Head Coach: Thomas Goines (1st season at Concordia; 73-55-16 in 8 years)
2019 Record: 6-11-2 overall; 6-4-2 GPAC (6th)
Key Returners: MF Aliyah Aldama; MF Jaiden Beecher GK Lindsey Carley; MF Tori Cera; F Allee Downing; D Ellie Eason; MF Madeline Haugen; MF Mikeila Martinez; F Callie McNary; D Cheyenne Smith; D Grace Soenksen; MF Michaela Twito.
Key Newcomers: F Bethany Fuchs; D Annika Munch; D Sydney Ross.
Key Losses: MF Morgan Raska; F Brynn Suddeth;
2019 GPAC All-Conference: Tori Cera (First Team); Lindsey Carley (Second Team); Michaela Twito (Second Team); Morgan Raska (Honorable Mention); Grace Soenksen (Honorable Mention).
After a long wait, many safety protocols and a head coaching change, the 2020 Concordia Women’s Soccer season is right around the corner. It is a new season and new regime for the Bulldogs, as Thomas Goines will be taking over at the helm. Goines is the third head coach in three years, following Chris Luther and Greg Henson. While this is his first season at CUNE, Goines is a byproduct of the Concordia system having previously coached at Concordia-Chicago and graduated from Concordia-Wisconsin.
Goines holds a 73-55-16 career record in eight years of coaching. Goines has recent coaching stops at Barton (2015-2018) and Concordia-Chicago (2011-2014). During his time at Barton, Goines guided the Cougars to 43 wins making him the winningest coach in program history. It is a unique time to be taking over a program, but Goines and his staff have tried to make the most of teambuilding during the global pandemic.
After months of uncertainty, the women’s soccer team is thankful for the opportunity to return to campus and ready for the opportunity to take the field. Senior Midfielder Tori Cera is not taking her last year in Seward for granted.
“You have to appreciate everything that we have, especially now,” Cera stated. “I know other people do not have that same opportunity. We are just trying to make the best of everything we have and trying to be optimistic at the same time.”
With the new protocols set forth by the NAIA, it has been a peculiar preseason for all sports. Typically, preseason practices precede classes, which gives the team more time to interact and get accustomed to each other. This year the NAIA start date for team practices was August 15, a week after fall classes started. As a result, there has been limited team-based activity, which can be an obstacle for a program with a first-year head coach.
“It has been a challenge,” Goines said. “Taking on a new program anytime is tough because you have to go through the process of learning your team, getting feedback and all those other fun things when it comes to making your program your own. COVID has been a unique experience for us all. I have been very happy with the girl’s energy throughout all of this. They have taken everything in stride… We have tried to build as much communication as we could in the offseason. Going into preseason, the energy has been really good and has been a positive environment for everybody, so I have been really happy with that.”
Due to the delayed start from COVID-19, the non-conference schedule was also limited. As a result, the Bulldogs will have a scrimmage and one non-conference match-up before opening GPAC play. Along with the change of scheduling, teams are required to follow mask mandated policies and social distance as much as possible.
“We have been making sure everyone has masks when we go to the field for training,” Cera added. “Making sure we wear them before and after practice, especially in the locker room since we share that with women’s basketball. We are making sure that we are following all of the policies.”
Last year, the Bulldogs faltered to an 0-6 start before picking up the pace to finish with a 6-11-2 record. Offensive production was a vital issue for Concordia, which struggled to put the ball in the net, scoring only 19 goals in 19 games. Of those 19 goals, Concordia returns 74% of scoring, including leading scorer senior Tori Cera, who netted four goals in 2019. In addition to Cera, JUCO transfer Bethany Fuchs will provide a scoring spark. Fuchs netted eight goals last season while at Western Nebraska Community College. The Bulldogs will look toward having a more balanced attack this year. Some ways Coach Goines and the coaching staff will look to increase scoring efforts in 2020 is by developing a relentless mentality that focuses on physical speed, strong defense and an up-tempo attack designed to drive opponents out of their comfort zones. As a result, the Bulldogs believe this will open more scoring opportunities through transition.
While last season’s record was unexpected, there are plenty of reasons to believe they will be contenders in 2020. Before last season Concordia made five straight GPAC tournament title game appearances. The senior class is no strangers to success with a combined recorded of 34-16-11, two GPAC Tournament Runner-up finishes and a GPAC regular-season title. Seniors Lindsey Carley (goalkeeper), Tori Cera (midfielder) and Michaela Twito (midfielder), were starters on the 2017 GPAC title team. The rest of the senior class will be expected to carry leadership duties due to their wealth of experience and previous success.
“We really have to use them as a sounding board in a lot of ways,” Goines added. “One, how the program was ran before me. What has been successful, what are the ins they want to keep and what are some changes. We use those players who have been through the grind to help develop some expectations. They are the teachers for the younger players when it comes to mentality and especially the defensive side of the ball. Having those players who have been through playing against the top talent and region, those girls can speak to what it does take to have success. We really lean on those girls to really impart some of the attitude and energy.”
Returners who are also expected to provide a spark in 2020 include midfielders Aliyah Aldama, Jaiden Beecher, Madeline Haugen and Mikeila Martinez. Forward, Callie McNary, defenders, Cheyenne Smith and Grace Soenksen, who was an All-GPAC honorable mention as a freshman. Together returnees accounted for 150 combined starts during the 2019 season.
In an age when there are many unknowns, one consistency in 2020 will be the Bulldogs’ mentality and expectations when they step on the pitch.
“I always keep the expectation high,” Goines affirmed. “We always expect excellence. Every time we step on the field, our mindset is that we are going to win. That is what we are going to play to do… Every match, we want to put in the energy and effort required to be a champion that day. If the lord does not give us a victory that day, we will figure out how to get one the next. I set a high bar for them and if we don’t meet it one day we will the next day.”
The new era in Concordia Women’s Soccer is slated to start on Wednesday, Sept. 9, at 5:30 p.m. CT as they play host to Bellevue University.