PEORIA, Ill. – Junior forward Ross Williams (Fort Collins, Colo./Rocky Mountain H.S.) had a goal and two assists, while junior keeper Brian Billings (Apple Valley, Minn./Shattuck-St. Mary’s School) stopped a penalty kick among his seven saves and recorded an assist, leading Bradley (6-3-2) to a 3-1 upset of #17 Northwestern (7-2-2) Wednesday night at Shea Stadium.
The defending Big Ten Conference regular-season and tournament champion, Northwestern is the first-ever Big Ten team to visit Shea Stadium. The Braves improved to 4-1-0 all-time against the Wildcats and earned their first win against a nationally-ranked opponent this season.
Northwestern scored the game’s first goal in the 39th minute when Henry Herrill ran on to a long service over the top from Nikko Boxall and slotted his shot from the left flank past Billings.
The Braves got the equalizer in the 50th minute off a restart. Williams swerved a free kick from the right flank toward the top of the penalty area, where a Northwestern player missed on his clearance attempt. Freshman midfielder J.T. Kotowski (Keller, Texas/Keller H.S.) took advantage by one-timing a right-footed shot from the top of the “D” past Wildcats keeper Tyler Miller for his first career goal at 49:08.
Bradley immediately struck again, when freshman forward Jason Lesch (Vernon Hills, Ill./Vernon Hills H.S.) collected a pass from Williams and sprung junior forward Scott Davis (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley H.S.) for a run through the center of the penalty area. Davis beat Miller in a 1-v-1 situation for his second goal of the year, and first career game-winner, at 51:05.
Bradley gained more advantage in the 63rd minute when Boxall was sent off for a breakaway foul at 62:26. Despite playing a man down, though, the Wildcats kept up the pressure and forced a penalty kick in the 65th minute. Billings stopped the shot by Chris Ritter with a dive to his right and the Braves cleared the loose ball. The Braves keeper came up with another huge save in the 84th minute, getting just enough of a Lepe Seetane shot to force the ball wide of the right post.
After Northwestern made one final push in the 88th minute that resulted in a Bradley goal kick, Billings lofted the restart just past midfield. Miller came forward to challenge Braves midfielder Andrew Brown (Overland Park, Kan./St. Thomas Aquinas H.S.) for the ball in the air, but the ball fell over his head. Williams beat Seetane for the free ball, then dribbled uncontested the rest of the distance for the game-sealing goal with just 31 seconds remaining.
The Braves will try to carry the momentum of two straight wins into their Missouri Valley Conference opener Saturday night at Missouri State, Bradley’s second straight game against a defending conference champion. After another Valley road game Wednesday night at SIU Edwardsville, Bradley will return home Oct. 13 to host Evansville in the annual Homecoming game. The 6:30 p.m. game against the Purple Aces will be followed by a fireworks show.