Press "Enter" to skip to content

Braves weather the storm, draw versus Cougars

Charlie Dickerson dribbles the ball. Photo courtesy of Bradley Athletics

In a high-intensity matchup on Saturday night, the Bradley soccer team (4-0-3) faced former Missouri Valley Conference foe SIU Edwardsville (4-0-2). The game came down to the final seconds but ended in a 1-1 draw.

The Cougars are a familiar opponent for the Braves as the two teams have faced off nearly every season over the last 20 years. The week prior to the matchup, SIUE received six votes to be a top 25-ranked team in the nation, according to the United Soccer Coaches rankings.

Lighting strikes

Bradley started the game off on the attack, putting pressure on the Cougars’ defense using crisp ball movement. The Braves’ first shot came within five minutes deep into SIUE territory courtesy of junior Jared Sinnaeve, but the ball bounced off the right crossbar. Seconds later, junior Kevin Mejias scored on an assist from freshman DJ Koulai.

The goal was Mejias’s third of the year and the team’s fastest of the season. The Fermo, Italy native has impressed this season and is considered by many to be one of the team’s premier players.

“He’s arguably been our best player,” head coach Jim DeRose said. “He’s such a big part of what we do.”

Unfortunately, just minutes later, Mejias would go down with what appeared to be a knee injury. He was carted off and did not return to the match.

“When the injury happened, there was a drop in energy,” DeRose said. “When you take him out of [the game], it makes us move a lot of pieces around. Obviously, our thoughts are with Kevin. It took us a while to get settled back in.”

The game stopped at the 23-minute mark due to a lighting delay, and fans were asked to leave the stadium. The lighting delay lasted nearly 90 minutes before the game resumed.

After the storm

Following the lighting delay, Bradley returned with high energy. During warm-ups, the Braves shouted words of encouragement to each other and sang along with the music that played over the PA speakers at Shea Stadium.

“Our thought was to come out with high energy and emotions,” DeRose said. “We wanted to make sure we did not concede a goal before halftime.”

When play resumed, the Cougars were aggressive, frantically trying to tie the game. Their play led to numerous foul calls, including a two-minute span where the team registered four fouls. Luckily for the Braves, their backline defense was strong, and they went into halftime with a 1-0 lead.

“It always starts from the back, you know,” DeRose said. “It’s been a workman-like approach from [junior] Jackson Fyda, [junior] Charlie Dickerson, and [freshman] Ethan Beauman-Ansah.”

Defending a Cougar attack

In the second half, SIUE continued its relentless attack on the Braves’ defense. For the first few minutes, Bradley’s wall did not crack. The Cougars registered five shots eight minutes into the frame but could not get one to find the net.

The Braves were reeling and possibly fatigued. It seemed as if it was only a matter of time before the game would be tied.

The visiting team finally broke through in the 56th minute when junior Nic Muench scored on a header from a well-timed cross.

After tying the game, SIUE kept the pressure on. In the final 25 minutes, both teams were on edge, trying not to fall victim to the wet pitch. Both teams got close to scoring the deciding goal, but keepers Drew Berry (Bradley) and Sam Gomez (SIUE) each made great saves to keep the game a draw.

The Cougars got their last good look at a score in the 81st minute, but the shot from junior Stephan Moreira went off the right crossbar, one of many Cougar attempts.

The match was Bradley’s third home tie of the season. The Braves look to get their first home win of the season on Tuesday against Green Bay.

Copyright © 2023, The Scout, Bradley University. All rights reserved.
The Scout is published by members of the student body of Bradley University. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the University.