Soccer (M)

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Zach Kovacevic converted a penalty kick in the 53rd minute Friday night
Zach Kovacevic converted a penalty kick in the 53rd minute Friday night
Braves Roll Into MVC Title Game
Release: Sunday 11/15/2013 
by BradleyBraves.com

PEORIA, Ill. – Junior midfielder Cody Lofgren scored his second game-winning goal in as many games, leading third-seeded and host Bradley (12-6-2) to a 3-0 victory versus second-seeded Drake (8-8-4) in the semifinals of the 2013 Missouri Valley Conference Men’s Soccer Championship Friday night at Shea Stadium.

Top-seeded Missouri State (11-4-2) rode a first-half, rebound goal by Jack Griffin to a 1-0 win against SIU Edwardsville (8-9-2) in Wednesday’s first semifinal and the Bears will face the host Braves in Sunday’s 1 p.m. championship game at Shea Stadium.

Lofgren entered the postseason with one goal on the season, but the first-year transfer from Oral Roberts has delivered the game-winning goal in each round of the MVC Tournament.  After scoring the golden goal in Wednesday’s 3-2, double overtime win against Evansville, Lofgren put the Braves on the board just under four minutes into the second half Friday when he intercepted a pass in the Drake backline and beat Bulldogs keeper Darrin MacLeod from the left flank with a shot inside the right post at 48:49.

Lofgren also set up Bradley’s second goal less than four minutes later when a Drake defender was called for a hand ball in the penalty area while attempting to block a Lofgren breakaway shot.  Junior defender Zach Kovacevic buried the resulting penalty kick at 52:13 for his third goal of the year.

Bradley, which finished with an 18-16 advantage in shots, put the game away in the 86th minute when sophomore midfielder Andrew Brown ripped a free kick from the left flank through traffic and into the back off the net for his first goal of the year.

Bradley senior goalkeeper Brian Billings made four saves and got a little help from forward Christian Okeke, who cleared a header from Nick Marshall at the right post in the 69th minute, for his eighth shutout of the season and Bradley’s ninth clean sheet of the year.

In Friday’s first semifinal, Missouri State the Bears got all the offense they needed in the 18th minute of a corner kick set.  James Routledge served the ball from the left corner and James Thomas sent his header from the right side off the crossbar.  The ball bounced right back to Griffin, who nodded home his second of the year for the 1-0 lead at 17:52.

Missouri State freshman keeper Trevor Spangenberg made four saves to record the shutout against the only Valley team to score against the Bears during the regular season.

Sunday’s championship game will be a rematch of Bradley’s regular-season home finale.  The Bears won that game, 1-0, Nov. 2 to spoil Bradley’s Senior Night while also clinching the MVC regular-season title.  The teams are meeting in the MVC Tournament championship game for the second time and that first meeting also was in Peoria.  Missouri State rallied for a 2-1, overtime victory against the Braves in the 1999 final at the old Becker Park.

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