Season ends in tight loss at Doane

CRETE, Neb. – Tuesday’s GPAC soccer quarterfinal contrasted starkly from the Bulldogs’ previous meeting with Doane on Oct. 23 when the Tigers dominated in a 5-0 victory. With a trip to the GPAC semifinals on the line, seventh-seeded Concordia held the powerful attack of second-seeded Doane in check until a Mia Juarez second half goal sparked a 2-1 Tiger win.

“I think we were much more organized (Tuesday),” Bulldog head coach Lisa White said. “We really only had one practice in between Saturday and tonight, and we kept it very simple. We just encouraged them to stay patient and calm.”

After going scoreless the past two games, Bulldog sophomore forward Rachel Mussell tallied her 14th goal of the season to give Concordia life with 14:10 to play in the game. Mussell skillfully maneuvered around drawn out Tiger keeper Kelsey Stark and tapped into the unprotected net.

Mussell hoped for an opportunity with just over four minutes left in the game when she found herself all alone on the left side of the field just outside the 18-yard box. However, Doane’s defense thwarted a pass directed towards Mussell and prevented any clean looks as the final minutes ticked away.

Doane freshman forward Sara Cushing, who went for a hat trick against Concordia a week ago, failed to score on Tuesday but still played a big role in the Tiger attack. She facilitated the offense beautifully, perfectly executing passes to set up both Doane goals – one by Juarez in the 58th minute and one by Morgan Karloff in the 73rd minute.

While the Tigers (12-5, 7-3 GPAC) held a 27-12 advantage in shots, the Bulldogs (6-9-1, 4-5-1 GPAC) improved drastically compared to the blowout losses they suffered in their previous two games. A key adjustment allowed Concordia to compete with the GPAC’s highest scoring team.

“We beefed up the middle a little by putting Marcie (Sindt) into that central holding role,” White said. “She’s a physical player and she reads the game well. She doesn’t stop. She’ll fight all day for her teammates. That helped us a lot to slow down their attacks and stall them a lot of times.”

Added junior defender Emily Fleming, “A week ago we weren’t finding a rhythm. Everything was right there, we just hadn’t been able to put the ball in the net. This game we changed up our formation to match up with theirs and it flowed a lot better.”

Concordia junior goalkeeper Jessica Clifford also had a big night with a team season high 13 saves, including a difficult one in the second minute that allowed the Bulldogs to narrowly avoid falling behind early.

Concordia had hoped to advance to the semifinals for the second-straight season after topping Dakota Wesleyan 4-3 on penalty kicks following a 1-1 draw in a two-overtime contest in last year’s quarterfinal match.

With just two seniors on this season’s roster – defender Kyleah Bowder and midfielder Kelsie Elder – the Bulldogs will return plenty of key components in 2013. Mussell, who finished second in the GPAC in goals, and the likes of Jordan Donohoue, Fleming and others should make for a formidable squad.

“We’re going to have a lot of strong people coming back,” Fleming said. “You can’t replace the girls that are going. We’re really going to miss them. I’m going to miss them a lot, but we’re looking forward to next year too.”