The soccer team put an end to both a three-game skid and a 368-minute scoreless streak in its 2-0 defeat of North Florida on Sunday in the Evansville Tournament.
Freshman Bryan Gaul scored the go-ahead goal and junior Justin Bigelow tacked on another score in the final minute to give the Braves the victory.
Coach Jim DeRose said the wind got under Gaul’s shot and it took it in like a dart.
“I’ve never seen anything like it to be quite honest,” he said. “It was one of the weirdest goals I’ve ever seen.”
The win sent Bradley (3-2-1) home from the Evansville tournament with both a win and a loss after the Braves fell 1-0 to Valparaiso on Friday night.
Gaul said the goal felt good.
“It was a big thing because we were scoreless for so long,” he said. “We needed it so bad.”
Sophomore Drew Van Kampen recorded his third career save in just eight total starts this season. He gave up one goal this weekend and five on the season. He has never given up more than one goal in a game.
Van Kampen credited his defense for his strong play.
“It’s not just me. The defense is doing a great job,” he said. “If you look at the last game, North Florida didn’t get a shot on goal, so it’s pretty easy to get a shutout when that happens.”
Junior Chris Cutshaw led the team in shots with five, three on goal.
The team’s lone senior, Brad Snook, played all 90 minutes in Sunday’s game.
“While he hasn’t got a ton of minutes in his career, he knows what I want to do,” DeRose said.
The Braves finished in third place in the tournament, ahead of North Florida and behind Valpo and tournament-champion Evansville.
Van Kampen and junior Travis English were named to the all-tournament team.
The win pulled the Braves a game closer to the 200-win mark, putting them at 197 wins all-time.
Valpo 1, Bradley 0
The Braves’ losing streak reached three games for the first time since 2002.
Bradley was out-shot in the game 11-10, but had five shots on goal compared to Valpo’s four.
All it took was one header by Crusader substitute Kyle Gentille in the 76th minute to give Valpo (3-3-0) both the lead and the win.
The game was tied at the half after each team took four shots, but neither team was able to put points on the board.
The Valpo header was all the Crusaders needed to hand Bradley its third straight loss and extend the Braves’ scoreless streak to 321 minutes and 50 seconds.
The Braves were playing without freshman Christian Meza because of a red card in a previous game against Northern Illinois.
Bradley 2, North Florida 0
The Braves saw their losing streak come to an end in a game that featured wind gusts of up to 50 mph.
Gaul ended the Braves’ scoreless streak by connecting on a wind-aided corner kick to give Bradley the lead.
“I’m pretty proud of all those freshmen,” DeRose said. “This weekend all of them appeared in all of the games, so I was pretty excited about that.”
Gaul said he is already comfortable with the team.
“The team embraces you as a freshman and they help you with all the things you need to be helped with,” he said.
The Braves scored their second goal with two seconds remaining in the game when the Ospreys (1-4-0) missed a corner kick with their goalie playing in the box, and Bigelow took the ball down the field to score on an empty net.
Bradley played well on both sides of the ball, out-shooting North Florida 15-4, and the defense didn’t give Van Kampen a chance to make any saves.
The game marked the first time the Braves have squared off against North Florida.
Bradley will play the final game of its three consecutive road games Saturday at Xavier.