SEWARD, Neb. – There would be no first game jitters this time around. Junior captain Maria Deeter made sure of it. She recorded her first career hat trick while leading the Concordia University women’s soccer team to a 5-1 win over visiting Avila University on Saturday afternoon. In the process, the Bulldogs exacted revenge for a 2-0 defeat that came at the hands of the Eagles in the 2016 season opener.
Deeter headlined the efforts of a squad that looks every bit as talented as the editions that captured GPAC tournament titles in 2014 and 2016. There were plenty of other contributors. Freshman Kaitlyn Radebaugh and senior Esther Soenksen notched a goal apiece and Taylor Roby, one of the most pleasant surprises of preseason camp, looked comfortable at her right back position.
“There was definitely some redemption. We knew we didn’t play well last year,” Deeter said. “We wanted to come out and make a statement the first game of the year.”
Roby’s hustle played a significant role in the game’s first goal. She chased down the ball just before it bounded out of play and delivered it into the box. Sami Birmingham’s ensuing shot went off the crossbar and fell right at the feet of Deeter, who tapped in for goal No. 1 of the day. She was just getting started.
Roby played a similar role in Deeter’s second goal. A cross into the box found Deeter, who slotted the ball to the right of the keeper. Roby also placed a corner kick into the box that resulted in a Deeter header that nearly gave the Seward native a hat trick in the first half. Goal No. 3 for Deeter capped the game’s scoring in the 55th minute. It was her first hat trick since her days at Lincoln Lutheran High School.
“Some days you just have good days and you get the ball rolling and the ball falls your way,” Deeter said. “I was fortunate enough to get some great flicks and touches in the box and put them in the back of the net.”
Avila got its goal on a tremendous individual effort by Autumn Saulsbury, who expertly lofted a shot that she just tucked inside the left post following an extended run in the 26th minute. It was one of the few threats at goalkeeper Jessica Knedler, who made two saves. Knedler got the call in goal in place of accomplished keeper Chrissy Lind, who completed her career last season. Knedler was kept clean for the most part. Concordia outshot Avila, 26-6.
Fifth-year head coach Greg Henson used a startling lineup with three freshmen: Chelsea Bright, Victoria Cera and Jennika Chapman. Rookies Carrie Black, Radebaugh, Michaela Twito and Sarah Wuthrich all saw action off the bench. Cera’s ability as a holding midfielder will free up Deeter to go on the attack, just as Bulldog fans saw on Saturday.
The Bulldogs will be back at home on Tuesday to host York College. Kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m. CT from Bulldog Stadium. Concordia thumped the Panthers, 6-0, in the third game of the 2016 season.