Season's first shutout victory claimed in renewal of rivalry with York

By Jacob Knabel on Aug. 30, 2023 in Women's Soccer

HIGHLIGHT: Savannah Andrews’ game-winning goal

SEWARD, Neb. – The first Concordia-York women’s soccer matchup since 2017 became a physical grinder inside Bulldog Stadium. Ultimately, it came down to a goal from GPAC Offensive Player of the Week Savannah Andrews in the 60th minute on Wednesday (Aug. 30) night. Concordia University Women’s Soccer rode that strike out for a 1-0 victory and its first shutout of the 2023 season.

Head Coach Nick Smith’s squad has run its record to 3-0 while extending the program’s nonconference winning streak to nine. Previous victories this August have come over Kansas Wesleyan University and Graceland University (Iowa).

“This was a good, gritty performance by our team,” Smith said. “We were pushed pretty hard tonight by a very organized, defensive-minded York team. It made it difficult for us to create too many opportunities, but we continued to work on the ball and focus on the things we want to have as part of our game, which is finding the short passes. Luckily for us, Savannah found her fourth goal in three games. She’s off to a great start for us.”

The ball mostly lived on the Bulldog attacking half on an evening when the opportunities for York University were limited. That was simply part of the game plan for the scrappy Panthers, who made it known they were not going to get pushed around. Neither team had registered a single shot by the midway point of the first half. That made it a midfielder’s delight, spotlighting the likes of Niah Kirchner, Elena Ruiz and even Grace Soenksen, who has moved up from the back line in certain situations.

At long last, the jitterbug quickness of Kierstynn Garner resulted in the game’s lone goal. Garner outhustled a York player up the field and delivered a cross to Andrews, who poked a left-footed one-timer inside the right post. It won’t be the last time that combination burns the opposition.

There was nothing easy about a victory that moved Concordia’s record to 26-0 all-time against the neighbors 30 minutes to the west. The Bulldogs were able to more effectively match York’s work rate over the final 45 minutes compared to the first 45.

“Sometimes it’s just fun to get aggressive and get the ball back on the ground,” Kirchner said. “I think we’re a lot more confident this year. We’re more settled on the ball and finding each other’s feet. We’re connecting a lot better.”

Concordia finished with a 9-4 advantage in shots. Seven of the Bulldog shots came via the dynamic combination of Andrews and Garner. In goal, Bradi Ore made her second start, collected two saves and earned credit for a shutout. A total of 15 Concordia players saw action. Among the reserves, returners Emily Howard, Sierra Springer and Ashlee Trujillo continue to get more confident in larger roles.

The encouraging part right now for the Bulldogs is that they are winning games while still not having yet reached their full potential. In the eyes of Smith, this was a step forward from the performance from four days earlier in the 2-1 win over Graceland.

Said Smith of what improved, “Definitely our composure and patience in possession. York was happy to concede possession at times to us tonight, but we took that possession really well. We were able to move the ball from side to side. It’s now about figuring out what that looks like for us to go forward on the final passes and beat our opponents vertically. We were close to connecting quite a few tonight.”

The homestand will continue on Saturday when the Bulldogs will welcome Tabor College (Kan.) to Seward for another 8 p.m. CT kickoff. Concordia emerged from Hillsboro, Kan., with a 1-0 victory over the Bluejays in the 2022 matchup between the two sides. Tabor finished the 2022 season at 7-8-4 overall and is 0-2 to begin 2023.