The Bradley soccer team’s season came to an abrupt end last Friday, as they fell to the No. 2-seeded University of Central Arkansas in the Missouri Valley Conference Semifinals. The Braves closed out regulation with a 1-1 draw, but lost in the following penalty shootout 8-7.
Freshman forward Gerit Wintermeyer scored the first goal of the game, giving Bradley the 1-0 advantage in the 22nd minute. Senior defender Jacob Taylor provided the assist with one of his signature long-distance throw-ins.
The Braves lead would disappear within a matter of 36 seconds, though, as the Bears pressed aggressively off the restart and scored the equalizer on a rebound.
The score remained knotted at the end of regulation, forcing the game into extra time. Both teams were unable to pull ahead, but the closest opportunity came from senior Clark Emerson, whose shot was barely saved off the goal-line by a UCA defender.
According to head coach Jim DeRose, despite not getting the win the Braves played exceptionally better than their opponents, and the team will look to build on this finish next year.
“I honestly thought the second half and overtimes were as good as any other final attacking half we’ve played,” DeRose said. “They barely cleared two balls off the line in the end. Overall, though, we didn’t lose our last five games and played well [during the tournament].”
With neither squad able to find the back of the net in extra time, the teams went to penalty kicks with a spot in the MVC Championship on the line. The Braves and the Bears traded goals with their first seven penalty kicks. After UCA converted their eighth attempt successfully, Bradley forward Roman Schindler saw his shot rattle off the crossbar.
As a result, Bradley concluded its 2017 season 11-7-3 overall. Central Arkansas went on to claim the MVC Championship, by taking down Missouri State University, 1-0, in extra time last Sunday.
Several Braves were recognized for their efforts this season, including midfielder Younes Dayekh, who was named MVC Freshman of the Year. Taylor and Wintermeyer were also both named to the 14-man MVC Men’s Soccer All-Tournament team.
Looking ahead to next season, DeRose said the team will lose some key players, so rebuilding the defense as well as shoring up the offense will be a necessity.
“[Junior] Alex Ciaramitaro is the only returning player in our back five,” DeRose said. “Again, we’ll have to get in situations where we’re getting to our second goal plateau, and then we can take the next step. The new guys we brought in did very well and scored a lot. We need another dimension for that next season.”