The Braves soccer team had been perfect in conference all season until Saturday when they suffered a 2-1 home loss to SIU-Edwardsville.
Bradley got on the board first with a goal by junior Alex Garcia in the 12th minute. The Braves kept the ball in the box long enough for Garcia to put in a side volley for his third goal of the year.
The Cougars scored the equalizer with about five minutes left when a midfielder was able to beat junior goalkeeper Logan Ketterer from eight yards out. It wasn’t until the last few minutes of the game that the Cougars took the lead on a header from a short corner free kick.
“Of course we wanted to win at home,” head coach Jim DeRose said. “But against this team, to be in a position to win in the last five minutes against a very good team is good. We just wish we could have closed it out. I was still happy with our fight and our resolve.”
The Braves took on Western Michigan Tuesday night for their last non-conference game of the year, and were defeated again by a score of 1-0.
DeRose went with a change of pace for this game, however. The Braves started six freshmen, four sophomores and a junior. Freshman goalkeeper Albert Reinwart started in goal instead of Ketterer.
“Everyone who has followed our program for a number of years knows that we are a program that takes pride in the development of our young players,” DeRose said. “Part of that development is getting the young guys meaningful minutes. Western Michigan is a probable NCAA tournament team and the guys played very well against them. We wanted to reward them for their hard work.”
The Broncos scored the only goal of the game in the 28th minute off a free kick. The Broncos’ goalkeeper only had two saves because the Braves weren’t able to generate offense.
Next Saturday’s game at Drake is one with championship aspirations. Bradley and SIU-Edwardsville are tied at the top of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) with 4-1 conference records and 12 points. Drake follows in third place with a 3-1-1 conference record and 10 points.
The Braves can clinch their fifth MVC title with a win against Drake and a SIU-Edwardsville loss against Loyola-Chicago. If both Bradley and SIU-Edwardsville win, they will share the title. If Bradley loses and SIU-Edwardsville wins, SIU-Edwardsville will take the title. But, if Drake beats Bradley and SIU-Edwardsville loses, then Drake will win the MVC.
“Drake is experienced and has a lot of upperclassmen, and we have a young team,” DeRose said. “The key will be to not get down a goal. We’ll go in there with the mentality to push the tempo and use our youth to our advantage. It’s going to be a streetfight.”