Bradley rallies to win opener
Braves earn first postseason win since 2007
PEORIA, Ill. -- Sophomore midfielder Keegan Balle cleaned up a loose ball in the box, netting the game-winner in the 86th minute, lifting No. 22 Bradley (15-5-2) to a 2-1 win against Loyola-Chicago (7-12-2) in the first round of the men's tournament.
The Braves advance to a second-round match against 2010 national runner-up Louisville. The 12th-seeded Cardinals (12-6-2) will host the second-round match Sunday at Cardinal Park. Playing in its sixth NCAA tournament, Bradley earned its first postseason win since 2007 and improved to 3-5-1 all-time in the tournament.
Loyola, which earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament as the Horizon League tournament champion and entered the game on a streak of five consecutive shutout performances, got the game's first goal when reserve Andrew Raymonds headed home his second goal of the year moment after subbing into the game in the 31st minute.
The scoring sequence began with a Loyola counter attack, initially thwarted by Bradley keeper Brian Billings, who made a diving, 1-v-1 save on a shot from Ramblers forward Brian Bement. After the Braves cleared the ball out to the far sideline, the 6-foot-4 Raymonds subbed into the game. James Howe made the throw-in and Kyle Spoo flicked the ball toward the 6-yard box, where Raymonds rose above the fray for the scoring header at 30:45.
Bradley very nearly tied the game at the halftime buzzer when Bryan Gaul got free in the box, but Ramblers keeper Peter McKeown made the save just before the horn sounded.
After the first half ended with six shots for each team, Bradley turned up the pressure in the second half, outshooting the Ramblers 14-5 in the half to finish with a 20-11 advantage.
The added pressure quickly paid off when junior forward Jochen Graf headed home the tying goal in the 51st minute. Senior midfielder Christian Meza pushed the ball to the far wide side of the penalty area, where Gaul showed off some fancy footwork before sending a cross back in front of the box. Graf was all alone on the 6-yard stripe and nodded home his fourth goal of the year at 50:59.
Gaul again set up Balle's winner when he collected a centering pass from Marcus Schademann, made a freeing move in traffic and blasted a ball off McKeown. The Loyola keeper could not handle the shot and while trying to scramble for the loose ball, Balle broke through the crowd to drive home the winner at 85:49.
With Bradley clinging to the 2-1 advantage, the game ended in frenetic fashion. In the game's final minute, Loyola's Justin Koehler took a shot in a crowd that was ultimately saved by Billings for his sixth save of the night. The Ramblers argued for a hand ball by the Braves and senior Erik Warren was red-carded for arguing with the official at 89:39. As the game ended, Koehler and Eric Marofske, also were hit with red cards.
Sunday's second-round game against Louisville will be the first official game between Bradley and the Cardinals. The two teams did meet in a spring exhibition in 2010, however, when Louisville visited Shea Stadium for the annual Danny Dahlquist Memorial Game.