SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Jackie Martinez’s last-minute goal dashed the Concordia University women soccer hopes of claiming back-to-back GPAC tournament titles. Thirty-eight seconds after Martinez’s score, second-seeded Morningside celebrated a championship that unfolded inside Elwood Olsen Stadium in Sioux City, Iowa, on Friday night. The Mustangs won, 2-1, in their second conference tournament title match appearance in three seasons.
The loss snapped a six-game unbeaten (5-0-1) streak for third-year head coach Greg Henson’s program. The Bulldogs concluded the 2015 season with an overall record of 13-6-2.
“One game will never define your season,” Henson said. “Neither the loss tonight nor advancing through Hastings defines your season. It’s the body of work. We’ve made great strides as far as growing. There were some growing pains that we had to go through. I’m really proud of the senior class that we’re losing.”
Martinez, who had just a single goal on the season entering the championship clash, burned Concordia twice. The sophomore midfielder gave Morningside an early lead when Marti Hitz assisted Martinez on a long free kick into the box with less than eight minutes gone by. The back breaker in the final minute looked like a replay of the first goal. Goalkeeper Chrissy Lind sat back near the goal line, where she had little time to react.
Martinez and company effectively reversed the momentum that the Bulldogs seemed to take into the halftime break. From seven yards outside the box, sophomore Jeannelle Condame drilled a free kick goal that glanced off the fingertips of Niccole McGuire, who dove to her left. Just before the 18-minute mark, Condame’s fourth goal of the year made it an even game.
The remainder of the first half hardly appeared even. Condame’s goal flipped the Bulldogs into attack mode. Though it did not score again, Concordia possessed an 11-4 advantage in shots after 45 minutes of action. During which the likes of GPAC offensive player of the week Maria Deeter and others put pressure on the Mustang attack.
But Morningside (15-5-1) got the better of play over the final 45 minutes as Concordia struggled to possess the ball. McGuire made a total of eight saves and the host Mustangs overcame a 17-11 shot discrepancy for the contest. The Bulldogs were limited to six shots in the second half.
Sophomore Jessica Skerston had the most chances for Concordia with five shots, including three on goal. Deeter put all three of her shots on frame. Seven different Bulldogs fired at least one shot on the night.
Of the 11 starters Henson employed on Friday, only two were seniors. Four were juniors, three were sophomores and two were freshmen. The 2016 Concordia squad will have a wealth of experience and an established winning culture to lean upon. Henson, now 37-18-8 overall, has presided over the winningest three-year period in program history.
“Overall I’m just really pleased with where we’re at and where the program’s headed,” Henson said. “When I came here three years ago I don’t think losing in the conference final would have been a bad thing or a down night. You definitely see some long faces. It just shows where we’ve matured and grown as a program over the last three years.”
Morningside and Hastings (regular-season champion) will represent the GPAC at the national tournament. Both have earned automatic bids.