Dawgs drill Doane, lock up GPAC's No. 2 seed

By Jacob Knabel on Oct. 25, 2023 in Women's Soccer

CRETE, Neb. – Entering the night, Concordia University Women’s Soccer held hopes of capturing perhaps a share of the GPAC regular season title. The Bulldogs did not get the result they needed in the Dordt-Hastings clash, but they controlled their end of the bargain. Prolific striker Kierstynn Garner put away two more goals on Wednesday (Oct. 25) as the Bulldogs closed the regular season with a 4-0 drilling of Doane in Crete. The Tigers managed only one shot on goal for the entire 90 minutes.

Head Coach Nick Smith has worked wonders in year one while helping lift Concordia from a seventh place GPAC finish in 2022 into conference championship contention in 2023. The Bulldogs will carry a 12-3-3 (8-1-3 GPAC) record into the postseason.

“We had a sharp performance and came out with the right intensity early on in the game,” Smith said. “We had a couple early goals to really set us on our way, but the most pleasing aspect of the performance tonight was that the level never dropped. We were able to go pretty deep into our bench and everyone who came on maintained that level and maintained what we wanted in terms of tempo and energy off the ball. It was a really complete performance.”

Concordia never allowed Doane a chance in a rivalry matchup that has been decidedly one-sided over the past decade. The breakout sophomore Garner widened her GPAC lead in the goal scoring department with strikes in the ninth and 22nd minutes, respectively. In the process, the Kearney, Neb., native moved her season goal count to 19. The Bulldogs left no doubt as Savannah Andrews converted a penalty kick goal (12th of the season) in the 24th minute and Sierra Springer parked a shot into the back of the net in the 60th minute.

Those offensive exploits were more than enough on an evening when Doane (3-8-4, 2-6-3 GPAC) had very little going for it on the attack. The Tigers recorded a grand total of four shots (compared to 15 for Concordia). The Bulldogs also owned a 9-0 advantage in corner kicks. An overall solid defensive outing for Concordia kept goalkeeper Bradi Ore clean. She made one save while picking up her sixth shutout of the season.

If the Bulldogs are to hoist a conference championship trophy, it will have to be in the postseason. A team laden with sophomore starters wasn’t necessarily expected to go wire-to-wire with a chance at the league title. Here they are after following the lead of three-time First Team All-GPAC center back Grace Soenksen and GPAC Player of the Year candidate Garner.

“This is a great start,” Smith said. “Coming into preseason, we were picked fifth in conference, but all of the groundwork is here already. We’re a very young team. All but five of our goals have been scored by sophomores and freshmen. We have the pieces here to build the foundation for sustained success for the years to come. We have work to do this year. We’re excited about the tournament and looking to make a run and see how long we can extend our season.”

An assist apiece was credited to Taylor Slaymaker and Shelby Rugg on Wednesday. Contributions were made by many others that weren’t reflected in the stat line. The coaching staff has been consistently high on the work of Niah Kirchner as a defensive midfielder. While Garner steals many of the headlines, Andrews has backed her with the third highest goal total in the GPAC this season.

Concordia will have a bye this weekend as it awaits the results of Saturday’s action from around the GPAC. Official conference tournament pairings will be announced this weekend by the GPAC at the conclusion of all regular season action. As the No. 2 seed in the conference, the Bulldogs will host a GPAC quarterfinal game on Thursday, Nov. 2.