By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
A powerful new league opponent arrived in Athens on Saturday and handed Concord University a pair of shutout soccer losses on CU’s senior day at Anderson Field.
Notre Dame College from the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, maintained their berths in first place among women’s and men’s soccer teams in the new Mountain East Conference.
The Notre Dame women (13-1, 12-1 MEC) got a single goal from Karla DiJohn in the 75th minute to beat Concord 1-0. The men (13-2, 10-1) took a 4-0 win.
The women’s result ended Concord’s three-match unbeaten streak, all coming at home. Concord (6-8-2, 4-7-2) is still in the running for the fourth and final postseason playoff berth in the Mountain East, but must win its final regular-season game on Tuesday at Charleston and then root for West Virginia Wesleyan to beat Wheeling Jesuit on Wednesday.
Concord coach Stefani Workman said, “We’re looking for a little bit of help from Wesleyan at this point — and we need to do our part. We need to win the game (at Charleston).”
DiJohn’s only shot of the game came on a free kick of about 28 yards that was just above the reach of Concord goalkeeper Katie Wasylko.
Notre Dame coach Mike Shiels said, “It was a set piece we worked on. We just had to make sure to put it on frame. Either we get someone across who gets a touch on it, or it goes in. Luckily, it went in this time.”
Workman said, “They got a good look on a set piece and they’re very good at finishing those.”
The visiting Falcons had 13 shots in the contest, eight on goal. Wasylko saved seven of them.
Workman said, “We held their leading goal scorer (Megan O’Conner) to only two shots, and she’s been tearing up a lot of other teams. So, credit to our back line today. I thought that they played really well. I asked them to step up and they did that.”
“For both teams, it was more of a midfield game. Sami (Spertzel) played really well in the middle. She won a lot of balls for us. That helped us keep some pressure off our back line.”
In pregame ceremonies, flowers were presented to seniors Nikki Jarrell and Melissa Woo Ling.
Workman said, “I talked to them this morning ... and said what I’m more proud of is that they’re a good representation of Concord University and the women’s soccer team. Not only do they work really hard at practice and really hard in the games, but they work hard off the field as well.”
“They’re going to be very successful in life, and that’s much more rewarding as a coach, sometimes.”
Ling said about her four years playing for Concord, “It was really hard at first, but as time goes on, with new players, we got better. We performed good today; we just didn’t put away our goals.”
Jarrell said, “It’s been really great. Concord gives us a lot of opportunities. And I think each year our team gets better and better.”
“Today ... I think we played really well, and they just got a lucky goal. I’m just excited for our next game.”
The Falcons held Concord to three shots on goal, saved by Kristy Kolschetsky. Notre Dame, which beat Concord 3-0 earlier this year, has allowed just three goals in 15 games, good for fourth in NCAA Division II in goals-allowed average.
Shiels said, “Our back four has been fantastic all year for us. We’ve not given up a lot of goals this year, so that’s a great place to start from.”
Prior to the men’s match, Concord honored another pair of seniors. Midfielder Tyler Farrar, fifth all-time in assists in CU program history, played in his 66th game for the Mountain Lions.
Midfielder Sebastian Escobar hit the field for the 65th time, and is on schedule to graduate with a business degree in December.
The Notre Dame men are ranked sixth in the nation in Division II and are the No. 1 team in the Atlantic Region in last week’s ratings.
The Falcons took 11 shots in the first half and five in the second period. Concord (3-11-2) took eight shots in the match, including three shots on goal. Both teams’ goalkeepers had three saves.
The visitors got first-half goals from Martin Lange and Tom Owens. Adam Mitchell found the net in the second half and Owens ended the scoring off an assist by Ryan Ware with 18 minutes remaining.
Mitchell, last week’s conference player of the week, leads the MEC with 13 goals.
Notre Dame coach Michael McBride said Concord showed “a very well-organized team and Coach Steve (Barrett) does a really good job with them. It’s a tough place to come. They play with a lot of pride. We knew it was going to be a very difficult opponent, and so we’re obviously pleased with the result.”
McBride said he spoke to his team about “trying to match their energy, because they work very hard for their coach. I think we managed to do that.”
Barrett said, “They’ve got a lot of talent. They’re not No. 6 in the country by accident. They’re looking to win the national championship, and I think they can do it.”
“We started out a little timid early on,” Barrett said. “Then we settled down and we did well. Then the free kick, there for the first goal, (was) needless. We don’t need to be fouling somebody, we just dragged him down ... .”
“But we competed with them,” he said. “At the end of the day, we just don’t have the depth or the level of play of the players they’ve got (so) we’ve got to be at our best. When you’re not at your best, they’ll expose us, and they did, today.”
“We’ve played well the last couple of weeks,” he said. “It’s the end of the season ... When you get a goal or two down, it’s hard.”
The two seniors have given the program “consistency,” Barrett said. “It’s been tough on them. We haven’t won many games in those four years, yet they’ve stuck with it and never complained. They’ve been great for the program.”
“It’s four years, and then they move on. They’ll be successful wherever they go. ... That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.
“Yeah, we just lost a soccer match here. We’ve been beaten by a very good team. But we’ve got two boys who’ve represented us well, and they’re going to go off into the world and do well. And that’s what it’s all about.”
The Concord men conclude their season on Wednesday night at Charleston.
— Contact Tom Bone at email@example.com