In its third consecutive overtime game, the Bradley Braves soccer team lost 3-2 to Missouri Valley Conference opponent Loyola-Chicago on Wednesday at Shea Stadium. With the loss, the Braves are now 2-5-1 heading into their regular season finale.
The game, which was also “senior night,” was originally slated for Tuesday, but due to a false positive COVID-19 test among Loyola’s tier-1 personnel, it was pushed back to Wednesday night.
Loyola dominated the first half offensively with 13 shots compared to Bradley’s one.
The high output from the Ramblers’ offense allowed for a great performance from Braves’ goalkeeper Bryce Logan, with seven saves in the first half alone. He went on to set a career high of 10 saves.
Despite Logan’s career performance, Loyola’s two regulation goals went in during the first half. Its first goal came off a Billy Hency penalty kick in the 12th minute.
Within seven minutes, the Ramblers struck again in the 19th minute off a corner kick with Andrew Mitchell heading it in the back of the net.
Bradley head coach Jim DeRose thinks inexperience got the better of the young team in the first half.
“As much as we want to rush them along, it’s game six of their careers,” DeRose said. “We didn’t like the way that we came out in the first half, we were a little bit passive and obviously [Loyola is] an older team and [more] aggressive.”
Heading into halftime, freshman Jake Schoffstall knew the Braves’ approach in the first few minutes of the second half would be critical.
“We did start out a little flat-footed,” Schoffstall said. “When you’re down 2-0 the next goal kind of decides the game.”
In terms of offensive production, the Ramblers continued to top the Braves in the second half. Loyola managed nine shots, while Bradley managed six.
The Braves struck quickly in the second half when redshirt senior Saadiq Mohammed scored off a loose ball following a long throw-in from Schoffstall in the 52nd minute. The goal marked Mohammed’s first of the season.
In the closing minutes of the second half, sophomore Jack Douglas netted the equalizer in the 86th minute off a cross within the 18, for his first of the season.
Schoffstall was ecstatic to be able to contribute to both goals, earning assists on each.
“It’s always nice to contribute to your team,” Schoffstall said. “When it shows up on the stats sheet … it’s really cool to see. I always want to help put us in the chance to win the game, but that doesn’t always happen. When that happens it makes you feel good about yourself.”
With the score even at 2-2, the Braves headed into their third golden goal overtime in a row.
In the opening minutes of overtime, Loyola earned a free kick, which set up a header for Micheal Hong, ending the game in the 91st minute.
Despite the loss, Schoffstall feels their second-half performance showcased the young team’s true potential.
“Moving forward I think this shows what we’re capable of,” Schoffstall said. “If we were to play a full 90 [minutes] like that second half, [it shows] how truly we would be in many more games than our record shows.”
Now with only four teams making the cut to the MVC tournament, Sunday’s matchup against Drake is do-or-die for Bradley, as they sit at fourth. DeRose understands that a loss on Sunday could be the end of their season.
“The two best teams in the league right now — without a question — are Missouri State and Drake,” DeRose said. “They’re really good [and] they move really well … for us its another huge challenge, we’re not guaranteed to be in a conference tournament, so we’re going to keep trying to get points and see where it takes us.”
The Braves will end their season against the Bulldogs Sunday at 2 p.m in Des Moines.