The soccer team left its hopes of matching last year’s success on the field last Friday, falling to Creighton in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
A day after defeating tournament-host Evansville on penalty kicks to reach the semi-finals, the Braves were shutout by the NCAA No. 2 Bluejays, losing 2-0 and bringing its season to an end.
Bradley finished the season 6-11-2, with two of those losses to Creighton.
“It’s hard for people to grasp that someone from the MVC could be so dominant nationally,” coach Jim DeRose said. “Having them in the league makes it such a better league because they are always going to be one of the top teams in the country.”
The loss ended Bradley’s streak of 12 consecutive non-losing seasons.
“You try to learn from it,” DeRose said. “It’s not anybody’s individual fault.”
While the Braves were not able to score a regulation goal in either MVC Tournament game, they did have some strong offensive performances throughout the season.
Junior Chris Cutshaw accounted for nearly half of the team’s goals on the year, scoring nine of Bradley’s 20 goals.
With only one senior on the roster, the Braves looked to the freshmen for production throughout the year.
Bryan Gaul (4), Christian Meza (2) and Tommy Fritze (1) combined for seven goals, playing a major role in Bradley’s scheme.
“We started as many as six freshmen,” DeRose said. “They will be leaned on heavily over the next several years.”
The Braves will not return to the Hilltop empty-handed as six players captured MVC post-season awards.
Junior Grant Campbell was named to the MVC All-Conference team, while Cutshaw and junior Travis English were named to the all-conference second team.
Campbell and English were also named to the MVC All-Tournament team.
Gaul, Meza and Bobby Smith were each named to the MVC All-Freshmen team.
The six Bradley awards ties the team’s record for most post-season awards.
Bradley 0, Evansville 0 (Bradley advances on PK’s 5-4)
The opening round game of the MVC Tournament was moved from Wednesday to Thursday because of rain.
Ninety minutes of play wasn’t enough and after two 10-minute overtime periods, the Braves and Purple Aces found themselves in a scoreless tie.
After each team connected on its first four penalty kicks, Cutshaw was next in line for Bradley’s final kick.
Cutshaw put the ball in the net, and Evansville’s Tyler Crawford’s shot hit the crossbar, sending the Braves to the semi-finals.
“It was quite eerie,” DeRose said. “The penalty kicks went exactly like they did against Indiana in the NCAA tournament [last year].”
Sophomore goalkeeper Drew Van Kampen made his return to the goal after missing time because of an illness, and he recorded a career-high 10 saves.
The win sent the Braves to the semi-finals where they would meet Creighton.
Creighton 2, Bradley 0
Again disrupted by rain, the game between the Braves and Bluejays was sent to Evansville’s Goebel Soccer Complex and played on an artificial surface.
DeRose said playing two games in such a short period of time affected the team.
“Playing Creighton with less than 24 hours [of rest] is pretty tough,” he said.
Creighton scored its first goal in the 19th minute of play, when Tim Walters found the back of the net to give the Bluejays a 1-0 lead.
The score remained the same until the 80th minute when Creighton struck again scoring an insurance goal.
The Braves couldn’t answer back, and eventually lost the game.
The Bluejays went on to win the MVC Tournament.