Bradley soccer (2-3-1) finished off their non-conference schedule with a late loss against Omaha (3-1-1) last Friday and a narrow win against Southern Indiana (0-5-1) at Shea Stadium on Tuesday.
Things remained quiet at Caniglia Field in Nebraska, even though the Braves were able to out-shoot the Mavericks 7-4 in the first half.
“I thought both teams were pretty equal,” junior goalkeeper Nick Burke said. “I think that was one of our best performances in terms of shape and the way we were playing.”
By the 77th minute, it seemed that Omaha forgot to pay the utilities when a stadium-wide power outage interrupted the match.
“I kicked the ball for a goal kick, and the lights went out,” Burke said. “We were in the dark for about 15 minutes, which is quite a while for the middle of a [soccer] game.”
After the lights came back on and play resumed, the Mavericks put themselves in front after a clever backheel pass found sophomore Thore Boehm in the box. Omaha quickly doubled their advantage as sophomore Mathis Pilon St-Louis drove his shot home.
The Braves made one final push when sophomore Reed Rogers sent a 30-yard screamer into the top left corner with three seconds remaining in the match. Shortly after, the lights went out on Bradley’s chances at their first road victory.
“I’m happy with how the team is progressing, and I think we did play well, but it was just two moments when they punished us,” Burke said.
Before their match against Southern Indiana, head coach Jim DeRose got the call that Burke wouldn’t be able to play due to an injury.
“[Burke] got through the last couple of games, but it got to the point that discretion would be the best thing to do before we get into the conference,” DeRose said.
Freshman keeper Will Nicholson rose to the occasion, as Bradley looked energized while applying pressure to the Screaming Eagles’ backline in the first half. The clearest chance came to Southern Indiana when they were given a dangerous free-kick that deflected into the crossbar thanks to Nicholson.
The Braves found an opening in the second half when junior Jack Douglas fed a great cross that glided across the goalkeeper’s box and into the path of senior Pepe Mellado. The native of Spain tapped in his second goal of the season and the only goal that the Braves needed in the 67th minute.
“In the beginning of the season, the combination of Douglas and Mellado had been dealing with injuries that limited their playing time,” DeRose said. “So last night, having those players in particular has been great by giving us more options on the bench.”
The Screaming Eagles would not go out quietly, however, as a couple minutes later a shot from outside the box would kiss the Braves crossbar and secure Nicholson’s first collegiate clean sheet.
Looking ahead, the Braves are away from home for the rest of September, traveling to new Missouri Valley Conference foes Belmont and UIC on Sept. 17 and 24, respectively.
“Our conference start is by far the most difficult in the league,” DeRose said. “We’re still among the youngest teams in the country, and hopefully as we continue to get healthy and stay healthy, it will allow us to compete with these top teams.”