Last Saturday night, Drake took its record to 8-7-2 after notching a 2-1 victory at Eastern Illinois. The win dealt the Bulldogs the No. 4 seed in this week’s State Farm MVC Championship at Bradley in Peoria, Ill.
“It is always difficult to go on the road and play someone on senior day, especially this being the last game ever in the MVC for Eastern Illinois,” Drake Head Coach Sean Holmes said in a Drake athletics press release. “Our intention today was to not only win, but to preserve our general well-being, while not playing our starting 11 for the entire 90 minutes.”
Junior Michael Thaden snagged the lead in the eighth minute with a burner of a free kick that found the back of the net.
The goal held until right before halftime when Eastern Illinois knotted the game at 1-1.
“The first half we really dominated just about everything; possession, shots and passing,” junior Thomas Ostrander said. “But we let down a little bit and gave up a goal. We didn’t attack or defend as hard as we’re capable of.”
The winning goal came in the 69th minute off of redshirt junior Michael Noonan’s foot. Set up by Ostrander and Nick Foster, Noonan delivered the ball into the net to seal the win.
Drake could have had a 3-1 victory, but a close offside call took back a goal by Ostrander in the 59th minute.
“We created scoring chances, but were unable to finish them off in the first half and we gave up a silly goal with two minutes left in the half,” Holmes said. “After having one goal disallowed by Ostrander to go and then to continue to attack was good. The last 20 minutes was far closer than it needed to be, but we knew they would never quit.”
The victory came in the final game of the regular season and now the Bulldogs prepare to head into Peoria to face off with the host team, the Bradley Braves.
The Braves are coming off a huge win last Saturday night when they knocked off No. 10 Creighton in Omaha, Neb., for the first time ever in the regular season. The No. 5 seed in the MVC is coming in at 9-9-2 on the season and will have the home crowd behind them as it plays the Bulldogs.
“We feel good heading into the game,” Ostrander said. “We know that we can beat Bradley and we expect to. We’ve got some wins under our belts and we’re looking forward to taking that momentum into that game.”
The Bulldogs go into the tournament looking to defend last year’s MVC tournament title when they took down Evansville in the final at Cownie Soccer Complex.
“To play as we did on a choppy field shows our depth and what the future brings, and now we’ll turn our attention to Bradley,” Holmes said.
State Farm MVC Championship
No. 3 Missouri State vs. No. 6 Evansville Wednesday, 3 p.m.
No. 4 Drake vs. No. 5 Bradley Wednesday, 6 p.m.
Winner of game one vs. No. 2 SIU Edwardsville Friday, 3 p.m.
Winner of game two vs. No. 1 Creighton Friday, 6 p.m.
Semifinal winners Sunday, 1:06 p.m.