The season came to an end for Drake’s men’s soccer (6-11-4) on Friday after the Bulldogs’ upset bid came up short in heartbreaking fashion against No. 12 Creighton (14-3-2), losing 3-2 in double overtime in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament semi-finals at Shea Stadium.
“Of course, the end of any season is disappointing. The game was one of many faces. We came up 1-0, and I thought we played well and then they took it to us for a little bit. I really thought at halftime we were up 1-0 and we would be alright. We were temporarily deflated and then fought back, and I think that’s really been the pattern that we’ve fallen all year,” said head coach Sean Holmes in a Drake athletics press release. “For us next year to get to the level we want to be at consistently, you got to sustain a high level of effort for the 90 whole minutes. But we were resilient and we fought back, and I really thought at the end of the game that Brian Grand had a chance to maybe finish it off. But that’s how soccer is, that’s (how) our sport is.”
A goal by Vincent Keller at the 106:31 mark ended Drake’s attempt for its third title game appearance in school history. The Bulldogs have not played in the MVC Championship since 2009 when they won the title.
Redshirt sophomore Brian Grand gave Drake the 1-0 lead at the 32:35 mark. Junior Nick Marshall was credited with the assist.
Creighton outshot Drake 12-7 in the first half with redshirt junior Rich Gallagher pulling in four saves to keep Drake’s lead intact.
It wasn’t until the 55:34 mark that the Bluejays tied it up with a strike from Jose Gomez. Just 34 seconds later, the Bluejays took the lead on an Eric Miller header.
Following a corner from junior Addison Eck, fifth-year senior Michael Thaden blasted his team-leading seventh goal of the season to the tie the game at 2-2 at the 59:28 mark.
Creighton came close to scoring late in the game, but the Bulldogs held on to head to overtime.
Redshirt sophomore Jarred Arde almost scored to begin the second overtime. However, it was Keller’s strike with four minutes left before penalty kicks that ended Drake’s season.
“Creighton, there’s a reason that they are consistently in the Top-20. They played with a great deal of composure,” Holmes said. “We’re not the kind of team that plays for ties, but in the end we were in survival mode. Certainly for the good portion of the overtime.”
Creighton outshot the Bulldogs 25-15 on the match. Gallagher finished with nine saves, and Thaden led Drake with five shots. Grand recorded four shots.
Thaden and redshirt junior Jackson Teeling played in their last game as Bulldogs. Ten of 11 starters will be back for the Bulldogs next season, an encouraging sign for Drake’s future.
“We can’t forget that at the end of September we were 1-7-2 and staring into the abyss, and it didn’t look like there was really much hope and we sort of re-grouped and built the second half of the season,” Holmes said. “I think we’ve gotten to a certain level and now the challenge is to take it to the next level.”
The Bulldogs defeated Evansville 2-1 on Wednesday to advance to the semi-finals. Freshman Eric Williams scored his first career goal with 24.8 seconds remaining to give Drake the win.
Evansville took the early lead at the 16:33 mark thanks to a Joel Craig goal. The Bulldogs responded at the 23:56 mark to tie the game up. Arde scored his third goal of the season on a cross from Grand.
Evansville outshot Drake 22-21 on the match, which was the Bulldogs’ highest shot total of the season.
On Thursday, four Bulldogs received MVC accolades for their performances this season. Thaden earned first-team All-MVC honors. Gallagher and Eck garnered honorable mention selections. Freshman Alec Bartlett was recognized as an All-freshman team recipient.