Originally published October 22, 2010
At 6 feet 4 inches, junior forward Bryan Gaul is the tallest member on the Braves soccer team. His height alone makes him stand out on the Shea Stadium pitch.
As the years progressed, his offensive talents have reached the same heights he has possessed physically.
“I think it’s what the coaches are doing,” said Gaul. “Training everyday helps you get better every year. Also they put you in different positions, like last year I played a different position.”
His first two seasons at Bradley, his position on the field never let him fully show off his knack for scoring.
“Freshman year I played center mid-field, and sophomore year I actually played defense,” Gaul said.
Those positions aren’t offensive in nature, which makes the fact that Gaul now leads the team with nine goals this season all the more surprising.
After he moved to the forward position, Gaul has become an annoyance to goalkeepers.The past five games have separated Gaul from the rest of his team.
During those games, Gaul has scored five goals and two assists. He credits to both luck and skill his recent torching of the opposition.
“It’s things going my way sometimes, like the other day, the ball just fell to me and I tapped it in,” Gaul said. “But then again, it’s focus because in those times, you have to have extreme concentration.”
Even with Gaul’s strong offensive performance this season, the Braves’ success at pulling out the win has constantly ebbed and flowed like the neighboring Illinois River.
“It’s tough, because we’ve had ups and downs the past three years,” Gaul said. “I think this year we’re getting unlucky at times. I feel when you get a loss like that, one where you’ve worked so hard and played better than the other team sometimes, you just have to keep with it and keep your head up.”
Most of the team’s inconsistency was forgotten with Gaul’s two goals at Saturday’s Homecoming game.
With the biggest crowd the Braves had at home all at the season, Gaul used the energy generated by the fans the best way he knew how.
“I think you feed off it,” Gaul said. “When everyone is yelling and blowing the horns like that, it gets you excited to play. Especially when you score, you want to celebrate ridiculously.”
Celebrate he did. After the goal, Gaul jumped into the air and fell to the ground like a bowling pin and teammates followed.
Still, Gaul isn’t one who boasts about accomplishments off the field.
Coming into this season, he was named to the preseason All-Missouri Valley Conference Team.
“Honestly, I ignore it,” Gaul said. “I think that if you think about it every day, you can get nervous before the games and it might get to your head. If you ignore it, go out there and do your best, good things will happen.”
With only six games left until the Braves host the MVC Men’s Soccer Championship, the Braves will play three on the road and three at home.
Gaul and his teammates prescribe to the same regiment no matter where they are.
“It’s more just going on the road. I mean you have to prepare differently with the environment and you have to adapt to all of that because you’re not used to that,” he said. “Other than that, we do the exact same thing.”
With the conference championship at home, the Braves know what a tournament success can mean.
After winning the MVC Championship in 2007, the Braves went on to upset seven-time national champion Indiana University and the University of Maryland to reach the Elite Eight.
Gaul said he knows winning may not be everything, but it is the most important thing.
“Well, winning is always the best thing,” he said. “But I’d say just trying your hardest and giving it your all and do what is asked of you of your coaches, that’s all you can do.”