PORTLAND — As a stretch of playing eight of their last nine games on the road, the top-ranked Concordia University women’s soccer team have received just the kind of reminder it needed to maintain focus on the task at hand.
Unbeaten and unscored upon after 11 games, the Cavaliers gave up a goal for the first time this season Friday at Northwest Christian College. A day later at Corban University, Concordia faced a deficit for the first time this season.
Both challenges were met with victories as Concordia improved to 12-0-1, and lessons were learned.
“Definitely, I think we’re off to a good start as a team,” said senior midfielder Sami Andrews, a Camas High School graduate. “We just had a little bit of a frustrating weekend, but I think that having goals scored against us has really taught us a lesson about how to come back from that in future tournaments and games.”
Concordia’s roster also includes Shelby Bloodworth and Adrienne Lommasson, graduates of Portland’s Central Catholic High School whose families live in Camas, and Ridgfield High School graduate Kailey Anderson. All three are sophomores, with Lommasson playing last season at Boise State before transferring.
Of course, a team has to be pretty good to be undefeated and frustrated about allowing two goals in 13 games. Ranked No. 1 for the first time in program history this season, Concordia defeated No. 6 Martin Methodist College 1-0 and played a scoreless tie against No. 5 Lindsey Wilson College in a September tournament at LWC in Kentucky.
“Being ranked No. 1 has definitely made us have higher expectations as a team,” Andrews said. “We basically have a target on our back. We know going against any team that they’re going to want to beat us — and even when people score against us, it’s like they won something. It definitely makes us pick up the intensity level. We know that it’s an honor to be ranked No. 1, and we have to prove ourselves even more. We’re excited about where we are.”
The home stretch of the schedule is truly just that for the Cavaliers. Four of their remaining five Cascade Collegiate Conference games will be at Delta Park, with a “road” game against Warner Pacific College of Portland to be played at David Douglas High School. Another CCC championship would bring the conference tournament to Delta Park. The tournament champion plays one game at a school site — potentially another home game — for a place in the eight-team NAIA Championship beginning Nov. 29 in Decatur, Ala.
Concordia has won 11 CCC championships in coach Grant Landy’s 14 seasons, including the last 10. The Cavaliers have reached at least the NAIA semifinals in five of the past seven campaigns. They fell in the 2008 national championship game for their only loss of that season, and reached last year’s semifinals, finishing 21-3.
“One game at a time” may be the oldest of all sports clichés, but Landy said it applies when comparing this year’s Cavaliers to past squads.
“I don’t want to jump too far ahead, because you have to win your conference tournament then you have to play that first-round game and win it to even get to go to Alabama,” he said.
• Andrews, a right outside midfielder, played in every game as a freshman and sophomore, and has been a starter for two seasons. As a junior, she led the CCC with 13 assists to go with one goal. So far as a senior, she has found the back of the net five times — both goals in a 2-0 win at College of Idaho on Oct. 2 — with one helper.
Not by design.
“Every year is different,” Andrews said. “I was getting frustrated in the beginning, not getting as many assists. Then it was just happening to be in the right place at the right time.”
Landy points out that two people have to be in the right place at the right time for an assist and goal — and there is a fine line between that combination working or missing.
“To get an assist, you have to have a good service, but somebody has to finish,” Landy said. “(Andrews) might be hitting the same balls she hit last year, but we’re not getting them in. Now she’s been able to score a little more, and that’s great for us.”
• Bloodworth, a forward, is just getting back to full strength after suffering a knee injury during practice the day before the Cavaliers left for NAIA nationals.
“That was awful,” she said. “It’s all about the mental strength now,” the forward said of feeling back at full strength. “Physically, yes, but my fitness level is not where it should be. It definitely is good to be back. Just overcoming everything was the hardest part. I’m finally full as of probably last week.”
Not that it was an easy process.
“It’s been a season of patience for Shelby,” Landy said. “I’ve told her, ‘Take it week by week, and just make sure you’re progressing.’ Middle of this month, I think she started to feel like the leg was getting back to where it was. I tell her just to take it every practice and every game.”
Last week was when she scored her first goal of the season — “Finally,” Bloodworth said, rolling her eyes — in a 3-1 win at Northwest Christian in Eugene. She scored seven goals as a freshman.
Bloodworth grew up in Camas and knew Andrews when they were in elementary and middle school, and they played for different age group teams of the same club soccer team.
• Lommasson and Bloodworth were high school teammates, but Lommasson’s family lived in Tigard, Ore., while she was attending Central Catholic before the family moved to Camas about two years ago.
The center midfielder, who led Boise State in minutes played as a freshman last year, “really helped solidify our midfield,” Landy said, despite battling quadriceps and ankle injuries.
Lommasson said the Cavaliers are more of a family and the level of play between the NCAA Division I and NAIA programs “isn’t too different at all.”
“There is a difference, but here I feel we’re a lot closer as a team, which helps a lot,” she said. “When you’re closer as a team, you understand each other better and you know how to go about things on the field. It’s a lot easier to come together.”
• Anderson, who was a redshirt freshman last year after sitting out in 2008, has not played this season since she sustained a concussion.
“We just monitor her,” Landy said. “Our first goal with Kailey is just getting her back to feeling normal, and then we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
Concordia remaining schedule
Oct. 15 The Evergreen State College, 5 p.m. at Delta Park
Oct. 16 Northwest University, 5 p.m. at Delta Park
Oct. 23 at Warner Pacific College, noon at David Douglas H.S.
Oct. 29 Southern Oregon University, 2 p.m. at Delta Park
Oct. 30 Oregon Institute of Technology, 5 p.m. at Delta Park
Nov. 6 CCC tournament semifinals, TBA
Nov. 13 CCC championship, TBA
Nov. 20 National championship opening round, TBA
11/29-12/4 NAIA National Championships at Decatur, Ala.