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Young Braves dip toes into MVC waters, find positives in loss at Drake

Bradley fell 2-1 at Drake on September 18. Photo courtesy Bradley Athletics and Josh Schwam.

It has been a season of learning for Bradley’s soccer team, but despite the 1-5 start to the season, head coach Jim DeRose is in no rush.

“As they say, you can’t skip steps in the process, so we just have to get better and keep learning from these [results],” DeRose said.

Last weekend, the Braves traveled to Des Moines, Iowa to kick off MVC play with a showdown versus Drake. Despite a late goal, a potential Braves comeback bid fell short, leaving them with their third consecutive 2-1 loss.

The Bulldogs (4-1) kept it close with the Braves until Istvan Wilhelms snuck one in the net at the 43rd minute mark to take the one goal advantage. Drake would strike again after the break by scoring in the 66th minute when forward Juan Louis converted his PK to up the lead to two.

Down 2-0, the Braves didn’t go away and tightened the gap when junior Pepe Mellado scored on a penalty kick at the 85th minute, his second PK scored on the season. 

“Pepe and Francesco [Pettinaroli] have been huge for us,” DeRose said. “[Francesco] has drawn two penalty kicks for us and Pepe has scored those penalty kicks.”

Dating back to last season, this latest loss is the 11th game in a row in which the Braves have played to a one-goal difference. 

“It’s tough,” freshman Camden Kowalski said. “We’ve been in every game, it’s just those simple mistakes.  It’s definitely frustrating.”

Despite the frustration, the game was a good look into the future. Drake is one of the more experienced and veteran teams in the MVC, with a plethora of upperclassmen – including 12 seniors, one redshirt senior and one graduate student. 

“It is not uncommon at all [that] there are single players on some teams we play that have played more Division I soccer games than every player on our roster added up,” DeRose said.

Even with the big difference in experience, the frustration can set in after the streak Bradley has encountered. 

The Braves’ streak of close losses can mentally tax a team, but the right mentality can make the future seem bright amidst the clouds.

“I think we’re just going to have that moment in [the] game where it’s just going to click,” Kowalski said. “The coaches are going to see it, everyone’s going to see it and everyone’s just going to get super excited.”

The Braves will get their next shot this Saturday when they take on a challenging SIU-Edwardsville team on the road at Korte Stadium. The team hopes its aggressiveness will help give them the advantage.

“Honestly, [we’ll] just have to be more aggressive and go at them,” Kowalski said. “Playing with confidence and playing together  that’s going to be the key to winning that game.”

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