Bulldogs push No. 11 Hastings in tense rivalry battle

By Jacob Knabel on Sep. 28, 2016 in Women's Soccer

HASTINGS, Neb. – Making its sixth trip to Hastings since 2013, the Concordia University women’s soccer team led for the majority of the night in a rivalry renewed with the 11th-ranked Broncos. But host Hastings exacted a measure of revenge for last year’s GPAC semifinal result and rallied for a 2-1 victory at Lloyd Wilson Field on Wednesday evening.

Fourth-year head coach Greg Henson’s program had been 2-1-1 versus Hastings over the previous four meetings entering Wednesday. Each of the last five contests in the series have now been decided by either a single goal or penalty kick shootout. The Bulldogs are now 5-4-1 overall and 0-2 in conference play.

“It just shows who we’re capable of being,” Henson said. “When we stick to the game plan and decide as a group of 11 to put in the effort, we have the ability to play with anybody. We needed to put away another one of those chances in the first half. If we put the second goal on the board we’re probably having a different conversation.

“I told the girls after the game if we continue to play with the energy level and the effort level that we had tonight through the rest of the season, we have the opportunity to put ourselves in the position we want to be in.”

For more than 67 minutes, Concordia executed its defensive game plan to perfection. Concordia drew first blood in the ninth minute when Megan Brunssen’s free kick led Sami Birmingham in behind the Hastings defense. After playing a touch from Maria Deeter, the freshman from Johnston, Iowa, calmly tapped the ball into the net for her team-leading seventh goal of the season. Remaining on the attack, the Bulldogs nearly added a second goal on several occasions, including one instance in which Jeannelle Condame’s free kick hit the cross bar.

Concordia kept Hastings’ terrific goal-scoring trio of Heidi Bartsch, Taylor Geis and Megan Kruse quiet for much of the affair. Kruse emerged in the 68th minute with the equalizer. Then with less than three minutes remaining before a potential overtime session, Bartsch dashed the Bulldogs’ hopes with her 10th goal of the year on a beautiful, indefensible strike.

“If we’re going to lose, let’s lose on that,” Henson said of the game-winning goal. “She did a great job. We did a nice job shutting her down throughout the course of the game, but she got loose on us and put it away. But Chrissy (Lind) had a great game. She made some good saves for us. I thought our team defensively as a whole did a great job defending as a unit.”

By shifting numbers into the defensive side, Concordia made life tough on a potent Bronco bunch. When Hastings did penetrate the backline, it struggled to slot the ball by Lind, who made a series of highlight reel saves to preserve the 1-0 lead. The Broncos held a shot advantage of just 14-13 (10-8 in shots on goal) for the night.

The Bulldogs will get back on the road on Saturday for a trip to Morningside, site of the 2015 GPAC tournament championship game. Kickoff from Sioux City, Iowa, is slated for 5:30 p.m. CT. The Mustangs (4-5, 2-1 GPAC) defeated Briar Cliff, 1-0, on Wednesday evening.