Wins do not come easy; you have to fight, claw and will your way to victory. Bradley soccer (2-6) knows that all too well, as it recently split a pair of matchups against SIU-Edwardsville and Loyola-Chicago.
The Braves’ 4-3 win on Saturday against SIUE snapped a five-game losing streak and marked the 12th consecutive one-goal decision for the Braves. Head coach Jim DeRose believes that close-game experience helped them pick up the win.
“Having been in so many one-goal games, I think that [allows] you to not wig out when you go down a goal,” DeRose said. “We just kept pressing and we kept chasing the game and we kept the pressure on even when we went down again. I thought our guys had a level of experience which I was very happy with.”
The scoring started early and often, as freshman Camden Kowalski knocked in a header in the fifth minute to tie it up at one after the Cougars netted a goal in the second minute. After SIUE scored shortly afterwards, freshman Patrick Fishburne scored a tying goal in the 16th minute to make it 2-2. Both Fishburne’s and Kowalski’s goals marked their first scores of the season.
SIUE fired back with a goal in the 28th minute, but sophomore Jack Douglas capitalized on a goalkeeper misplay from SIUE in the 70th minute. Later on, Douglas scored the golden goal off a carom from freshman Francesco Pettinaroli in the second overtime to win it for the Braves.
“It was one of the most unique feelings I think I’ve ever felt,” Douglas said about his game-winner. “Just that ecstasy of running to the corner and seeing everyone’s face, it was priceless.”
The brace was Douglas’s first two goals of the season and earned him MVC Offensive Player of the Week. A career defender, Douglas has been slotting in at forward the past few games, a move he said he’s starting to adjust to.
“It’s been really challenging,” Douglas said. “I think one of the parts that’s helped me a lot is the fact that since I was a defender, I know strikers’ tendencies — what they like and what they don’t like.”
Saturday marked the first game this season where the Braves scored more than one goal, and DeRose credited that to finally taking advantage of their opportunities.
“The set pieces were big for us,” DeRose said. “We’ve gotten a lot of those chances in games, it was just this one we stuck them.”
Wednesday was not as kind to the Braves, as Loyola-Chicago shut out Bradley 3-0. Senior Bryce Logan picked up three more saves in the contest after picking up a season-high six saves on Saturday.
Despite being outshot 16-4 against the Ramblers and 14-8 against the Cougars, DeRose isn’t worried about the lack of chances his team uses.
“I look at our [shot count] as efficiency,” DeRose said. “Of the ones we put on goal, we scored because the distance from the goals we scored [is] more important. But it’s still something we want to get better at.”
The Braves will move on to No. 18 Missouri State on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Shea Stadium for their homecoming game.