PEORIA, Ill. -- Enjoying its best start to a season since 2002, the Bradley Soccer team returned to the national rankings Monday by checking in at No. 28 in the CollegeSoccerNews.com Top 30 National Poll released Monday morning. The ranking puts Bradley into the national polls for a 10th season in Jim DeRose's 14 years as the head coach of the Braves.
CollegeSoccerNews.com Top 30 National Poll (Week ending Sept. 13, 2009): http://collegesoccernews.com/index_files/Page1322.htm
Undefeated through the season's first five games for the fourth time in program history, Bradley (4-0-1) has won three straight heading into this weekend's SMU Invitational, where the Braves will face a couple of former Missouri Valley Conference rivals - SMU and Tulsa. Both opponents began the season in the national rankings, but fell out of the CollegeSoccerNews.com Top 30 National Poll this week with .500 overall records. Those records might be deceiving, however, as both SMU (2-2-0) and Tulsa (2-2-1) have dropped one-goal decisions to current No. 2 Akron. Tulsa also suffered a 3-2 overtime loss against No. 9 Northwestern Sunday at a tournament at Northern Illinois, while SMU suffered a 1-0 loss Friday on the road against a traditionally strong Brown squad.
Bradley will be playing in its third consecutive tournament when the Braves take on SMU Friday night and Tulsa Sunday morning at the SMU Invitational. Goal differential has factored into Bradley's final standing in each of its first two tournaments. Both Bradley and Memphis put up 1-0-1 records in the Busey Bank Kickoff Festival Labor Day weekend at Shea Stadium, but the Braves claimed the title with a +3 goal differential. That same scoring difference was not enough to lift Bradley over Evansville this past weekend, however, as the Purple Aces edged out the host school for the championship of the Hotels at Grand Prairie Classic with a +5 goal differential after both teams swept through Western Michigan and Xavier.
Bradley's 4-0-1 record gives the Braves their best start since the 2002 squad set the program record for consecutive games without a loss by going 11-0-4 out of the blocks. In each of the previous three seasons Bradley has been undefeated through its first five games, the Braves have ridden the early momentum to a meaningful finish. The 1998 Braves turned a 7-0-2 start into their first Missouri Valley Conference regular-season championship and the best overall record (14-2-2) in program history. The 2000 squad turned a 5-0-0 start into the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, while the 2002 Braves earned the program's second NCAA Tournament berth.