The Drake men’s soccer team finished out their regular season on Saturday night, hosting a 0-0 draw against Missouri Valley Conference winner Missouri State.
The Bulldogs previously faced Missouri State a few weeks ago in Springfield, where they handed the Bears their third of four losses on the season in a rowdy upset which was the first of two conference losses for the Bears. The game also snapped Missouri State’s six-game shutout streak. Both the late October victory and the Saturday draw against Missouri State are notable season highs, according to Coach Gareth Smith, who cited “capability” as the number one strength of the Bulldog squad this season.
The win against Evansville on Oct. 28 was also another season high mentioned by Coach Smith. A tremendous effort by the defense led the Bulldogs to a 1-0 victory after having lost to the same squad just one week prior.
Caden McCullough, starting goalkeeper and ironically an Evansville native, won the MVC Men’s Soccer Defensive Player of the Week following the matchup for his fantastic effort in the net. Evansville put up 14 shots on McCullough during the rematch, with twelve of those in the second half. In addition, McCullough made a monumental save in the 87th minute when Evansville was awarded a penalty kick. He was the only Bulldog to receive MVC honors this season. The McCullough-led defense was also able to hold Evansville to only two corner kicks, neither of which were able to be capitalized on by the Purple Aces.
Both the victories against Missouri State and Evansville showcased the Bulldogs’ highest shot-on-goal percentage of the season at 66.7 percent. Against Missouri State, the team put six out of nine shots on frame and four out of six shots on frame against Evansville.
Individuals that deserve special attention for their regular season efforts include Leroy Enzugusi, a first-year forward yielding from Linn-Mar high school in Marion, Iowa. Enzugusi ended the season as a category leader in goals (four), game-winning goals (one), shots (32), shots on goal (18) and overall cumulative points (eight). Enzugusi also played the fifth most minutes out of all 30 Bulldogs on men’s team roster. Personal bests on the season for Enzugusi include five shots and three shots on goal against Valparaiso on Sept. 16. Enzugusi also recorded a season high of 82 minutes of game time in the 1-0 loss against Evansville.
Other players that deserve a spotlight include redshirt goalkeeper Caden McCullough who was rewarded for his efforts against Evansville in late October but was also a solid defensive leader all season. He played every minute of the regular season, total play time totaling a whopping 1,586 minutes (1,585 minutes and 58 seconds). McCullough also made nearly 70 saves this season, recording four shutouts in the process against Green Bay, Loyola, Evansville (away games) and Missouri State (home game). His cumulative save percentage exceeds 70 percent. A personal season high for McCullough came in the game against Air Force on Sept. 1 where he recorded a season-best seven saves.
Senior defender Mason Leonard from Overland Park, Kansas, also deserves props for both his offensive and defensive leadership this season. Leonard recorded big minutes all season, playing every second of the last four games which include the standout matches against Evansville and Missouri State. Leonard is also tied for second-most goals on the season with junior Ryan Merideth (two) and is also tied for second in number of assists.
Junior midfielder and forward Ryan Merideth of East Moline, Illinois, who, despite not recording a huge amount of playing time, should be fiercely applauded for his quality of play this season. In his 492 minutes, Merideth managed to lead the team in assists, finish second behind Enzugusi in total number of goals and motivate the Bulldogs to win the October game against conference champion Missouri State by scoring the first of two goals recorded. Merideth also tied with Leonard for highest shot percentage on the season at 28.6 percent.
The Bulldogs faced Valparaiso in the play-in game of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament yesterday in Peoria, Illinois and won 4-2.