FREMONT, Neb. – The chances of the Concordia University women’s soccer team earning at least a share of a second GPAC regular-season title in a row likely ended in Fremont, Neb., on Wednesday evening (Oct. 24). While the Bulldogs needed a win, in a way they were fortunate to salvage the 1-1 double overtime draw that resulted in the battle with 18th-ranked Midland. A hand ball call in the box gave Concordia the opportunity to equalize in the 87th minute.
It still has been more than two years since sixth-year head coach Greg Henson’s program has suffered a loss in a GPAC regular-season game (26 straight league matches). Considering their draws with Hastings and Midland, the Bulldogs (11-1-5, 8-0-3 GPAC) have again proven to be on the same level as the league’s elite.
“It was a collective effort,” Henson said. “We weren’t looking for one player to step up. We were looking for everyone to contribute and put the onus on themselves. I thought we responded very well as a team, not just the players on the field but the players on the bench supporting their teammates. I thought the whole program did a great job responding to a tough situation over the weekend. They came out ready to play.”
In a rivalry matchup that got chippy, Concordia played without the services of three-time All-GPAC performer Maria Deeter (injured at Jamestown last week). Freshman Madeline Haugen got the start in her place and the Bulldogs carried on. They had prep time this week knowing that Deeter would be missing from the lineup.
Despite the glaring absence, Concordia competed like the championship program it has become under Henson’s direction. For the game, The Bulldogs outnumbered the Warriors in shots on goal (6-5). It’s simply exceedingly difficult to put the ball in the back of the net against a Midland team that entered the night having conceded only one goal in conference play.
That total grew with 3:36 left in regulation. A hand ball in the box made both benches erupt. Concordia had new life when sophomore Tori Cera drilled the penalty kick into the goal to level the score. A controversial ruling was about all that had been missing from a night that featured 10 combined cards. The Bulldogs even played down a player for nearly half of the 110 minutes.
Concordia successfully held dangerous goal scorer Nayeli Rodriguez (three shots – one on goal) off the scoreboard. The Warriors (11-1-3, 8-0-3 GPAC) owned a lead for more than 33 minutes of action in the second half after Marley Farrell’s goal off a corner kick. Only Cera’s PK goal kept Midland from keeping pace with Hastings (9-0-2 GPAC) atop the league standings. The Warriors used PT Perez, also dealing with injury, for only brief periods on Wednesday.
In the closing seconds of double overtime, the Bulldogs got out on the run with a chance to win it. Midland keeper Rachel Thigpen came forward and took the punishment in a collision in the box to prevent a potential score. It was exemplary of the gritty play on both sides.
“We had chances at the end to win the game,” Henson said. “Our players really left it all on the field tonight, which is all you can ask for when you’re in the championship hunt. The teams that we’ve played that are nationally ranked, we’re right there with them. We played well tonight.”
The Bulldogs will close out the regular season on Saturday when Briar Cliff (8-8-1, 7-4 GPAC) pays a visit to Bulldog Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. CT. The Chargers fell at home by a 3-1 score to Dakota Wesleyan on Wednesday. Concordia would be likely to claim the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament with a win.