Photo description: Sophomore Kierstynn Garner races a defender up the field on way toward the goal
Photo credit: Josiah Seabaugh
In one of the more evenly-matched Great Plains Athletic Conference contests of the season, the high-flying Bulldog offense tied the stifling Midland Warriors defense 1-1 Wednesday night at Bulldog stadium.
Both squads came into the night with similar stats and stakes. The Bulldogs, boasting one of the more prolific offenses in the GPAC, entered the Sept. 27 matchup having scored 16 goals in their past four games, all of which resulted in Concordia victories. On the other half of the pitch were the Midland Warriors, on a four-game win streak themselves. Over their past four games, which consisted of three shutouts, the unit had only allowed two goals to score. Both teams were undefeated in GPAC play before the match, and both moved to 3-0-1 following.
After the first touch, both squads maintained a healthy back-and-forth, exchanging both possession and shots on goal at a similar clip. As the minutes wore on however, the Bulldogs began to pull away offensively, controlling the ball for a majority of the time and keeping the opposing keeper, Hannah Killison, constantly on her toes.
Most prominent among the Bulldogs, hounding the Warrior backline, was sophomore forward Kierstynn Garner. Along with death and taxes, Kierstynn Garner getting the edge on a left back and creating shots for herself and her teammates seems to be one of life’s constants, a lesson the Warriors quickly learned.
In the first half, the Bulldogs outshot Midland 8-1, sophomore midfielder Savannah Andrews and Garner accounting for five of those shots. Despite the two sophomores’ best efforts, however, the game remained scoreless heading into the final 10 minutes of the first half.
With 6:50 remaining in the first half, Savannah Andrews lined up for a corner kick, the Bulldogs’ fifth of the half. Lining up the shot, Andrews delivered a line drive to the top-center of the goal box. The ball was greeted by the right foot of the Bulldogs’ star defender and team captain senior Grace Soenksen, who found the back of the net for her first time this season. Soenksen’s introduction to the Bulldogs’ scoring column gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the game, and they went into the locker room up 1-0.
Concordia was unable to enjoy their lead for long, as the Warriors came out of the gates swinging in the second half.
After a fast break nullified most of the Bulldog defenders, Midland midfielder junior Rosa Shellman was isolated in the Bulldog backfield, with junior forward Asley Atkinson being the only friendly jersey in the vicinity. A calculated yet forceful touch put the ball right in Atkinson’s wheelhouse, and she knew what to do from there. From the middle of the penalty box, Atkinson fired the ball into the left half of the net and tied the game up at a mere three minutes into the second half – a score that would hold until the final whistle.
For the remainder of the second half, the game was a much more balanced affair. In the first half the Bulldogs had out-shot, out-dribbled and out-possessed the Warriors on almost all fronts. By the end of the night, the numbers told a much different story. The Warriors shot far better in the second half, adding seven shots to their ledger in the final 45 minutes for a total of eight on the night. These shots proved to be rather accurate as well. Including the early goal, Midland finished the game with three shots on goal after having none in the first half.
For the Bulldogs, it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. Head coach Nick Smith had this to say about Concordia’s tale of two halves: “[The Warriors] turned it up a notch in terms of intensity… Tonight, we let them rattle us a little bit. For the first 15 minutes [of the second half] we really struggled to get any sort of rhythm.”
The statistics seemingly back up this claim. At half, the Bulldogs enjoyed a seven shot advantage over the Warriors, but when the final whistle blew, their lead was just two. Coach Smith added, “For the first 45 minutes here tonight, had we played that way for the course of the game, I think we would win this game and I don’t think there’s a question in that.”
The Bulldogs will have a chance to return to their winning ways Sept. 30 against Dakota Wesleyan University. Coach Smith laid out the key ingredients to starting a new win streak in South Dakota: “Refining confidence in front of the net and establishing what our style is going to be.” First touch will be 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.