There were 257 minutes played between the last time the Bradley Braves soccer team scored a goal against the Missouri State Bears.
That came to an end on Tuesday, when the Braves went up against the Bears in Missouri Valley Conference tournament play. Sophomore Rasmus Smidtslund scored his third goal of the season off a long throw-in in the fourth minute.
Despite taking an early lead, Bradley ended its season with a 3-1 loss to Missouri State, leaving the team with a final record of 2-7-2.
The Braves’ lead wouldn’t last, as the Bears netted a goal of their own in the ninth minute.
While Bradley kept Missouri State to seven shots in the first half, it was enough for the Bears, as they scored two more in the 37th and 39th minutes of the game.
Entering halftime down by two goals, graduate team captain Gerit Wintermeyer knew the young team felt some urgency heading into the second half.
“Halftime was more about guidance,” Wintermeyer said. “Getting guys heads back up.”
The Braves stuck to their game plan of creating chances off set pieces, while also keeping the Bears wide on the field. However, the Bears still managed 12 more shots in the second half compared to the Braves’ eight total.
Head coach Jim DeRose believes the scoreline isn’t necessarily the best indicator of the team’s performance on the night. It was just a 90 second period that tripped the team up late in the first half.
“In the first half, in particular, we did what we wanted to do,” DeRose said. “The problem was in just those two or three critical moments we were just uncharacteristic [in defense] in those moments.”
According to DeRose, the Braves had a significant amount of time to prepare for the tournament leading to one of their best performances of the season. In between their regular season conference finale, they were able to fit in multiple practice sessions and a last-minute non-conference matchup against Western Illinois.
As captain, Wintermeyer was excited to see the young team finally seem to click.
“I definitely felt a stepping up moment from the younger guys,” Wintermeyer said. “Things were finally running off of Coach’s game plan.”
Looking ahead with 23 players on the roster with three or more years of eligibility, DeRose thinks time will be on his young team’s side come next fall.
Normally, the Braves would play 10 regular season non-conference games, instead this season they played 10 regular season games total. DeRose believes a normal schedule will allow the Braves to peak at the right time.
“We’d really just be starting our conference schedule right now,” DeRose said. “We knew it was going to be a struggle … The wins weren’t there but we showed after the first four [games] on the flip comping around, we definitely have been better.”
In terms of offseason plans, DeRose is unsure of what they’ll look like at the moment. Goalkeeping will need to be a focus if graduate student Bryce Logan decides to move on from college soccer. However, DeRose believes he currently has a strong base to continue to build.
“Call me in a week or 10 days and it might be a different conversation,” DeRose said. “We like our foundation, we like our culture [and] we like what we could do. Now, hopefully, we could take that into the fall.”
While DeRose is confident in his defense-heavy style of play, he also realized things need to change offensively next season.
“At the end of the day statistics don’t lie,” DeRose said. “We got to generate more in attack. You can’t go … with five, six [or] seven shots a game, it’s simple math.”
The MVC tournament wraps up Saturday when Loyola-Chicago faces off against Missouri State in a rematch of the 2019 MVC final.