SEWARD, Neb. – It’s all a competitor could want – to enter the final week of the regular season with a chance to at least share a conference championship. Winner of the 2017 GPAC regular-season title, the Concordia University women’s soccer team hopes to defend it this week. The Bulldogs have a showdown at No. 20 Midland coming up on Wednesday before they host Briar Cliff on Saturday.
Wednesday, Oct. 24 at No. 20 Midland (11-1-2, 8-0-2), 5 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 27 vs. Briar Cliff (8-7-1, 7-3), 1 p.m.
Sixth-year head coach Greg Henson’s squad finds itself in another battle with Hastings and Midland in a three-way deadlock atop the GPAC standings. The Bulldogs (11-1-4, 8-0-2 GPAC) managed to extend their GPAC regular-season unbeaten streak to 25 (22-0-3) last week with a 12-0 win at Mount Marty and a 1-1 double overtime draw at Jamestown. However, the tie meant that Concordia lost its grip on sole possession of first place. The Bulldogs could still earn the No. 1 seed in the GPAC tournament (which comes with an automatic bid to nationals), but they likely have to win twice this week to claim it.
By many measures, the 2018 Concordia team rivals the accomplished squads in recent years as one of the best in program history. With 13 goals scored last week, the Bulldogs ran their season count to 60 (third most in a season in school history). Individually, senior Lauren Martin broke the program’s single-season standard for assists by recording her 15th and 16th of the year in the win at Mount Marty. Also in the victory, senior Maria Deeter (37 career goals) moved within one goal of the No. 5 ranking on the program’s all-time goal scoring list. Deeter ranks third among GPAC players with 14 goals this season while junior Brynn Suddeth is sixth on that same list with 12 goals.
Unfortunately, Concordia may have to make its conference title push without the services of Deeter, who left the game at Jamestown with an injury. Those big shoes would likely be filled by freshman Madeline Haugen. On the plus side, the Bulldogs have a strong midfield with the likes of Mikeila Martinez and Michaela Twito working in those roles. Becky Freeman (seven goals) is someone who can help replace the potential lost production offensively.
The attacking duo of PT Perez (13 goals) and Nayeli Rodriguez (15 goals) makes Midland one of the conference’s most dangerous offensive teams. However, the Warriors are most adept at stifling their opponents. They rank sixth nationally in terms of fewest goals allowed per game (0.43). Hastings is the only GPAC team that has managed to score on Midland, which features goalkeeper Rachel Thigpen (ranked eighth nationally in goals allowed per game). Briar Cliff just dropped a 1-0 decision at Midland. The Chargers have vastly improved upon their 4-6-1 GPAC mark in 2017.
Concordia has already clinched a spot in the GPAC tournament, which will begin with the quarterfinal round next Wednesday (Oct. 31). The conference semifinals are set for Nov. 3 with the championship game to follow on Nov. 8.