Photos by Adam Rogan
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE BY ADAM ROGAN
Drake Men’s Soccer (4-8-0, 1-3-0 MVC) picked up its long awaited first victory of the Missouri Valley Conference season on the evening of Oct. 11. A 1-0 shutout of the Bradley University Braves (2-8-3, 0-3-1 MVC) snapped a six-game losing streak that started nearly a month ago on Sept. 13.
“(The win was) terrific, massive for their confidence and massive for us to get a result that lines up with performance,” head coach Gareth Smith said.
The difference in the match came in the 70th minute. Senior James Wypych took a corner and sent it towards the far post. Drake’s 6-foot-2 redshirt-senior defender James Grunert elevated and headed it goalward where it was redirected over the goalie’s outstretched arms by redshirt-senior forward Ben LeMay.
“It was a great moment, a lot of fun to be able to go celebrate with your teammates in the corner,” LeMay said. “Nothing better than that.”
“It was a scrappy goal, but we’ll take it,” senior James Pendrigh added.
Even if the Bulldogs were only able to net one, they nearly opened up scoring plenty of times before the 70th minute.
Less than 20 minutes into the match, the Bulldogs already had a corner kick and four shots, three of which came within 20 seconds of each other. Pendrigh had a shot blocked in the 33rd minute and hit the crossbar on a free kick in the 59th as well.
Bradley’s goalkeeper, Logan Ketterer, made eight saves on Drake’s 14 shots, the Bulldogs’ third-highest total of the season.
Before LeMay’s goal, the match seemed to be a sort of microcosm of the Bulldogs’ last month. They kept getting close to victory, but were deterred or failed to execute time and time again.
“It has been a little disheartening,” Pendrigh said. “…We just have to stay organized, because they can score as well. When you have more shots than them, if we keep creating opportunities, we knew one would come.”
Smith lauded his players’ defensive response after taking the lead, proud to see how the team responded to “key moments” in the game.
“Sometimes when you score you’re more vulnerable to concede,” Smith said. “So we asked the guys to concentrate on certain factors to make sure they were dialed in and we don’t give anything away.”
He emphasized the effect that scouting and planning for Bradley translated into a positive result.
“We trained their style, their key players, their profile, everything they did tonight we were fully aware of,” Smith said. “The difference tonight … is that we executed … Their execution on the game plan—they were fantastic. And it shows in the score.”
A milestone and record was also achieved by redshirt-senior goalkeeper Darrin MacLeod on Tuesday night. He already has Drake’s all-time shutout leader (18) and now more career wins (30) than any Bulldog goalkeeper in history.
With fewer games per week and less travel in the second half of the season — the Bulldogs played a “borderline unheard of” nine of 11 matches on the road — Drake will have more time to prepare before each of its final five regular season games.
The Bulldogs will return to the pitch this Saturday against Missouri State (7-4-1, 3-1-0 MVC), a team that is currently ranked second in the conference.