Soccer (M)

Release: Monday 11/14/2010 


PEORIA, Ill. - After 110 minutes of scoreless soccer could not determine a champion, host and No. 5 seed Bradley (11-8-3) claimed the 2010 State Farm MVC Men's Soccer Championship in a penalty kick shootout, 4-3, against No. seed SIU Edwardsville (10-5-4) Sunday afternoon at Shea Stadium.

The Braves earned their second MVC Tournament title and will make their fifth appearance in the NCAA Men's Soccer Championship.  The Braves won the 2007 MVC Tournament to earn their most-recent NCAA bid, which resulted in a run to the national quarterfinals.  Pairings for the 48-team field will be announced during the NCAA Tournament selection show Monday at 3:30 p.m. (CT) on ESPNU.

In the postgame shootout at the south end of the field, both sides converted their first attempt, before seeing big momentum swings in the best-of-five phase.  Bradley led off and Christian Meza's goal was matched by SIUE's Benny Jefferey.  The Cougars appeared to gain the advantage in the second round when Keith Mach hit the left post, but Bradley freshman keeper Brian Billings kept it level by saving Jack Twellman's shot with a dive to his right.

The Cougars again appeared to take control when freshman keeper John Berner, who replaced injured starter Nick Collico in the 86th minute, saved Aodhan Quinn's third round attempt with a dive to his left.  Billings came through again, though, stuffing Randy Roy with another dive to his right.

Both teams converted their fourth and fifth round shots - Bobby Smith and Rudy Garcia for the Braves, Kevin Bielicki and Jared Tejada for SIUE, to complete the best-of-five phase tied 3-3.

In the first round of sudden elimination, Bradley freshman Keegan Balle drilled his shot past Berner and the Braves celebrated with their jubilant fans when SIUE's Ryan Wilhelm hit the cross bar.

The wind played a huge factor in possession throughout the match and the Braves also survived 24 minutes of short-handed play when leading scorer and first-team All-MVC forward Bryan Gaul was sent off for a reckless play that ended Collico's day.

A steady south wind favored the Cougars in the first half as they outshot Bradley 8-2 in the opening 45 minutes.  SIUE managed to get only one shot on target, though, and Billings made that save.  The same wind played to Bradley's advantage in the second half and the Braves turned the tables with an 11-4 shots advantage in the second period.  Collico made three saves and his teammates added three more team saves to maintain the shutout.

Bradley went a man down at 85:50 when Gaul kicked up at a high bouncing ball toward the top left of the SIUE penalty area.  Collico came off his line to challenge, however, and just after Gaul hit the ball he caught the SIUE keeper in the mouth with his boot.  With Collico down and bleeding, Gaul was issued a red card that also will prevent him from playing in Bradley's next game.

The short-handed Braves, who were playing their third game in five days after eliminating Drake (1-0) Wednesday and #11 Creighton (3-2) Friday, fought through the final four minutes of regulation, then withstood the challenge of SIUE's wind-aided attack in the first overtime period.  The Cougars outshot Bradley 6-1 in the first 10-minute extra session and neither team could convert either of their two shots in the final period.

  Alex Kapsalis
Drake:  Jordan Kadlec
Missouri State:  Heath Melugin
Creighton:  Josh Moran
SIU Edwardsville:  Kevin Bielicki, Ryan Wilhelm, Benny Jeffery
Tommy Fritze, Brian Billings, Bobby Smith, Aodhan Quinn (MVP)


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