SEWARD, Neb. – Something about the pressure of win-or-go-home brings out the best in Concordia women’s soccer. The Bulldogs have advanced to the GPAC title game each of the last two years and have made it to at least the semifinals three years running. Fourth-year head coach Greg Henson’s squad will first have to get past Tuesday’s conference quarterfinal matchup with sixth-seeded Briar Cliff (9-7-1, 5-5 GPAC) if it wants to make a return trip to the championship.
Kickoff from Bulldog Stadium on Tuesday is set for 7 p.m. CT. The contest will be a rematch of the Oct. 22 game in which the Bulldogs used a second half flurry of goals to topple the Chargers, 3-0, in Seward.
Led by freshman Sami Birmingham, Concordia has shown an ability to score goals in bunches. The Bulldogs rank 17th nationally with an average of 3.4 goals per game. During its current five-game win streak, Concordia has outscored opponents by a combined total of 20-1. With two more goals, the 2016 squad would have the second highest single-season goal total in school history. The Bulldogs finished October with a record of 7-1 for the month.
At 12-5-1 overall, Concordia has equaled a program record for the most wins during the regular season. The 2014 group also won 12 regular-season contests before blazing to a GPAC tournament title and national tournament appearance. Under Henson, Concordia is 4-2-2 in conference tournament games. Though officially counted as ties, postseason games that went to penalty kick shootouts in 2013 at Briar Cliff and 2015 at Hastings resulted in Bulldog advancements.
Birmingham’s 16 goals this season put her atop the team leaderboard and at No. 5 among GPAC players. She and Rachael Bolin have teamed up to form a stellar freshman duo up top. Birmingham also has eight assists while Bolin has chipped in nine goals and eight assists of her own. Three other Bulldogs have at least six goals: Jessica Skerston (nine), Esther Soenksen (seven) and Maria Deeter (six).
Concordia also has the advantage of having a battle-tested goalkeeper in senior Chrissy Lind, whose 25 shutouts are a program record. Lind has started all eight GPAC tournament games over the past three seasons. With Lind in goal, the 2014 team allowed just a single goal over its three-game run to the GPAC title.
The winner of Tuesday’s matchup will advance to play in the semifinals on Saturday (see schedule below).
Tuesday, Nov. 1 – Quarterfinals
No. 8 Dordt at No. 1 Hastings, 7 p.m.
No. 5 Northwestern at No. 4 Morningside, 7 p.m.
No. 6 Briar Cliff at No. 3 Concordia, 7 p.m.
No. 7 College of Saint Mary at No. 2 Midland, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 5 – Semifinals
No. 1/8 winner vs. No. 4/5 winner (highest seed hosts)
No. 2/7 winner vs. No. 3/6 winner (highest seed hosts)
Thursday, Nov. 10 – Championship