SEWARD, Neb. – Thanks to a heart-pumping penalty-kick shootout victory over top-seeded Hastings in Tuesday’s GPAC semifinals, the Concordia University women’s soccer team is headed to the conference championship game for the second-straight season. Third-year head coach Greg Henson’s program will attempt to defend its 2014 GPAC tournament title when it takes the field at Morningside for a 7 p.m. kickoff in Sioux City, Iowa, on Friday.
The Bulldogs extended their unbeaten streak to six games (5-0-1) with Tuesday’s result at Hastings. It marked the second-consecutive year that Concordia has celebrated after a tight tournament battle at Lloyd Wilson Stadium. Sophomore Esther Soenksen clinched the PK shootout by slotting the ball inside the right post, past a diving Anna Stewart in goal.
Concordia has put together two unbeaten streaks of six games or more versus GPAC opponents over the past two seasons. The 2014 squad went 9-0-4 against conference opponents. This year’s squad pushed the 13-game streak to 14 with a tie in its 2015 conference opener. Over the past two years, Concordia is 16-4-6 versus GPAC opponents.
The offensive star so far this postseason has been freshman midfielder Maria Deeter, who has three goals and an assist during the team’s run to the GPAC championship contest. The Seward native was named the conference offensive player of the week on Tuesday. After Hastings took a 1-0 lead in the 70th minute, Deeter quickly equalized with a score in the 76th minute and later converted the Bulldogs’ fourth penalty kick in the shootout. Deeter also notched a pair of goals in last week’s 4-0 quarterfinal win at Briar Cliff.
Dating back to last season, Concordia is unbeaten in its last five GPAC postseason games and has advanced to at least the conference semifinal round in each of the past three seasons. That run includes a shootout win and a regulation victory over the powerhouse Broncos. The Bulldogs have outscore their opponents by a combined total of 10-2 in GPAC tournament contests over the last two years.
Meanwhile, Morningside is making its second GPAC title game appearance in three years. The Mustangs fell by a 2-1 score at the hands of Hastings in the 2013 conference championship tilt played in Sioux City, Iowa. Morningside has rebounded in 2015 after finishing 5-12-2 overall in 2014. The GPAC’s highest scoring team (2.70 goals per game), the Mustangs are led by a dangerous goal scorer in Amy Samuelson (17 goals).
Morningside has reached the championship game with 2-1 wins over Nebraska Wesleyan (quarterfinals) and Northwestern (semifinals). The Mustangs came back from a 1-0 deficit in both games.
Samuelson recorded the only goal in Morningside’s 1-0 regular-season win over Concordia on Oct. 10. At the time, the Bulldogs were ranked No. 23 in the NAIA.
With one more victory, Greg Henson (37-17-8), will equal William Schranz (38-53-1) as the winningest coach in program history. Henson has presided over the most successful three-year run for Bulldog women’s soccer, which began in 1996. The 2014 squad became the first in school history to advance to the national tournament or receive a national ranking.
The winner of Friday’s game will receive an automatic berth to the NAIA national tournament opening round, which will be played at campus sites on Saturday, Nov. 21.
Morningside College TV will air a live webcast of Friday’s match. Click HERE at game time to stream it on your device.