PEORIA, Ill. - In a match played through an increasingly heavy downpour of rain, Bradley hosted the Hartwick Hawks as first-time opponents Friday night in game two of the Hotels at Grand Prairie Classic.
The Hawks started things off early taking the offensive in the fifth minute with a rip by junior midfielder Tim Crawford that was denied by Bradley keeper Brian Billings. Crawford tried for another in the 13th minute off a breakaway, but was again shut down by Billings.
Bradley looked to get on the board in the 26th minute with a cross from Wojciech Wojcik that found Jochen Graf in front of the Hartwick goal. Graf dove for a low header but was unsuccessful as the shot flew wide.
The Braves came out in the second half looking to gain momentum with some aggressive shots on goal. The Hawks also attempted to capitalize on several corner kicks throughout the half.
But it wasn’t until the 81st minute that Crawford broke the seal, finishing off a Hartwick counter attack with a shot from the right flank that skipped off the hands of a diving Billings and beat a pair of Braves defenders across the goal line.
The Braves answered back less than a minute later, though, when sophomore forward Desmond Campbell finishing strong off an assist by Graf. Graf, who has registered a point in five consecutive games dating back to Bradley’s two games in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, collected a long ball from Keegan Balle at the center of the 18 with his back to the goal. Graf pushed the ball off the left flank, where Campbell drilled his shot into top right corner.
Bradley had one last opportunity to score in the final minute of regulation off a corner kick when a Balle header hit both the cross bar and the left post, before Hartwick cleared.
Bradley had another shot at the win with the clock winding down in the second overtime, but Scott Davis was turned away in a 1-v-1 situation against the Hartwick keeper Mateo Munarriz.
Campbell, who was named the Methodist Medical Center Man-of-the-Match, is glad to be back in action for the Braves after missing the season’s first two games.
“I feel pretty good,” said Campbell. “I’ve been out for awhile, and I’m happy I was able to play my part and help the team. Hopefully Sunday we can come back and get the win.”
In Friday’s tournament opener, Mercer coaches Brad Ruzzo and Teddy Anderson enjoyed a triumphant return to Shea Stadium as their Bears earned a 2-0 victory against Nebraska-Omaha. Ruzzo was the associate head coach at Bradley from 2000-07, helping the Braves to four Missouri Valley Conference titles and four NCAA Tournament appearances in his eight seasons. Anderson played for the Braves from 2003-07 and was the 2007 MVC Tournament Most Valuable Player, while helping Bradley to the four Valley titles and two NCAA Tournaments.
The Hotels at Grand Prairie Classic will conclude Sunday when Mercer and Hartwick battle in a noon match, followed by Bradley against UNO at 2:30. The first 1,000 fans in attendance will receive free thundersticks and the Braves will be available for autographs after the game.