Dawgs put Coyotes on heels, strike early and often in season opener

By Jacob Knabel on Aug. 23, 2023 in Women's Soccer

SALINA, Kan. – Amidst excessive heat warnings sweeping the plains, the Concordia University Women’s Soccer team opened the 2023 campaign in impressive fashion. The Bulldogs had the host Coyotes on their heels for much of the night in what amounted to a 4-1 victory for the visitors on Wednesday (Aug. 23). Concordia held the advantage for the remainder of the night once Savannah Andrews found the back of the net in the fourth minute.

This marked head coaching victory No. 1 for Nick Smith, who made his Bulldog debut. Coaches are always looking for improvement, but Smith could not have asked for a much better result while up against a foe picked second in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference preseason poll.

“Coming in, I still had some questions about depth,” Smith said. “We were complete tonight. When we made changes and brought players off the bench, the level really never dropped, which is really pleasing for me. If we can be a roster with 18, 19 or 20 deep, we can compete with most. In terms of the play, the parts that were really nice to see is we got the ball down and we controlled it. We were the team that was setting the pace and the tempo of the game. When we found areas we could exploit, we went for the attack.”

The class of super sophomores took on six of the starting roles in the opener as Concordia looked the part of a squad pegged for a top-five GPAC finish. All four goals were delivered by sophomores while the Gretna, Neb., native Andrews put away two – one apiece in the fourth and 61st minutes. Elena Ruiz added a goal in the 16th minute and 2022 leading goal scorer Kierstynn Garner put an exclamation mark on the evening with a scramble goal in the 63rd minute.

On the back line, fifth-year Bulldog Grace Soenksen is the anchor for an overall youthful roster. Soenksen appeared in the 73rd game of her career and helped limit Kansas Wesleyan to four shots on goal. Also along that back line, Taylor Slaymaker returned from the injury she suffered early last season and reclaimed a starting role. Concordia owned advantages in shots, 12-6, and corners, 6-2. The Coyotes cashed in a free kick in the 17th minute for their one goal. Graciela Lopez tapped in past a drawn-out keeper.

There may have been a couple miscues to learn from, but Concordia showed the offensive firepower it hoped to add to the program’s well-earned identity as a rugged defensive outfit. The second goal of the night stood out in the way the Bulldogs executed a corner. Hannah Haas lofted the ball into the box, where Soenksen sent a header to Ruiz, who tucked it inside the right post. As for Andrews, she recorded the first multi-goal game of her career while hinting at more fine moments to come. An assist was credited to freshman Sadie Mares on one of Andrews’ goals. On the other end of the field, Bradi Ore started and played all 90 minutes at keeper in picking up a win. She made a pair of saves.

Smith liked how his team responded after conceding KWU’s one goal. Said Smith, “A big part of that is having the mental strength to get through the tough moments. We’re up 2-0, but we concede a goal almost immediately, and our reaction was tremendous. Coming out of halftime, we scored twice in the opening 15 minutes and that set the tone for the rest of the game.”

Concordia has won seven consecutive games over nonconference opponents dating back to last season. The Bulldogs earned a victory over Kansas Wesleyan for the first time since 2004 when the matchup was contested in Seward.

Concordia will host its home opener on Saturday when Graceland University (Iowa) pays a visit to Bulldog Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 7:15 p.m. CT. The Bulldogs routed the Yellowjackets last season, 5-2, in a trip to Lamoni, Iowa. The two sides are 2-2 against each other all-time.