By Jake Knabel, Sports Information Director
SEWARD, Neb. – Look no further than the team’s three captains (all seniors-to-be) for evidence of the game of musical chairs taking place within the Concordia women’s soccer program. Of those three, two (Katrina Muther and Marcie Sindt) are returning from injuries that sidelined them for varying portions of the 2013 season, and one (Rachel Mussell) has made a surprising position change this spring.
The adjustments are all part of the growing process as head coach Greg Henson continues to mold the program following his first season – a 9-9-2 campaign – at the helm.
“We’ve got 19 players in for the spring – three goalkeepers and two that are recovering from ACL injuries that are not participating,” Henson said. “So that gives us 14 field players eligible to play. Sometimes you have to shuffle things around a little bit.”
The shuffling is also part of an effort to replace graduating seniors Jordan Donohoue and Emily Fleming, who both played in 72 of the program’s 74 games over the last four seasons. The two were a steady force in the back, helping the Bulldogs set a school record in 2013 for fewest goals allowed in a season (27).
“You’re not going to replace a Jordan Donohoue and Emily Fleming with one particular freshman coming in,” Henson said. “Those are players that have been constants and mainstays in the women’s soccer program over the last four years. Jordan and Flem are synonymous with the program so it’s going to be tough to replace them.”
Thankfully Sindt, a native of Scottsbluff, Neb., is healthy and ready to take on a starring role in either the midfield or backfield. She’s been a full participant in spring practice following a 2013 season in which an ACL tear held her out of 17 of the team’s 20 games.
Henson expects a significant boost from her return to the pitch.
“She’s back, she’s practicing with us and she’s looking great,” Henson said. “She’s going to be a big benefit to us in the fall. It’s almost like she’s part of the recruiting class coming in.”
The other big storyline this spring is Mussell’s transformation from striker to center back. Over the last two season’s Mussell has totaled 23 goals – fifth most among all GPAC players. As a sophomore she busted out with 14 goals to rank second in the conference.
Henson acknowledges there is risk in making the switch with Mussell, but the whole thing could still be scrapped if needed. Yet so far this spring Mussell has looked comfortable in the back, along with Muther (also making a transition).
“It’s a testament to her character and her desire for the team to do well,” Henson said of Mussell. “She’s accepted the move and is doing a great job back there. I talked to her about it now that we’ve played three (spring) games and asked her how center back is going. She said she loved it. She’s willing to do whatever it takes to win games. It’s going to be a move that we’re looking at to potentially stick for the fall.”
For that move to work out, Concordia will need increased offensive punch from forwards Ashlie Sklenicka (seven goals in 2013) and Melissa Stine (three goals) and perhaps a breakout season from someone like sophomore-to-be Jordan McCoy.
In goal, Chrissy Lind continues to look like a solid option. She started 14 games last season on the heels of being a passenger in a tragic car accident last summer. Lind will be pushed for playing time by Elyse Muhle and Taylor Wolf.
Lind and the retooled backline have been a plus so far this spring in scrimmages with the University of Nebraska-Kearney, Morningside and Midland. With the adjustments that come with a first-year coach out of the way, the comfort level is on the rise for both coaching staff and players.
“I think the biggest takeaway for myself and the coaching staff (this spring) is the composure and confidence that we’re seeing,” Henson said. “It looks like a different team than the fall. Obviously you have some different components and parts but just the way the team carries itself overall is a confident look. They are getting more and more comfortable in the system and what we’re asking them to do.”