Nonconference win streak grows to eight in 2-1 win over Graceland

By Jacob Knabel on Aug. 26, 2023 in Women's Soccer

SEWARD, Neb. – They may not have been as crisp as they were three days earlier in their season opener, but the Bulldogs are 2-0. The Concordia University Women’s Soccer team rose to the challenge when visiting Graceland University (Iowa) found the equalizer on Saturday (Aug. 26) evening. A strong response resulted in a 2-1 victory over a Yellowjacket squad that attempted to spoil the home opener. A goal apiece from dynamic sophomores Savannah Andrews and Kierstynn Garner prevented that from happening.

Head Coach Nick Smith’s squad put together an impressive opener at Kansas Wesleyan University on Wednesday. The first-year Bulldog leader may not necessarily call the latest outing a step forward, but Concordia will take the result and learn from it.

“The mark of a championship mentality is getting results when you’re maybe not executing at your top level,” Smith said. “I think that was definitely the case for us tonight. It was a good lesson for our girls. We found a tough opponent tonight in Graceland, who pushed us to the limit. The main moment in the game was after we conceded – less than a minute later we’re down the field and scoring our second goal and ultimately the winner. It’s certainly nice to start the home season off with a win.”

The Bulldogs may have walked away feeling a bit more content had they put one or two more of their 10 shots on goal into the back of the net. Graceland keeper Alexia Johnson made eight saves while keeping her side in it the whole way through. The visitors’ ability to dodge bullets made this contest a very different one than the matchup played last season when Concordia won by a 5-2 score in Lamoni, Iowa. This time around, the Bulldogs had to grit one out.

Things got real tense in the 69th minute when a great ball by Sofia Pietra Martins led Emily Carmen behind Concordia’s back line. Carmen was able to win the battle in a 1v1 with the keeper. The response was what most pleased Smith on this particular night. The Bulldogs cashed in on a set piece less than a minute later. The Kearney, Neb., native Garner tucked the ball just inside the right post (at the top of the 18) via the feed from Hannah Haas.

Andrews and Garner have already combined for five goals over the first two games. The goal for Andrews on Saturday was reminiscent of the one scored later by Garner. Andrews intercepted a ball from a Graceland defender and kept a strike inside the left post while standing on the edge of the 18-yard box. Garner and Andrews were joined in the starting 11 by fellow sophomores Hannah Kile, Niah Kirchner, Shelby Rugg and Elena Ruiz.

Said Andrews of the sophomore group, “I think we’re doing amazing. Since a lot of us started last year, I think we’re connecting very well and building on that connection. I think it’s going to keep going up from there.”

Added Smith, “Obviously the sophomore class is a class that’s pretty special. For Savannah and KG both to get goals in each of the first two games for us is huge. If we’re going to be successful this year, we’re going to need both of them to consistently produce. Each of them scored brilliant goals tonight, really good finishes.”

Concordia finished the 90 minutes with advantages of 14-6 in shots and 6-0 in corners. In goal, junior Angela Banks got the start for the Bulldogs and came up with four saves. The ever reliable Grace Soenksen helped get her side out of trouble on numerous occasions when Graceland did manage to mount a threat. Other starters not previously mentioned were Senna McMullen and Taylor Slaymaker. A total of 16 Concordia players saw action.

The next three outings will also be staged inside Bulldog Stadium as Concordia shifts its focus to Wednesday’s clash with in-state York University. Though separated by roughly 30 minutes, the two sides have not played since the Bulldogs won the 2017 meeting by a 5-1 count. Game time on Wednesday is set for 8 p.m. CT.