Story by Will Thornton
Photo by Joel Venzke
The game kicked off with a heavily-contested first half that saw no goals but plenty of chances for both teams.
The Bradley Braves attempted nine shots on the Drake goal in the first half and forced three saves from redshirt freshman Drake goalkeeper Darrin MacLeod, while the Bulldogs managed to put five shots in to force a pair of saves from senior Bradley goalie Brian Billings.
The second half began as contested as the first before sophomore forward Eric Williams opened the scoring for Drake.
Redshirt sophomore centerback Alec Bartlett played a long through ball to senior winger Bryan Jantsch, whose pass found Williams in the Bradley penalty box.
Williams doubled the lead for the Bulldogs and his season tally less than six minutes later when Jantsch played a cross from the corner of the pitch into the top of Bradley’s six-yard box, where it found the head of Williams before slipping past Billings into the back of the net.
Drake held its 2-0 lead for over 10 minutes before freshman Bradley forward Christian Okeke flicked the ball past MacLeod as the keeper was coming off of his line to snatch a loose ball in the Drake penalty box.
MacLeod and company ensured that the final score of 2-1 held for the remainder of the match as the Bulldogs picked up a crucial conference victory to push them into second place behind Missouri State University.
“Any time you play Bradley, it’s an enormous battle,” said head coach Sean Holmes in a Drake athletics press release. “After we went up 2-0, I thought it was just a question of us hanging on for as long as we could and they just put us under an enormous amount of pressure.”
While Bradley finished the game with a 20-10 shot margin over the Bulldogs, MacLeod recorded another four saves in the second half off of Bradley’s 11 attempted shots on goal.
His defensive efforts during his game against Bradley, as well as in the 1-1 draw at Loyola University on Oct. 23 earned him the honor of Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Week.
Holmes praised the collective effort of the team and the individual efforts from nearly every player on the starting roster.
“Darrin MacLeod has been terrific, he’s made some big-time saves,” Holmes said. “Alec Bartlett was very, very good. Jarred Arde was very good. You could really give the star of the game to 11 different guys. It was that good of an effort.”
Drake’s season is winding down.
With only three games left to play, the Bulldogs have a two-game break in conference play before finishing off the six-game contest with a road game against struggling Central Arkansas University.
“If we can play with that sort of resolve and resilience, and commitment and intelligence in the last couple weeks, I feel that we’re a legitimate NCAA tournament team,” said Holmes. “It feels special, and I’m glad the guys were rewarded for all their effort tonight.”
The Bulldogs’ next challenge comes against rival Creighton University on Wednesday. Creighton is a formidable opponent for any team in the country, ranking in at No. 3 among Division I schools.