Soenksen honored as GPAC Defensive Player of the Year; five Bulldogs named to first team

By Jacob Knabel on Nov. 13, 2023 in Women's Soccer

2023 All-GPAC Women’s Soccer Teams

First Team: Savannah Andrews; Kierstynn Garner; Hannah Kile; Niah Kirchner; Grace Soenksen.
Second Team: Sierra Springer.
Honorable Mention: Bradi Ore; Taylor Slaymaker.

SEWARD, Neb. – A strong 2023 season for Concordia University Women’s Soccer led to five Bulldogs landing on the Great Plains Athletic Conference first team. As one of the first team selections, five-year star Grace Soenksen earned recognition as the 2023 GPAC Defensive Player of the Year. She’s the first player to garner such recognition since Lindsey Carley in 2017. Soenksen was joined with first team accolades by four sophomore teammates: midfielder Savannah Andrews, forward Kierstynn Garner, defender Hannah Kile and midfielder Niah Kirchner.

Head Coach Nick Smith’s GPAC regular season runner up squad also placed sophomore forward Sierra Springer on the GPAC’s second team while honorable mention accolades went to senior goalkeeper Bradi Ore and junior defender Taylor Slaymaker. The first team all-conference selections tie a program record (also achieved in 2018).

Soenksen will go down as one of the all-time greats in the history of the program. The Lincoln Lutheran High School alum played in 92 games over her five collegiate seasons and led the 2020 squad to a GPAC tournament title. Soenksen has done something no other Bulldog ever has – earn four first team all-conference awards. Soenksen has garnered such recognition while holding down a spot at center back throughout her career. This past season, Soenksen served as a major reason why Concordia limited its foes to 16 goals over 20 games. Soenksen contributed six goals over the course of her impressive career.

A Gretna, Neb., native, Andrews enjoyed a breakthrough second collegiate season. She tallied 13 goals and four assists in amassing 30 points (second most on the team). Andrews posted multiple goals in three games, including her four-goal performance in the 8-1 win over Mount Marty. Andrews played in 19 games and made 18 starts in 2023. She played in 15 games and tallied four goals as a freshman in 2022.

A strong candidate for GPAC Offensive Player of the Year honors, Garner led the GPAC in goals scored during the regular season with 19. That total represents the highest goal output for a Concordia player since Sami Birmingham notched 20 goals in 2016. “KG” recorded multiple goals in seven games in 2023 and chipped in with four assists this fall. She found the back of the net three times in the 6-1 win at Dakota Wesleyan. The Kearney, Neb., native moved from up to the GPAC’s first team in 2023 after earning second team honors in 2022. Over 38 career collegiate games, Garner has tallied 27 goals and five assists. Twelve of her goals have gone down as game winners.

Kile has been a key cog in the backline along with Soenksen. A Lincoln native and Raymond Central High School alum, Kile has started each of the first 38 games of her collegiate career. She posted a pair of goals in 2023. More significantly, Kile helped the Bulldogs rank third in the GPAC for goals against average (0.80).

The Millard West High School product Kirchner has been a force as a defensive midfielder while starting as both a freshman and sophomore. The Omaha native notched one goal and two assists this fall. As a freshman, Kirchner tallied three goals and four assists. She’s an unsung hero for her work in the middle of the park.

As a sophomore, Springer (Valparaiso, Neb.) took on a much larger role, as compared to her freshman season when she appeared in eight games. Springer earned a starting position this fall and took advantage as she totaled five goals and five assists while racking up 15 points (third most on the team). In back-to-back games in mid-September, Springer notched one goal and two assists versus both Nebraska Wesleyan and Mount Marty.

A native of Keller, Texas, native, Ore took over the starting job at keeper in 2023 and started 17 of 20 games. She held down the keeper spot for 1,440 minutes and posted a .790 save percentage and 0.81 goals against average. Ore went 11-3-3 as the keeper and recorded six shutouts. She made 49 saves. Ore plans to return in 2024 for a fifth year inside the program.

The Kearney High School alum Slaymaker effectively returned from the injury that sidelined her in 2022 and reclaimed a starting role. She started all 20 games as a defender in teaming up with the likes of Kile and Soenksen on a stellar back line. Slaymaker assisted on a goal while providing a steadying presence throughout the 2023 campaign.

Coach Smith’s squad went 13-4-3 overall in 2023 and reached the semifinals of the GPAC tournament. Smith is optimistic about the future for the Bulldogs, who got 47 of their 51 goals from freshmen or sophomores this fall.