PEORIA, Ill. - Bradley advanced to the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Soccer Championship match with a 3-2 win over 12th-ranked Creighton in the semifinals Friday night at Shea Stadium. The Bluejays scored the first two goals of the match in the first half and owned a 2-1 lead at halftime, but the homestanding and fifth-seeded Braves completed the comeback with two second-half goals to upset the regular-season champion Bluejays for the second time in the last week.
Bradley (11-8-2) advances to face MVC newcomer SIU Edwardsville (10-5-3) in the championship match on Sunday. Creighton (12-5-1) now puts its postseason fate in the hands of the NCAA selection committee. The Bluejays, who lost to Bradley 2-1 last Saturday in Omaha, entered the week ranked 16th in the latest RPI released by the NCAA, making it likely the Jays will return to the NCAA Tournament for the 18th time in 19 seasons when the 48-team tournament field is announced on Monday.
Creighton found the back of the net first on Friday night, when MVC Freshman of the Year Tyler Polak scored his first goal of the season. The rookie made a long run along the left side and buried his left-footed shot in the 31st minute to put the Jays up 1-0.
Just three minutes later Josh Moran was the recipient of yet another Dion Acoff assist to put the Bluejays up 2-0. Moran notched his third goal of the season in the 34th minute off of Acoff's league-leading 10th assist. The 10 assists for Acoff are the most by a Bluejay since Tim Bohnenkamp had 10 helpers in 2005.
The 2-0 lead didn't last long for the Jays, as Bradley answered with its first tally less than a minute after Creighton's second goal. Aodhan Quinn cleaned up a loose ball in front of the goal mouth for the Braves. Quinn's third goal of the season in the 35th minute cut CU's lead back to one.
The score remained 2-1 heading in to the half. BU continued its physical play against CU, whistled for 15 fouls in the first half of the semifinal match.
BU scored the equalizer in the 60th minute, as Keegan Balle scored another sloppy goal for the Braves as it appeared as though the Jays had cleared a corner kick, but Balle was able to put the ball in the net with CU goalkeeper Brian Holt off of his line.
Creighton had a few chances to score the go-ahead goal before the Braves netted the winner. Freshman Liam Kelly hit the right post with a shot in the 75th minute. Jose Gomez put a shot on goal in the 83rd minute.
The game-winning goal came in the 88th minute off the foot of Keith Mach. The Bradley midfielder scored his first goal of the season on a blast which sliced off the cross bar and bounced into the net from 25 yards out.
The Jays put two more shots on goal in the final two minutes, but Bradley's Brian Billings stood tall in net, making the saves to finish with nine saves on the night.
The Braves continued their physical play in the second half, while the Bluejays played soccer, out-shooting BU 14-4 in the second half and 20-9 for the game. Bradley fouled the Bluejays 26 times in the semifinal, compared to 13 by the Bluejays in Creighton's first ever loss in an MVC Tournament match held at Shea Stadium.
The Bluejays, whose only three non-conference losses came to teams in the RPI top 10, appear destined to return to the NCAA postseason after missing the event for the first time since 1991 last year. The Bluejays appeared in every NCAA Tournament between 1992-2008 and with an RPI of 16 entering the week, will likely see their name called when the NCAA field is announced on Monday at 3:30 pm (CST).
Fans and media are invited to join the Bluejays for the NCAA Selection Show at the Old Mattress Factory (13th & Cass). The show will air on ESPNU at 3:30 pm.