PEORIA, Ill. -- Bradley made Evansville pay for its constant pressure by scoring three counter-attack goals, including Cody Lofgren's golden goal in the 102nd minute, as the third-seeded, host Braves (11-6-2) advanced to the semifinals of the 2013 Missouri Valley Conference Men's Soccer Championship with a 3-2 win Wednesday night at Shea Stadium.
Bradley will face second-seeded Drake in Friday's 6 p.m. semifinal, following the first semi between top-seed Missouri State and fourth-seeded SIU Edwardsville. The Cougars (8-8-2) punched their ticket to Friday with a 2-1 victory against fifth-seeded Loyola Chicago (6-11-2) in Wednesday's tournament opener.
Wednesday's nightcap was a wide-open, attacking bonanza. Evansville (10-8-1) fired 36 shots, the third-most ever by a Bradley opponent and the most since Milwaukee set the mark with 45 shots in a 9-0 win Sept. 23, 1990, six years before 18th-year Bradley head coach Jim DeRose began his tenure with the Braves. Evansville sophomore Faik Hajderovic accounted for 11 of those shots, the second-most ever by a Bradley opponent and his seven shots on goal were the most-ever surrendered by the Braves. Bradley hardly sat back in its defensive end, though, firing off 22 shots of its own as the teams combined for 58 shots, roughly one every 1-minute, 45-seconds of game time. Senior forward Wojciech Wojcik became the fourth player in program history to record an assist hat trick by setting up all three Bradley goals and tying Bradley's single-season assists record (13) in the process.
The Braves wasted little time putting their counter-attack strategy to work as freshman Christian Okeke sprinted onto a ball played into open space by Alon Badat following a Wojcik flick at midfield. Okeke raced to the top of the Evansville 18-yard box, where he beat Evansville keeper Eric Teppen with a top-shelf blast just 54 seconds into the game. The goal was the fifth-fastest goal by a Brave to start a game and unofficially was the fifth-shortest amount of time between Bradley goals, as the Braves were coming off a sudden-victory win against the Purple Aces in Saturday's regular-season finale.
Benefitting from the wind at its back, Bradley had several chances to add to its lead early in the first half, but had to settle for a 1-0 lead at the break.
Though the Purple Aces held an 11-9 shooting advantage in the first half, Evansville turned up the pressure to start the second half and broke through for the equalizer in the 58th minute when Hajderovic made a great turn at the top of the penalty area and beat Bradley keeper Brian Billings with a shot inside the right post. With the momentum and the wind on its side, Evansville stormed ahead minutes later when Dylan Terry outworked a pair of Bradley defenders and toe-poked a shot past Billings from the right corner of the 6-yard box for a 2-1 lead at 62:59.
Evansville kept up the pressure in search of the knock-out punch, though, and the Braves made them pay when Okeke made another run down the right flank. Running onto another feed from Wojcik, Okeke dribbled into the penalty area and beat Teppen with a shot across the goal mouth and inside the left post at 81:22 for his second tally of the night and sixth of the year.
Evansville outshot Bradley 7-2 in the first overtime, but managed to put only one of those shots on target.
Billings, who recorded a career-high 13 saves one game after setting his previous single-game best with 11 saves Saturday at Evansville, made his best save of the night pay big dividends. After Billings made a diving catch of a Hajderovic shot to the left post, Evansville made one last rush off the resulting punt. The Braves stopped the rush then headed the other direction when defender Zach Kovacevic played the ball ahead. Wojcik collected and knocked the ball over the top for Lofgren on the left flank. Teppen was undecisive with his first move and Lofgren won the race to the ball, shooting over the charging keeper from 25 yards out for the golden goal at 101:43.
In Wednesday's opener, SIUE forward Jabari Danzy contributed a goal and an assist and Christian Volesky earned the game-winner with a 1-v-1 shot in the 68th minute, leading the Cougars to the 2-1 win against Loyola. Brian Bement scored his eighth goal of the year for Loyola, but the tally came with just five seconds left to play.
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