SEWARD, Neb. – A well-played cross from senior Melissa Stine to freshman Jessica Skerston for a 76th-minute goal proved to be all head coach Greg Henson’s Bulldogs would need to claim victory in their 2014 season opener. The Concordia women’s soccer squad moved to 1-0 for the second-straight season by shutting out visiting AIB (Iowa), 1-0, on Friday evening.
“After two weeks of preseason the girls were excited to get out and play an opponent for real,” Henson said. “I thought we did some real nice things early in the game, just being composed and being able to move the ball out of the back at times. There were a lot of positives to take away from the first half.
“We were able to get the goal late in the second half to seal the win.”
While the Eagles limited the Bulldogs to five shots, Concordia capitalized on an opportunity in the 76th minute. That’s when Stine, just outside the 18-yard box, delivered a perfectly-placed cross from left to right to find Skerston near the right post. A record-setting goal scorer at St. Charles’ Lutheran High School, Skerston headed the ball past goalkeeper Kaylin Swart for the game’s only tally.
“There was some miscommunication among their defenders so I ran through the ball and played it to (freshman Esther Soenksen),” Stine said. “She played it right back to me and Jess was there on the cross and she headed it in. It was a really good goal.”
So far so good for senior Rachel Mussell’s transition to center back. She helped sophomore goalkeeper Chrissy Lind keep clean throughout most of the 90 minutes. Lind saved two shots and picked up the fourth shutout of her young collegiate career.
Mussell, the team’s top goal scorer the past two seasons, was flanked in the back by the likes of Kristin Manley and Megan Brunssen.
“Rachel Mussell did a great job in the backfield, leading that,” Henson said. “We talked about that at halftime – that was her first true game as a center back at the college level. Even with her being a cagey veteran, so to speak, she was still kind of a rookie. She did a great job for us.”
Henson liked the way his group of veterans mixed with some of the young starters, three of whom were freshmen. With seniors Katrina Muther and Ashlie Sklenicka sidelined, Henson used only 12 players while relying on 10 of them to play all 90 minutes.
Soenksen was active, getting off three shots. Meanwhile, Jeanelle Condame set up some scoring chances with corner kicks that put AIB in danger on two occasions.
“We’ve got three freshmen that we inserted into the lineup and we expect them to step up and be impact players and I think they proved that tonight,” Henson said. “We’ve got three seniors out there as well that balance that out.”
AIB, a member of the Midwest Collegiate Conference and located in Des Moines, Iowa, outshot Concordia 10-5.
The Bulldogs now look forward to their longest road swing of the season with each of the next six games taking place away from Seward. That stretch begins Wednesday, Sept. 3 when Concordia travels west to play in-state rival Bellevue University at 7 p.m. Last season the Bruins escaped Bulldog Stadium with a 2-1 victory.