SEWARD, Neb. – It’s like they’d been there before. The Concordia University women’s soccer team never flinched after conceding a ninth-minute goal in Tuesday’s GPAC quarterfinal tilt that resulted in a 5-1 victory over visiting and sixth-seeded Briar Cliff. The Chargers were the latest to run into a surging offensive force.
The Bulldogs have now advanced past the conference quarterfinal round for the fourth-straight season while under the guidance of fourth-year head coach Greg Henson. Third-seeded Concordia (13-5-1) will travel to Fremont on Saturday to take on second-seeded Midland (15-4) in the conference semifinals. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. CT.
“It’s really a matter of us settling in and not hitting the panic button,” Henson said. “There was a lot of time on the clock (after Briar Cliff took the early lead). You just have to continue to play. We know the goals are going to come. Off the corning kicks we were dangerous tonight.”
Riding a six-game win streak after Tuesday’s result, the Bulldogs have been a ticking time bomb of late. When one goal goes up on the board, the floodgates open. All it took on this night was for a Jeannelle Condame corner to find Jessica Skerston in the box for an equalizing header goal in the 15th minute.
Roughly 64 minutes later, Skerston helped put the finishing touches on the fifth GPAC postseason win during Henson’s tenure. Skerston’s penalty kick goal in the 79th minute gave her seven goals over her last four games.
The game winner was recorded by budding freshman Sami Birmingham, who netted a right place, right time goal to give the Bulldogs the lead in the 32nd minute. A deflected strike by Esther Soenksen fell in front of Birmingham, who drilled her then team leading 17th goal of the season. She wasn’t done just yet. She tacked on her 18th score with the final goal of the night, which occurred in the 87th minute.
Steadying sophomore midfielder Maria Deeter, one of three team captains, also joined the fun with a goal that was assisted by Jordan McCoy in the 71st minute. Four of Deeter’s 13 career goals have come during GPAC postseason play.
“There’s a lot of confidence on our team,” Deeter said. “This year we’ve found ourselves giving up silly goals and digging a hole, but we’re pretty composed. We know that we have the firepower up top to get goals back so we don’t get too frazzled.”
The senior class, which includes the likes of Kristin Manley, McCoy and record breaking goalkeeper Chrissy Lind, has now won 50 games over four years as Bulldogs. However, none of the previous teams the seniors have been part of have possessed this kind of offensive prowess. The 63 goals scored by the 2016 team are the second most in a single season in program history.
Now Concordia gets ready to face the most recent team to defeat it. The Bulldogs and Warriors met in Seward on Oct. 12 when Midland came away with a 3-1 victory. The Warriors have been just as hot as Concordia. They defeated seventh-seeded College of Saint Mary, 2-0, on Tuesday and pushed their winning streak to seven.
“Midland’s a good team,” Henson said. “They’ve got a couple really dangerous players of their own that we have to contain better. It was the supporting cast that beat us in the first go round. We’re a much better team right now. I told the team after the game – we’re a better team today than the last time we faced them.”
All of the top seeds held serve on their home fields in Tuesday’s quarterfinal games. On the other side of the bracket, top-seeded Hastings, ranked 10th nationally, will host fourth-seeded Morningside. Semifinal winners will meet in the GPAC championship on Thursday, Nov. 10.