretty defensive, which makes it tough to break a team down.”

Concordia entered the night averaging a GPAC high of nearly 3.5 goals per game. However, attacking opportunities were few and far between on Wednesday. The Bulldogs managed only four shots (three on goal) for the entire 90 minutes. Not even nine minutes into action, Sierra Springer found herself 1v1 with the keeper. The Mustangs’ Kyla Syverson was up to the task in making the denial. Springer recorded Concordia’s only two shots of the first half.

Morningside (6-2-3, 3-1-2 GPAC) got the only goal it needed in the 25th minute. Harmon played a touch past a Concordia defender and then capitalized on an uncontested shot in the box, marking her seventh goal of 2023. Harmon and her teammates held a 14-4 advantage in shots, though corners were even at 5-5. The Mustangs have beaten Concordia by a single goal in back-to-back years.

Senior goalkeeper Bradi Ore rose to the occasion to keep the Bulldogs within a goal for the final 65 minutes. Ore collected four saves, including a couple that required her to sacrifice her body with strikers firing from just feet in front of her. Ore also punched a corner out of the box and away from trouble. The Mustangs had a shot to go up 2-0 in the 28th minute when Tuva Hammarlund peppered the crossbar.

In crunch time, Smith turned the likes of Niah Kirchner and Grace Soenksen loose in an attempt to find the equalizer. Kirchner nearly knotted it at the 69-minute mark but was thwarted by a Morningside defender on a shot from less than 10 feet out. The Mustangs effectively kept the prolific sophomore duo of Savannah Andrews and Kierstynn Garner (23 combined goals this season) at bay. Garner was held to a single shot while Andrews left the game in the 52nd minute due to an injury.

There remains plenty of upside for a Concordia squad built around its sophomores and a few key veterans. Said Smith, “We changed shape in the second half to try and exploit the wide areas, and it was better at times. A little bit tonight, we showed that we are a younger team in not staying true to what was working, even though it wasn’t resulting in goals. There were moments where we were adopting their style, which was very direct. That was difficult for us.”

The longest road trip of the season awaits this weekend. The Bulldogs will make the trek to Jamestown, N.D., to take on the Jimmies (3-4-3, 3-1-2 GPAC) at 7 p.m. CT on Saturday. Jamestown is the reigning GPAC regular season champion and has won each of the past two meetings with Concordia by 1-0 scores.