A pair of first half goals proved too much for the Bulldogs to overcome as they fell to top seed Missouri State 2-0 in the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Men’s Soccer Championship last Friday.
Drake ended the season with an overall record of 11-8-1. The Bulldogs lost four of their last five games, with their lone victory coming last Wednesday when they routed Central Arkansas 3-0 to earn a spot in the semifinal as the No. 4 seed.
“We faced the challenge of having played two games in three days, beating Central Arkansas on Wednesday 3-0, and that might have contributed to today’s play, but we had enough opportunities to make a difference, and we didn’t,” head coach Sean Holmes said in a Drake Athletics press release.
The Bulldogs got off to a good start. Senior Charles Schwartz’s shot from the top of the box almost opened up the scoring as it was barely deflected away at the 1:11 mark.
A Drake giveaway in the midfield led to a Bears one-on-one opportunity that Jordan Hoffman put away to give Missouri State a 1-0 lead at the 19:48 mark.
Drake had a terrific opportunity to tie up the game late in the first half. Freshman Thomas Schermoly headed a cross, only to see it bounce off the post.
“Thomas (Schermoly) had a chance off a post at 1-0, and had that gone in, it might have altered the course of the game,” Holmes said.
But the score remained 1-0 until the Bears delivered a huge blow to the Bulldogs’ MVC title aspirations.
After a foul at the 40:16 mark, Danny Frid hit the post off a free kick and following a series of deflections, Heath Melugin found the back of the net to give the Bears a commanding 2-0 lead.
Drake came out firing in the second half, looking to trim the deficit to make a late push.
Senior Thomas Ostrander came close to scoring at the 64:18 mark, but he saw his shot come up short as time kept dwindling away.
The Bulldogs put nine shots on goal in the second half but could never break the deadlock being patrolled by Missouri State goalkeeper Trevor Spangenberg.
“I thought we made big mistakes in the first half that cost us dearly, and in the second half we responded, but it was a case of too little, too late,” Holmes said. “Missouri State was tenacious and capitalized on their opportunities. Soccer games are very much about seizing the moment, and Missouri State did that today.”
At the 78:31 mark, senior Matt Kuhn came close to scoring for the Bulldogs but once again was denied by Spangenberg.
Drake could never figure out the Bears defense. In fact, in over 195 minutes against Missouri State this season, the Bulldogs scored only once off a penalty kick.
“I was disappointed in general by the results in the first half, but more so on how tentatively we played,” Holmes said. “At halftime, we attempted to inject a little energy and enthusiasm into the team, and I think we did that, but at 2-0 it was a tough hole to climb out of.”
The Bears registered a 16-12 shot advantage throughout the game, having outshot the Bulldogs 9-3 in the first half.
Redshirt senior goalkeeper Jordan Kadlec registered a game-high five saves for the Bulldogs. Ostrander led all players with four shots and Schwartz registered three shots for Drake.
Kuhn, playing in his school-record 83rd game, leapfrogged Luke Gorczyca for the most games played in a Drake uniform.
Eleven seniors saw their Drake careers come to an end: Kadlec, Kuhn, Schwartz, Ostrander, Hunter Kennedy, Colin Lawter, Michael Noonan, Dave Parato, Matt Prather, Matt Reindl and Jordan Stanley.
“This ends a chapter in the lives of our seniors, and on Monday (today) we’ll begin to prepare our program for August 2012,” Holmes said.
Last Thursday, Kuhn and Schwartz earned first-team All-MVC selections.
Sophomore Garrett Crall, Ostrander and Kennedy earned second-team selections. Kadlec was recognized as an honorable mention recipient while freshman Kyle Whigham earned All-Freshman team accolades.