WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Playing in her home state, Jeannelle Condame nearly put the Concordia University women’s soccer team in the lead going into halftime. However, her strike hit the crossbar and third-ranked Keiser University eventually broke the seal on the goal and avoided the upset. The second all-time appearance in the opening round of the NAIA Women’s Soccer National Championships ended with a 2-0 loss for the Bulldogs.
Fourth-year head coach Greg Henson’s program also reached the national tournament in 2014 when it fell by a 4-0 score at No. 9 Benedictine College (Kan.). This time around, Concordia (15-6-1) made a more serious run at an upset win while surrounded by palm trees at Arrigo Vecellio Soccer Field in West Palm Beach, Fla.
“I think we proved that we belong on this stage and that we can truly play with anybody in the country,” Henson said. “We’ve talked about that in the past, but today our players went out and showed the heart and the grit that it takes to do that. I couldn’t be any prouder of the way this team went out and performed today. We challenged them to come out early and take it to Keiser and not be afraid of the environment and just go play – and they did.”
Keiser (18-1-1) had piled up a double-digit shot total before it finally got one to go into the back of the net. One of many Sweden natives on the Seahawk roster, Johanna Engberg got loose for the game’s only goals in the 58th and 61st minutes. Keiser wound up with a 20-4 advantage in shots.
Condame, who hails from Winter Springs, actually had two of the best scoring opportunities for Concordia. With the Bulldogs down 2-0 in the second half, another free kick by Condame from just outside the 18-yard box went just over the crossbar. Freshman Rachael Bolin put the only shot on goal of the day for Concordia.
Goals have been difficult to come by all season for Keiser opponents. The Seahawks entered the national tournament allowing just 0.53 goals per game. The Sun Conference champion effectively stifled top goal scorer Sami Birmingham, who scored four goals during the Bulldogs’ GPAC tournament title run. Birmingham did not fire a single shot on Saturday.
There will be no trip to Orange Beach, Ala., the site where the final 16 teams left standing will converge. While that dream scenario will have to wait for at least one more year, Concordia is in the midst of an unprecedented run. With the help of four seniors that started on Saturday (Megan Brunssen, Chrissy Lind, Kristin Manley and Jordan McCoy), the Bulldogs have won 43 games and two conference tournament championships over the past three seasons.
“The senior class has been tremendous,” Henson said. “It’s going to take a little bit to sink in. I don’t know Concordia without the senior class. They just went out and continued to do what they’ve done throughout their careers. They worked hard and did all of the little things that we asked them to do. They’ve been with me every step of the way. I know they have tremendous futures in whatever’s next in their lives.”
Lind, a second team all-conference honoree, leaves Concordia as the school goalkeeping career record holder for games and minutes played, shutouts (26) and saves (345). She made five saves in her final game as a Bulldog.
The team took time after the game to visit the beach and swim in the ocean. They will spend Saturday night in Florida before flying back to Nebraska on Sunday.