MOORHEAD, Minn. (8/30/10)-- After posting a record-breaking season that saw an undefeated regular season and a trip to the NCAA Sweet 16, it would be easy to reflect and say “that was a once in a lifetime season for a program.” Unfortunately for the rest of the teams in the MIAC, last year’s eye-opening season-long run might be just the first act of a two-part act.
The Cobbers, who won their third conference regular season championship in the past four years and went 18-1-2 on the year, return 10 of their 11 starting players from last season. The cupboard is also restocked with the returning MIAC MVP, an offensive unit that led the league in goals scored and a defense that had the best goals against average in the conference. All that could add for another deep run into the postseason for Concordia
Head Coach Dan Weiler enters his ninth season in the MIAC having won 52 MIAC games in the past six seasons – the most of any coach in the conference. He has demonstrated the ability to collect championships and prepare his team for the struggle of a grueling MIAC season. The 2010 campaign might be his toughest challenge as Concordia enters the year ranked 14th in the preseason NSCAA national poll and will have a target on their backs all season long.
Weiler is optimistic about this year’s team to repeat its success from a year ago because of five senior starters that have catapulted the program into the forefront of DIII soccer. The leader of the standout seniors is Sam Johnson (Fargo, N.D./Fargo North HS) who was named the league’s Most Valuable Player last year and went on to become the program’s first All-American. Johnson scored 11 goals in conference play and had five game-winning goals. She led the MIAC in goals scored, points and game-winning goals. She finished the 11-game conference slate with 11 goals and one assist for 23 points. During the season she also scored in 11 consecutive games which is the longest consecutive game scoring streak in program history.
Despite her individual success in 2009, Johnson has several teammates that will give her a run for the team’s MVP. Abby Habein (Billings, Mont./Billings Senior), Sam Johnson (Fargo, N.D./Fargo North HS), Sue Obermiller (Fargo, N.D./Fargo North HS) and Erika Swenson (Fargo, N.D./Fargo North HS) all earned postseason honors last year. Obermiller was named to the All-Region Team for the third straight year while Swenson was named to the All-Region squad for the first time in her career and Habein came away with MIAC All-Conference honors for the second straight year. The fifth senior starter might be the most underrated player in the conference. Central midfielder Brittany Mayer (Bismarck, N.D./Bismarck Century) is the workhorse in the middle of the field that sets the table for the other four.
One of the key ingredients for Concordia in 2009 was to find a front line mate for Johnson. In 2008, teams would double Jophnson to slow down the Cobber offense. In 2009, freshman Sarah Rounds (Plymouth, Minn./Wayzata) gave Concordia a legitimate two-player scoring threat and helped take the pressure off of Johnson. Rounds finished the year with nine goals and 11 assists for 29 points and was named to the MIAC All-Conference Team.
Another key element of last year’s national tournament team was the emergence of Ali Nelson (So., Maple Grove, Minn.) as the team’s No.1 goalie. Nelson developed throughout the entire year and gave the Cobbers an All-Conference shot stopper. She finished the MIAC season with a 0.44 goals against average and posted seven shutouts. She led the MIAC in shutouts and was second in goals against average and was named to the MIAC All-Conference Honorable Mention Team.
Only time will tell if the second act is as sweet the first as the 2010 Cobber women’s soccer team attempts to rewrite program history one more time.