Bradley soccer (2-9-1) played the first two matches of its three-game homestand this past week, falling 2-1 to Drake on Saturday and reaching a scoreless draw with Western Illinois on Monday.
The rematch against Drake started off quick as junior Pepe Mellado converted on sophomore Jack Douglas’ header off the crossbar in the 14th minute. With the score, Mellado secured his third goal of the season, tying him with Douglas for the team lead.
The Bulldogs, however,took the lead 13 minutes later, scoring in the 21st and 27th minutes, capping off the scoring for the contest.
Head coach Jim DeRose thought his team missed some chances in the second half and credited Drake’s 11 seniors as the difference-makers in the contest.
“We conceded two goals within a six or eight-minute span after scoring, so you kind of get your poison when that happens,” DeRose said. “Drake is an incredibly veteran team and I thought they managed the game well when they were up a goal. That’s what a veteran team does.”
The scoring against the Leathernecks was not so quick.
In fact, it was non-existent.
Despite a combined 25 chances between both teams, with Bradley taking 13 shots, neither team could find the net and the Braves picked up their first draw of the season. Senior goalkeeper Bryce Logan nabbed four saves on the way to his second clean sheet of the year.
“Both teams [on Monday] were struggling in terms of the wins and [losses] column, but I know we played it straight up,” DeRose said. “We went after it with everything we could to get a result, and looking at their lineups, it looks like they did, too.”
Some new faces were on the field for the Braves on Monday, such as redshirt freshman Camden Starzyk, who played a season-high in minutes. Starzyk believes he did well but knows he and the team could have done some things better.
“Personally, I thought I got on the ball a lot, which opened up space for my teammates, so when they moved I was able to get it to them,” Starzyk said. “[We could’ve] got the balls into the channels more just to test their backline a little bit.”
Up next for the Braves is a rematch against SIU-Edwardsville, which was one of the Braves’ two wins this season after a double-overtime thriller in Edwardsville. Even after prevailing 4-3 in their last matchup, DeRose knows it will be another tough battle.
“I think [SIUE] is one of the top two or three teams in the league,” DeRose said. “They get on the ball a lot and they get in a good possession rhythm. It’s hard because you want to defend them deep and then you gotta go 90, 100 yards when you win [the ball].”
Despite the struggles the Braves have had this year, DeRose believes his squad is putting its best foot forward and knows what needs to be improved.
“Our team is always gonna have good resolve,” DeRose said. “We’re always gonna have all those character points: the work rate, the intensity, the passion. The challenge with us is not just [to] sustain that for 90 or 110 minutes but push that onto other teams and score and make them chase us a little bit.”
Starzyk echoes DeRose’s sentiment, especially when it comes to the team’s resolve.
“I think just as a whole, we’re keeping our heads up,” Starzyk said. “Even though we’re not doing the best this season, we’re still holding our heads high and coming out every day and trying our hardest.”
Bradley’s game against SIUE is on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Shea Stadium.