SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Sophomore Jessica Skerston provided a 1-0 lead in the 18th minute and the Concordia University women’s soccer team effectively put the stranglehold on host Briar Cliff in the opening game of the 2015 GPAC tournament. The fifth-seeded Bulldogs throttled the fourth-seeded Chargers, 4-0, in Sioux City, Iowa, on Thursday afternoon. Champions of the 2014 league tournament, Concordia has now won four-consecutive GPAC postseason contests.
Third-year head coach Greg Henson’s squad has gotten red hot at the right time. On Thursday the Bulldogs extended their winning streak to five and, at 13-5-1 overall, are just two wins off of last year’s program single-season standard.
Concordia has advanced to the conference semifinals for the third-straight season. The Bulldogs will play either top-seeded Hastings (14-4) or eighth-seeded College of Saint Mary (9-6-1) for a shot at the GPAC title game.
“It was a matter of us wanting to come out and set the tone and set the tempo early in the game,” Henson said. “We wanted to go out and attack them and look to score goals, something we weren’t able to do the first time we played them. We felt like if we got our numbers forward and created opportunities we’d be able to change the momentum of the game.”
On this day, Briar Cliff had no answer for Jeannelle Condame’s ability to drop the ball into a bucket in set piece situations or for Maria Deeter’s dominance in the midfield. Not known as a dangerous team in the air, Concordia scored each of its first three goals on headers.
Both of Maria Deeter’s goals (52’ and 70’) came courtesy of perfectly executed set pieces from Condame. The first resulted from a corner kick and the other via a free kick. The performance marked Deeter’s second multi-goal game of the season.
“Maria Deeter had a great game for us, just dominant in the middle of the park and dominant on winning balls out of the air,” Henson said. “And Jeannelle Condame has continued to do what she’s done throughout her career, serving in dangerous balls into the box. Maria was able to get on the end of two of those and put them away. Both had tremendous games for us.”
With her goal in the opening 20 minutes, Skerston has now scored in each of the first four GPAC tournament games of her career. The St. Charles, Mo., native has 10 goals on the season and 27 for her career. She has earned credit for each of the last four game-winning goals in conference tournament action dating back to last year.
In perhaps its best-played game all season against a conference opponent, Concordia left no doubt when it added an 88th-minute score from freshman outside back Ashley Martin, who was set up by Deeter. The impressive outing saw the Bulldogs outshoot the Chargers, 16-7.
Junior goalkeeper Chrissy Lind made four saves in recording her 21st career shutout. Henson lauded Lind, center backs Kristin Manley and Katrina Muther and the rest of his back line for their work in shutting down Briar Cliff. The Bulldogs have 10 shutouts on the season.
Over its last five games, Concordia is 5-0 and has outscored its opponents by a combined total of 16-2. The current run of dominance followed a streak of three-straight losses by a 1-0 score, including one such defeat at the hands of Briar Cliff.
“For us, the attitude and the mindset really changed about three weeks ago,” Henson said. “We sat down and had a team meeting to discuss what we wanted to accomplish this season. Having done it before (won a GPAC title) and having a number of players that were part of it last year is a strength that you can lean on a little bit.”
The GPAC semifinals will be played on Tuesday (Nov. 10). Game time will be 7 p.m. Concordia would be awarded the chance to host if College of Saint Mary upsets 16th-ranked Hastings on Thursday night (Nov. 5). Otherwise the Bulldogs will hit the road once again.