EVANSTON, Ill. - Bradley has played three road games at Northwestern in its 27-year men's soccer history and all three times, the Braves have departed Lakeside Field with an overtime victory. The third overtime road win against the Wildcats is the most significant as Bradley (14-6-2) got the golden goal from senior forward Wojciech Wojcik in the 97th minute for a 3-2 win at Northwestern (10-8-3) in the first round of the NCAA Men's Soccer Championship Thursday night.
Wojcik, the 2013 Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, contributed to all three Bradley scores with an assist and two goals, including the golden winner on a header off an Andrew Brown service at 96:47. The Braves earned their fourth all-time NCAA Tournament victory and advance to a second-round match Sunday (3:30 p.m. CST) at California (12-4-2), the tournament's No. 4 overall seed.
Much like the season's first meeting between Bradley and Northwestern Oct. 2, which also resulted in a 3-2 overtime win for the Braves, Bradley struck early Thursday night. Senior midfielder Scott Davis collected a pass from Wojcik and sent a 25-yard missle past Northwestern keeper Tyler Miller for a 1-0 Bradley lead just 6:09 into the game. Sophomore defender Grant Bell started the scoring play after controlling a 50-50 ball and playing ahead to Wojcik.
Northwestern wasted little time getting back into the game, however, as Cole Missimo beat his defender for a run down the right side before sending a flank service into the penalty area, where Nikko Boxall one-timed a shot from 7 yards out for the equalizer at 11:28.
Undaunted, Bradley kept up the pressure and took advantage of the game's first corner kick in the 27th minute. Brown drove the service from the right corner and the 6-foot-3 Wojcik rose above the fray for a strong header past Tyler and a 2-1 Bradley lead at 26:43.
With time beginning to work against Northwestern, the host Wildcats kept steady pressure on the Braves throughout the second half and finally found their second equalizer of the night in the 79th minute following a free kick deep in Bradley's defensive end. Chris Ritter lined the free kick from about 28 yards out on the left flank. It appeared the ball glanced off a Bradley head as it sailed toward the goal. Braves keeper Brian Billings made the initial save, but the rebound fell to Grant Wilson and the Northwestern defender deposited the loose ball to knot the score at 2-2 at 78:02.
Both teams managed 17 shots through 90 minutes of regulation, but with the wind at its back to start the first overtime period, Bradley gained control in extra time, outshooting Northwestern, 4-1, in the seven overtime minutes. Bradley's game-winning possession started with a free kick from near midfield. Northwestern initially cleared the ball, but Brown was able to regain control and send in a service from the left. Wojcik again rose high above the crowd about 12 yards from the goal and was able to send a head ball over Miller for the game-winner.
With his seventh-minute assist, Wojcik set Bradley's single-season school record and joined Evansville's Faik Hajderovich as the nation's co-leaders this season, each with 14 assists. The goals were his fourth and fifth of the season and his sixth career game-winning goal moved him into a tie for eighth on Bradley's all-time list.
Bradley has advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the third time in program history, all within the last seven years. The Braves reached the quarterfinals in 2007 and the second round in 2011. Saturday's game at California will be the first-ever men's soccer meeting between the two teams. The Braves are 1-1-0 all-time against Pac-12 Conference school's, dropping a 2-1 decision at Stanford Sept. 25, 1999 and earning a 1-0 win against Oregon State Sept. 11, 2004 at Shea Stadium.