SEWARD, Neb. – Visiting Bellevue University held the lead for almost 70 minutes of action on the way to a 2-1 victory over Concordia inside Bulldog Stadium on Wednesday night. Bookend goals early and late in the contest made the difference for a Bruin squad that had received votes in the preseason NAIA top 25 poll.
“We were off to a little bit of a sluggish start,” Bulldog head coach Greg Henson said. “We gave up a foul right around midfield. They took a free kick. We weren’t ready for it – we weren’t organized – and they took advantage of it. Bellevue’s a good team and if you give them an opening, they’re going to finish.
“I thought we battled back well. I thought we played very well through the end of the first half and through the end of the second half.”
The Bulldogs (3-3) knotted the match up at one goal apiece with just over 24 minutes to play when junior Melissa Stine lofted a shot over the head of Bruin goalkeeper Sammy Sinecio from about 25 yards out. That gave Stine her first goal of the season and made her the eighth different Bulldog to score this season.
The Bruins (2-3-3) got on the scoreboard immediately with Mercy Darkoah’s goal after only 1:08 elapsed. For Darkoah it was her team-leading fourth goal of the season, but she wasn’t done yet. Her score with 2:31 left in the game lifted the Bruins to the road victory.
“We were attacking, they countered us and were able to break our back for the game-winning goal,” Henson said.
One of the Bulldogs’ best opportunities to tie the score prior to Stine’s goal came with just under 27 minutes left in the game. Junior Rachel Mussell’s corner kick found senior Emily Fleming, who headed the ball off the post. Concordia then controlled the rebound, allowing freshman Jordan McCoy to fire off a shot off the post.
Henson switched keepers after the halftime break, going with freshman Chrissy Lind for the final 45 minutes. Sophomore Elyse Muhle has started each of the team’s first six contests in goal. Both Lind and Muhle will compete for playing time throughout the season.
Lind, a native of Colorado Springs, Colo., helped her cause with a beautiful save with roughly 11 minutes remaining in the game. She dove to her left to deny a strong strike from the Bruins’ Yaritza Estrada, preserving a 1-1 tie at the time. Lind finished with five saves.
Bellevue ended up with a shot advantage of 12-9 and a shots-on-goal edge of 9-4. For Concordia, the 1-0 halftime deficit marked the first time this season that the Bulldogs trailed after 45 minutes of play.
Concordia will kick off the 2013 GPAC slate on Saturday when Mount Marty comes to town for a 1 p.m. contest. Last season Concordia edged the Lancers, 2-1, in the only meeting between the two sides.
Henson says that now is the time to step up and accelerate the learning curve heading into the most important part of the schedule.
“I told the girls after that game that we’ve had a lot of learning examples and opportunities throughout the course of the nonconference season,” Henson said. “The lessons have to stop now. Now that we’re getting into conference play on Saturday, we’ve got to start winning these games and not having these good lessons to learn.”