Confidence grows in draw between hopeful GPAC title contenders

By Jacob Knabel on Sep. 27, 2023 in Women's Soccer

SEWARD, Neb. – A pair of teams with identical 3-0 conference records met Wednesday (Sept. 27) in a renewal of the women’s soccer rivalry between Concordia and Midland. After the Bulldogs played the role of aggressor in the first half, the circumstances flipped early in the second half. Concordia wound up settling for a 1-1 draw while missing out on a potential statement win. Decorated center back Grace Soenksen notched the lone Bulldog goal.

Head Coach Nick Smith’s squad faced its stiffest challenge so far within conference play while on the heels of a four-game win streak. Concordia currently sits tied atop the GPAC standings at 3-0-1 in league play (7-2-1 overall).

“It was a really competitive contest,” Smith said. “We started really well. We got the ball down on the ground and we were connecting passes and were really able to break them down. We created some good opportunities and ended up getting a goal from Grace. We were feeling really good at halftime. In the second half we saw that Midland turned up its intensity a little bit in terms of the press. For 15-20 minutes in the second half, we struggled to adjust to it. Once we settled ourselves and reestablished our flow, it was even and could have gone either way.”

Both sides had come off goal scoring outbursts as the Bulldogs pummeled Northwestern, 8-0, four days earlier and Midland had trounced Dordt, 6-2, over the weekend. They met their match on Wednesday in what became more of a grind-it-out type of clash. Concordia held a commanding 8-1 advantage in shots over the first 45 minutes. However, the Warriors got the equalizer in the 48th minute when Rosa Schellmann expertly crossed the ball into Ashley Atkinson for what proved to be the game’s final goal.

Suddenly, Midland (6-2-2, 3-0-1) had the Bulldogs back on their heels. Concordia managed to dodge a couple of bullets, such as the strike by Hannah Schimmer that hit the left post at the 62-minute mark. The Warriors also had a free kick opportunity from just outside the box at the 69-minute mark. Keeper Bradi Ore (two saves) and the Bulldogs hung tough in the face of an opponent that is receiving votes nationally.

The Soenksen goal came in the 39th minute when she hit a one-timer off the corner from Savannah Andrews. Soenksen’s rocket left the Midland keeper no chance and resulted in the sixth career goal for the Lincoln Lutheran alum. Soenksen played like a first team all-conference player once again. Part of her duty was simply to make life difficult on the star striker Schimmer, whose quickness can rival that of Kierstynn Garner. Soenksen and the back line of Hannah Kile, Taylor Slaymaker and Shelby Rugg enjoyed a solid night.

Each of the leading goal scorers were held off the board, including Garner and Schimmer, as well as Andrews (the GPAC’s top three goal scorers entering the night). In the case of Concordia, it lacked the finishing touch as only two of its 10 shots were placed on frame. The Bulldogs also had plenty of other set piece chances and led the corner kick count, 9-1.

Overall, Smith was encouraged by what he saw. He has a team that is starting to believe it can be right in the mix at the top of the GPAC. Said Smith, “The biggest challenge for us is putting together a full 90. If we play a full 90 tonight, I’m really confident we get the result. We can take solace in knowing this is a team that is receiving national attention, and we hung right there tonight. In terms of moving forward, I think we have to be really confident with where we stand right now.”

For a second Saturday in a row, the Bulldogs will be headed north for another GPAC road battle. Concordia is slated to tangle with Dakota Wesleyan (2-6, 1-3 GPAC) at 5:30 p.m. CT on Saturday from Mitchell, S.D. The Bulldogs toppled the Tigers in dominant fashion in 2022, 5-0, in Seward.