SIOUX CITY, Iowa – A goal from freshman Niah Kirchner in the 85th minute sparked hopes of a GPAC quarterfinal upset. Those hopes were squelched in extra time by second-seeded Briar Cliff, which got a goal apiece in the first and second overtimes on Wednesday (Nov. 2) afternoon and sent the seventh-seeded Concordia University Women’s Soccer team to a 3-1 defeat. Under new overtime rules for the postseason, two 10-minute overtimes were played out to completion.
Head Coach Thomas Goines’ squad saw its season end with an overall record of 10-6-2. The Bulldogs were looking to pull the upset of the Chargers (receiving votes nationally) and avenge the 3-0 loss from the regular season.
“They came out with a chip on their shoulder today,” Goines said. “Briar Cliff’s a very good team. If there are 25 teams better than them (in the NAIA), I’d be surprised. We came out and executed like we have all year against good teams. It felt more like a semifinal or a final than a quarterfinal.
“Niah’s ability to find it and put it away in a really big moment was awesome. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to keep that going in overtime. Overall, I’m very proud of the girls and their effort today.”
Concordia’s 2022 postseason roster included five players who started the 2020 GPAC championship game victory over Jamestown. In other words, the Bulldogs had hopes of channeling that magic by shocking the Chargers. The formula of gritty defensive play used on Wednesday is a familiar one for the Concordia program. The Bulldogs didn’t have many attacking chances, but they effectively hung within a goal by forcing difficult shots for Briar Cliff.
Because the Chargers (13-1-4) failed to add that second goal, Concordia just had to seize on one opportunity. The hustle of Kirchner put her in position to play a shot over the head of the keeper for a goal with just over five minutes left in regulation. It was a tie game despite the Bulldogs having registered only four shots over 90 minutes.
In overtime, Briar Cliff scored in roughly a minute-and-a-half on a play that involved one of Concordia’s center backs going down with an injury. The Chargers pounced with what proved to be the game winning goal by Sydney Robbins. Down 2-1, the Bulldogs were forced to push numbers forward and subsequently surrendered a counterattack goal by Taylor Alkire (second of the game). That score sewed up Briar Cliff’s spot in the GPAC semifinals on Saturday.
Barring a late decision to use a COVID year, nine seniors have finished their Concordia soccer careers. That group includes keeper Kalie “Rocket” Ward, who made five saves on Wednesday. It also features past all-conference award winners in Allee Downing (Sioux City native) and Grace Soenksen (the fifth Soenksen sibling to play at Concordia). Seniors in Wednesday’s starting 11 were Downing, Soenksen and Ward in addition to Aliyah Aldama, Ellie Eason and Lisa McClain. That class will always remember the strange COVID year of 2020-21 when the Bulldogs won three GPAC tournament games in the spring while celebrating a championship.
Said Goines, “We have nine young women who put four-plus years into this program. It’s been a heck of a ride for them. When that moment comes where you realize it’s the last time you get to put on a Bulldog jersey, it’s a sad moment. I couldn’t be more proud of those seniors. They’ve put in the kind of effort that will be hard to follow going forward.”
The 2022 season was characterized by a mixture of senior leaders who helped welcome in a talented group of freshmen. Highlights of the campaign included a 6-0 start and the 1-0 win at then 25th-ranked Benedictine College (Kan.) back in September. Kierstynn Garner (team high eight goals) headlined a freshman class that will be a big part of the future for Concordia Women’s Soccer.