Mussell’s career day not enough

SEWARD, Neb. – Sophomore Rachel Mussell lit up the back of the net early and often Thursday night, but the Buffalo, Minn., native’s three goals were not enough as visiting University of Nebraska-Kearney came away with a 5-4 victory at Bulldog Stadium. Concordia dropped to 0-2-0 with the Lopers spoiling the team’s home opener.

Mussell’s second goal, which came at the 69:24 mark in the game, brought the Bulldogs back to a 3-3 tie after UNK dominated for the better part of the first period. The Lopers held an 18-5 edge in shots in the first stanza and appeared to be the more aggressive team. But Concordia defender Kyleah Bowder, who missed most of the first period with an injury, and company came back strong in the second period.

“That’s the response I expect from everyone in our program,” Bulldog head coach Lisa White said. “I think for our new kids, they’re learning very quickly that we never quit, we never stop. We will grind things out, and that’s something as a coach that I’m ecstatic about. I love seeing that in them. I love seeing the resolve in them.”

UNK’s Delanie Phillips knocked in her first goal of the game with 11:42 remaining in the contest prior to Kirsti Rehler’s back-breaking strike that put the Lopers ahead 5-3 with only 2:50 left.

Mussell completed the hat trick by pushing it past UNK goalkeeper Marissa Niday with just 1:31 to go, but Concordia failed to threaten in the final minute-and-a-half as time ran out.

Mussell’s trifecta of goals surpassed her season total of two goals as a freshman. On Thursday, the 5-foot-8 midfielder stole the show.

“She’s so effective and consistent, and so coachable,” White said. “She’s a phenomenal teammate, and you can’t ask for a kid to do more. She will keep trying and keep trying. I’m glad she’s seeing some rewards for those really hard efforts and sticking to what we’re asking her to do.”

The Lopers, an NCAA Division II school out of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, peppered Concordia keeper Elyse Muhle with 24 shots, including 12 on goal in the affair. Muhle, a freshman from Richland, Neb., made seven saves and looked more comfortable in the second period with the help of a more focused defensive effort.

Sophomore forward Ashtin Pawloski led UNK with a pair of goals, both of which came in the first period. Concordia sophomore Melissa Stine added the other goal for the Bulldogs.

Concordia will return to action Sept. 5 when it plays at Bellevue at 6 p.m.