WICHITA, Kan. – This looked more like the blueprint that helped the Concordia University women’s soccer team earn the outright GPAC regular-season title in 2017. Essentially, that means stifling the opposing attack while striking when the opportunity knocks. A 22nd-minute goal from junior Becky Freeman was all the offense the Bulldogs needed in a 1-0 victory at Friends University in Wichita, Kan., on Saturday afternoon (Sept. 15).
Sixth-year head coach Greg Henson’s squad earned its first shutout of 2018 and improved to 3-1-2 with nonconference regular-season action now in the books.
“I’m very happy with the shutout. It’s been a long time coming for our back four and Carl (Lindsey Carley) to get a clean sheet,” Henson said. “I thought we did a good job of limiting their quality chances. There were a couple scary set piece opportunities that we gave them late in the game, but overall I thought we did a nice job limiting dangerous opportunities. Carl did a great job of earning her first shutout of the year.”
Henson went on to refer to the contest as a “midfield battle.” The Bulldogs were able to get loose about midway through the first half when senior Kaylee Brown assisted on Freeman’s third goal of the season. Then it became all about seeing out the win and keeping the Falcons (3-3) at bay. Friends had not yet been shut out this season.
That changed with the work of a Concordia back line expected to get stronger as the season goes along. Carley was credited with making seven of her nine saves in the second half, including two in the final 10 minutes. The back four in front of Carley included center backs Chelsea Bright and Tori Cera and outside backs Taylor Roby and Cheyenne Smith. As midfielders, Maria Deeter and Michaela Twito helped the Bulldogs win the “midfield battle.”
This game was nothing like the 4-3 loss at Bellevue that occurred on Tuesday. Concordia has to get back to being a hard-nosed defensive team if it is to defend last season’s GPAC title.
“We focused this week on 1v1 defending and individual and group defending tactics,” Henson said. “We made some adjustments and some changes with personnel in an effort to make us more dangerous going forward and at the same time, also strengthen us along the back four. We had some players in some new positions. I thought today we saw some great strides individually and collectively.”
Freeman has emerged as one of the team’s leading goal scorers so far. She was again in the starting lineup on Saturday. Said Henson, “One of the things we were looking at is getting some players in positions where they could be more dangerous. I think two of our more dangerous threats going forward are Lauren Martin and Becky Freeman. We’re giving them an opportunity to work together up front. Right now we need that consistent goal scoring threat.”
The start of conference play is coming up on Wednesday (Sept. 19) when College of Saint Mary (0-6-1) will make a visit to Bulldog Stadium for a 7 p.m. CT kickoff. The Flames are still in search of their first win of 2018 after falling 11-0 at Bellevue University on Saturday.