MEN’S SOCCER: Tops give No. 10 Bradley scare

Danny Schoenbaechler

They almost pulled it off.

Western’s men’s soccer team played an electric afternoon of soccer, but fell 88 seconds short of forcing No. 10 Bradley into overtime.

The Hilltoppers had executed a well-thought-out game plan for almost 89 minutes, but they couldn’t hold off the undefeated Braves any longer.

Bradley’s Jon Caldwell took a pass on the left sideline and cut across the middle. He ripped a shot from 20 yards out that dipped past a diving Darryl Sattler.

“The ball got knocked out wide,” Sattler, Western’s junior goalkeeper, said. “Then he came across the middle and all of the sudden he was one-on-one with me.”

Western (7-5-1, 0-2) tried to manage one more scoring chance in the final minute and a half, but couldn’t find the equalizer and fell 1-0.

“We played good enough to beat the 10th ranked team in the country,” Western coach David Holmes said. “We just fell a little short.”

Both teams were awarded a penalty kick in the second half. But neither was able to capitalize.

In the 61st minute senior Ben Buerger put a penalty kick attempt in the lower left corner of the net, but Bradley goalkeeper Chris Dunsheath made an impressive diving save.

Eight minutes later, Bradley (10-0-2, 2-0) got their chance from 12 yards out. Ryan Glynn stepped up and also went low and left. But Sattler made an equally astounding save followed by sophomore Brad Benz racing in to clear the ball.

“The last couple of games, we have been coming out flat,” Sattler said. “Today, we got psyched about playing the No. 10 team in the country, and we played really well.”

Junior sweeper Ron Plute was pleased with his team’s effort, despite the loss.

“I’m not disappointed,” he said. “I’m actually pretty happy. We’re all like brothers, and we came out here and fought for each other like brothers. We have nothing to be ashamed of.”

But the Toppers dropped to 0-2 in the Missouri Valley Conference with the loss, as they also fell to Eastern Illinois at home Friday, 5-1.

Still, Holmes was happy with the weekend’s finale.

“I’m proud of the way we bounced back,” Holmes said. “When you play teams at this level every possession counts. I was really pleased with Darryl Sattler. He had an outstanding match. Brad (Benz) and Clay (McMillan) really played their best games of the season.”

Now Western has to regroup and try to battle back into contention in the Missouri Valley. It won’t be easy with a pair of conference games on the road this weekend – the first of the two contests against another ranked opponent. Western gets No. 22 Creighton in Omaha, Neb., Friday and then Drake in Des Moines, Iowa, Sunday.

“This is a tough conference,” Holmes said. “It’s going to be awfully tough to fight back.”

Reach Danny Schoenbaechler at [email protected]