KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The theory that individual awards are achieved through team success was proved Monday by the Bradley Soccer team with the announcement of the 2013 NSCAA/Continental Tire All-Midwest Region Team.
Bradley senior forward Wojciech Wojcik (Elmwood Park, Ill./Elmwood Park H.S.) earned a spot on the 11-player All-Midwest Region first team and senior goalkeeper Brian Billings (Apple Valley, Minn./Shattuck-St. Mary’s) landed on the second team, while sophomore defender Grant Bell (Little Falls, Minn./Little Falls H.S.) and freshman forward Christian Okeke (Wichita Falls, Texas/Rider H.S.) both were named to the third team. In addition, 18th-year Bradley head coach Jim DeRose was selected the NSCAA Midwest Region Coach of the Year for the third time in his career, making him one of eight candidates for the National Coach of the Year.
The quintet of award winners helped Bradley to a 14-7-2 overall record, the Missouri Valley Conference postseason tournament title and the second round of the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship. The Braves also earned the program’s first-ever win against the nation’s No. 1-ranked team, a 1-0 victory Sept. 14 at Connecticut, as well as a 3-2, overtime win Oct. 2 at #3 Northwestern. Wojcik and Billings are part of a senior class that was the first group in Bradley Soccer history to reach three NCAA Tournaments.
The Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, Wojcik is in position to become the first-ever Bradley Soccer player to lead the nation in a statistical category. With only three games left in the 2013 college soccer season, Wojcik is tied with Evansville’s Faik Hajderovic as the nation’s co-leaders for assists, both with 14. The assist leaders among the four remaining teams in the NCAA Men’s Soccer College Cup have eight assists, putting the Valley rivals in position to finish the year as the national leaders.
Wojcik’s 14 assists set the Bradley single-season record and he finished the season as the team’s overall scoring leader with 26 points by coupling six goals with his 14 assists. The 6-foot-3 forward finished the year strong, contributing three goals and an assist in Bradley’s two NCAA Tournament games. He also dished out three assists in Bradley’s MVC Tournament quarterfinal win against Evansville.
Billings was a third-team NSCAA All-Midwest Region selection in 2011 and 2012 and his second-team award in 2013 makes him the fourth player in Bradley history to earn all-region honors three times in his career, following Chris Dunsheath (2002-03-04-05), Gavin Glinton (1998-99-2000-01) and Bryan Namoff (1998-99-2000).
Billings finished the year with a 13-7-2 record with a 1.22 goals against average and his nine shutouts equaled the second-best total in program history. He also posted a 5-0-2 record in Bradley’s seven overtime games, including a pair of wins in extra time at Northwestern.
Bell started 22 of Bradley’s 23 games in the back line and he led all the field players by logging 1,966 minutes. In addition to his defensive work, Bell contributed two goals and three assists for seven points.
The freshman forward finished second on the team lead with 16 points, while tying for second on the team with six goals and four assists. He scored two goals in the Oct. 2 win at #3 Northwestern, including the game-winner in overtime, and added two more goals in Bradley’s MVC Tournament quarterfinal win against Evansville. Okeke’s six goals and 16 points both were the most by a Bradley freshman since Hamid Mehreioskouei posted the same numbers as a freshman in 1999.
Having just completed his 18th season as Bradley’s head coach, DeRose previously won the NSCAA Midwest Region Coach-of-the-Year Award in 1998 and 2007. His most-recent award comes after leading the Braves to their third MVC Tournament title and seventh NCAA Tournament appearance, as well as road wins against teams ranked first and third nationally at the time of the game. Bradley’s 14 wins in 2013 equal the fifth-most in program history and pushed DeRose’s career victories over 80 percent of Bradley Soccer’s all-time total (205-of-256, .801).
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