By Jake Knabel, Director of Athletic Communications
SEWARD, Neb. – Following a GPAC tournament title and run to the national tournament in 2014, the Concordia University women’s soccer program began life this spring without an important group of seniors. Head coach Greg Henson said goodbye to all-conference performers in Rachel Mussell, Marcie Sindt and Melissa Stine.
Despite the graduation of several key seniors, Concordia will return 65.8 percent of its goal scoring from a 2014 team that broke the program wins record by going 15-3-4 overall.
“Every spring and every season you have to create a new identity,” Henson said. “We want to continue to build off our success from the fall and give some of the younger players a chance to position themselves to win jobs for next fall. It was an opportunity this spring for a lot of younger players to get some quality minutes. I think we came a long way over the course of the offseason from January through April.”
In Concordia’s thrilling undefeated ride against GPAC competition (9-0-4 versus the GPAC) seniors showed the way, but freshmen Jeannelle Condame, Jessica Skerston (17 goals) and Esther Soenksen combined to make 82 starts and score 24 goals in 2014. That trio represents a major part of the nucleus along with school record-setting junior-to-be in goalkeeper Chrissy Lind.
Henson expects each of them to make gains heading into the fall. He will also look for leadership from senior-to-be Madison Hawkins and Katrina Muther, who is likely to return to the team for her fifth year at Concordia.
There were bright spots and growing pains in Concordia’s five-game spring schedule that included three matches with NCAA Division II teams. The process of replacing Mussell and Sindt as center backs is ongoing.
“We graduated two all-conference center backs from last fall,” Henson said. “That’s a main area that we have to address. We did that in the spring and that will be one of our first areas we look at going into the fall. Other than that I don’t think there will be too many big shake ups or surprises like we had last year. We just want to put together a good strong group of players that want to compete. We want to again be defensively strong and get forward and hopefully have a few more attacking pieces within the program.”
Henson and his players have already talked about following up the most successful season in the 20 years of Concordia women’s soccer. He doesn’t believe his team will feel pressure to duplicate 2014. At the same time, Henson aspires to maintain a program that competes for GPAC titles and return trips to nationals.
This spring simply indicates that there’s work to do to get back to that level. The arrival of the 2015 recruiting class, headlined by Seward native Maria Deeter, will provide an influx of talent for an already healthy and confident program. But the spring season won’t answer the question of whether a more youthful roster can come together in time to make another impressive run through the GPAC.
“We’ve talked about what we want to accomplish as a program,” Henson said. “The goals haven’t changed even going into year three. The goal the first year I arrived was to get to the national tournament. We achieved that goal last fall. The goals don’t really change. Our players understand now what it takes to get there and what they’re going to have to do this offseason over the summer.”