Soccer wins; moves up in the MVC

Originally published October 29, 2010

Junior forward Bryan Gaul pushed his scoring streak to seven games on Saturday in the 2-1 victory over conference rival Evansville.

With the win Sunday, Bradley moved up to fourth place in the Missouri Valley Conference. With only three games until the MVC Championship, the win distances the team from MVC bottom dwellers Eastern Illinois and Central Arkansas.

The win was important for the Braves, because only the top six out of eight teams in the MVC will make the championships.

With heavy wind at their back, the Braves were able to score first.

“You take the wind first because you can never tell when it might change,” coach Jim DeRose said. “And for whatever reason here, late in the day, the wind dies down. So that helped us a lot in the first half.”

Bradley took the lead 11 minutes into the half. Freshman Aodhan Quinn, straddling the goal line, kicked the ball right in front of the goal where sophomore Jochen Graf tapped it in for Graf’s third goal of the season and Quinn’s seventh assist on the year, the most for any freshman in history.

The Braves came close to letting the lead disappear in the first half.

The Purple Aces outshot Bradley 12-5 in the first half, but only one shot that hit the upper crossbar in the 12th minute was close to being an actual goal.

“They gave up some shots, the old bend not break,” DeRose said. “But we manned or individually defended them all over the field, and it’s an exhausting way to play.”

Fifty-five seconds into the second half, Evansville’s Tyler Kincaid had a corner kick drop right in front of him and was able to nudge it in to tie the game up 1-1.

The game-winning goal came from none other than Gaul.

In the 61st minute, in what was a spectacular bang-bang play, junior Bobby Smith threw the ball into junior Tommy Fritze who centered the ball with his chest and then got the ball above everyone, except the jumping 6-foot-4 Gaul, who headed it in for the score.

This play illustrated Gaul’s ability to be in the right place at the right time, something he has shown throughout the year.

“He is a guy who just puts in big effort every day,” DeRose said of Gaul. “He’s such a talent. But the nice thing about him is that he’s scoring goals in opportunistic manners, not just with great skill and technique.”

Evansville continued to pepper Bradley goalie Brian Billings throughout the rest of the game, out-shooting the Braves throughout the game 26-11.

With Billings’ eight saves, DeRose’s bend-not-break description of the team seems fitting.

This win and the Homecoming win mark the first time the Braves have won back to back games at home this season.

As with the Homecoming game, the Braves were playing with an extra weight on their shoulders after the death of fellow student athlete Phil Kaiser.

“It was a very emotional week for a lot of our upperclassmen in particular,” DeRose said. “I thought they really gave just a fantastic effort. As you know anywhere, but particularly at Bradley, the student athletes all get on together, they live together, they go to study tables together, they’re in the same classrooms together. It was a hard week for everybody and I thought the guys did a great job of respecting and coming with great motivation and inspiration.”