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Soccer picks up big conference victory

Originally published November 5, 2010

After limited playing time last match due to a calf strain, junior Bryan Gaul continued his offensive output by scoring the lone goal in the 84th minute for the Braves in their 1-0 victory against Western Illinois University

With Tuesday night’s win, the team finds itself in sole possession of fifth place in the Missouri Valley Conference with only one game left in the regular season.

“The Valley always seems to come down to the last day or last two games,” said coach Jim DeRose.

With the MVC tournament a week away and many final rankings for the tournament still undecided, the tension is high for the Braves.

The Braves played more aggressively than in a usual first half, out shooting the Leathernecks 10-8.

Both goalkeepers, Andy Ryan of WIU and Bradley freshman Brian Billings, had their hands full in the first half as the ball sailed up and down the pitch at an uncommonly feverish rate.

“Their keeper made a couple of phenomenal saves,” DeRose said. “I thought the goalkeeping for both teams was fantastic.”

The excellent play by all Braves’ defenders held the Leathernecks to only two shots on goal for the first half.

During the second half, roles were reversed as WIU peppered the Braves with a myriad of shots, tallying 12 to the Braves’ five in the second half.

Seven of those were shots on goal, one of them hitting the cross bar right above Billings’ head.

Yet again, the bend not break mentality of the Braves prevailed.

“The team played fantastic and a lot of guys came up big,” Billings said. “I was tested, but the defense helped, and I was happy with the result.”

Still, the Braves had yet to capitalize on any of their five shots on goal, until the 84th minute when Gaul got back into his scoring habit.

After the throw in by junior Bobby Smith and a pass by junior Tommy Fritze, freshman Aodhan Quinn retreated with the ball towards the center of the field, luring the defenders out just enough.

With a powerful kick that sent the ball over the heads of the defenders, the ever present 6-foot-4 Gaul rose above the ruckus and headed in the game-winning goal.

“Aodhan shot it, and I just flicked it on, and it went over the goalie,” Gaul said. “I just happened to be at the right spot.”

With the goal, Gaul has scored 12 times this season, which including five game winning goals.

Gaul’s 12 goals place him only three goals behind Bradley’s single season record held by Gavin Glinton and Bryan Namoff.

Quinn is now up to eight assists on the year, the most by any freshmen in Bradley history.

The tensions between WIU and BU elevated for the four remaining minutes, but the Braves came out on top to pull their season record to 8-8-2.

Now the Braves head to Omaha to play their last game of the regular season, against the No. 10 team in the nation, Creighton.

Though beating a nationally ranked opponent won’t be easy and isn’t necessary for the Braves to make it to the MVC tournament, DeRose knows that the Braves have a shot.

“Edwardsville went down there, and Creighton went up 2-0,” DeRose said. “Edwardsville then came back and tied them, with a man down.”

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