PEORIA, Ill. – With a pair of wins over defending conference champions last week, recognition has been rolling in for the Bradley Soccer team Monday. The Braves swept the Missouri Valley Conference men’s soccer Player-of-the-Week Awards, junior goalkeeper Brian Billings added national team-of-the-week notice and the Braves have re-appeared in a pair of national polls.
A native of Apple Valley, Minn., Billings was named to the 11-player CollegeSoccerNews.com National Team of the Week and was selected the MVC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance between the pipes. In Wednesday’s 3-1 win against defending Big Ten Conference champion Northwestern, Billings stopped a potentially-tying penalty kick among his seven saves and recorded an assist on the game-sealing goal against the #17 Wildcats. He added three more saves in Saturday’s 1-0 win at defending Valley regular-season co-champion Missouri State.
Billings becomes the 11th Brave to be recognized on the National Team of the Week by CollegeSoccerNews.com and the first since Bryan Gaul Aug. 29, 2011. He has twice been named MVC Defensive Player of the Week, first earning the honor Nov. 8, 2010, making him the 11th Bradley player to earn multiple weekly league accolades.
Freshman defender J.T. Kotowski turned in a pair of solid efforts as part of Bradley’s backline in the two wins last week, but was named The Valley’s Offensive Player of the Week in recognition of his statistical contributions. Kotowski’s first career goal pulled the Braves even in the 50th minute Wednesday night and ignited Bradley’s second-half outburst in the 3-1 win against Northwestern. Kotowski’s second career goal proved to be a game-winner, a 32nd-minute strike off a corner kick sequence in Saturday’s 1-0 win at Missouri State.
With the two wins last week, Bradley improved to 7-3-2 overall and gained some momentum in a pair of national rankings. The Braves returned to the TopDrawerSoccer.com Tournament 48 rankings, appearing in the 37th position. Bradley also is listed third among those “Receiving Votes” in Monday’s release of the CollegeSoccerNews.com Top 30 National Poll.
Bradley faces a historical game Wednesday at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville: the Braves will be trying to equal the program record with their fourth consecutive Valley road win and they will be trying to raise their all-time record to .500 for the first time in the 26-year history of the program. When Bradley elevated its men’s soccer program from club to NCAA Division I status in 1987, the Braves lost their first four games and have been trying to climb out of the hole ever since. The Braves will enter Wednesday’s 7 p.m. game at SIUE with a 239-240-46 (.499) all-time record.