Soccer remains perfect in conference play

J.T. Kotowski (left) and Grayson McGraw (right) defend a ball in Bradley’s zone during a game against Loyola-Chicago on Sept. 25. Photo by Moira Nolan.

Bradley’s soccer team has had some trouble scoring lately, but it was able to hit its stride last weekend. First, the team traveled to Western Illinois and was defeated 1-0 Oct. 5.

The loss was Bradley’s third consecutive shutout, the first time that has happened to the Braves since 2009. It was also Bradley’s first loss to Western Illinois in eight matches.

Despite getting blanked on the scoreboard, the Braves had the advantage in shots at 18-12, the first time all season the Braves have outshot their opponent. Junior goalkeeper Logan Ketterer had four saves, while the Leathernecks’ goalkeeper recorded eight saves.

“I thought we generated a lot of chances,” head coach Jim DeRose said. “I think that every game I’ve played against Western Illinois in my career at Bradley has been a one-goal game. So we expected a good game. They got the goal, and we weren’t able to finish on our chances.”

However, the Braves were able to turn it around in their next game. Bradley travelled to Evansville and left with a 5-1 victory. The five goal outburst matched Bradley’s highest total of goals scored in a Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) game.

“We didn’t do anything differently this game,” DeRose said. “We aren’t as offensively-challenged as we appear to be in those shutouts, and we aren’t as prolific as we appear to be in this high-scoring game. We didn’t get any more shots than the Western Illinois game. That’s the way soccer goes sometimes.”

MVC Scholar-Athlete of the Week recipient Grant Bell kicked off the scoring in the fourth minute when he stripped an Evansville defender in Bradley’s offensive zone and netted the goal. Less than two minutes later, Bell scored his second goal of the game and third of the season from a long pass from Ketterer. The assist by Ketterer was the first assist by a Bradley goalkeeper since 2012.

The Aces netted a goal in the 30th minute, but the Braves pulled out ahead early in the second half with two goals from sophomore Richard Olson to go up 4-1. His first goal came on a redirect, and his second came after he won a 50/50 ball with the goalkeeper seven minutes later.

J.T. Kotowski (left) and Grayson McGraw (right) defend a ball in Bradley’s zone during a game against Loyola-Chicago on Sept. 25. Photo by Moira Nolan.
J.T. Kotowski (left) and Grayson McGraw (right) defend a ball in Bradley’s zone during a game against Loyola-Chicago on Sept. 25. Photo by Moira Nolan.

“Richard has incredible speed and pace, and he really helps us stretch defenses,” DeRose said. “When he’s healthy, he’s an all-conference player.”

Sophomore Jacob Taylor added another goal in the 64th minute.

“I think that we were all more focused because this was a conference game,” Olson said. “We knew that getting to 2-0 in conference is extremely important.”

The win brought Bradley to 2-0 in MVC play, the only team undefeated in conference play besides Drake. The Braves are 5-7 overall.

“This win was important, and it gives the team a lot of momentum going into the Missouri State game,” Olson said.

The Braves host the two-time MVC defending-champion Missouri State tomrrow as they look to improve to 3-0 in conference play. DeRose said the Bears are going to be a tough matchup.

“They are one of the best defensive teams in the nation,” DeRose said. “Especially when they get ahead, they are a very tough team to crack. We’re going to have our hands full.”