Bears Fall Short in MVC Tournament Championship to No. 2 Creighton, 1-0
Nov. 13, 2011
OMAHA, Neb. - The Missouri State men's soccer team (9-8-2) had a chance to knock off the second-ranked Creighton Bluejays (18-2-0) for a second time this season, but suffered a 1-0 shutout in the State Farm MVC Tournament Championship game on Sunday in Omaha, Neb. The Bears are now 0-4 in the MVC title game when facing Creighton and have been blanked 1-0 in three out of those four appearances.
In front of a crowd of 2,243 at Morrison Stadium, the Bears looked to grab the momentum early, but couldn't get much going in the first half. Creighton, the No. 1 team in the latest RPI rankings, nearly got onto the board in the 21st minute as midfielder Jose Gomez found himself in position for a backwards bicycle kick. The Bears avoided an early deficit as the ball sailed wide right by a few inches.
The Bluejays put three more balls on target before the fourth shot on goal slipped by MSU goalkeeper Trevor Spangenberg. In the 38th minute, Creighton's Kris Clark delivered a crisp pass to freshman midfielder Jose Ribas, who drilled it past Spangenberg to the far post for his first goal of the season.
At the break, the Bluejays held a 9-3 shot advantage over the Bears, and delivered four shots on goal to Missouri State's one. Heading into the match, the Bears had only trailed at half on three other occasions and were 1-2 in those matches.
In the 59th minute, the Bears looked to capitalize off a Jordan Hoffman corner kick. With a solid pass, senior Thomas Vania came flying through the middle for a header, but sent it just above the crossbar.
With less than five minutes remaining, the Bears made one last push to find the back of the net and tie the match up. Dan Williams crossed the ball into Cole Alexander for another header opportunity. The shot went right into the hands of MVC Tournament MVP Brian Holt and would be the last shot opportunity for Missouri State as the Bluejays held off any late pushes from the Bears attack.
The Bears were limited to just five shots on the day and only two were on target. Gerard Barbero III and Cole Alexander registered one shot on goal apiece. Bears' keeper Trevor Spangenberg pulled in four saves from the 16 shots that Creighton fired off in the match.
"Even though we started out a little rocky, we got stronger every practice and felt like we were getting better every day as the season progressed," said head coach Jon Leamy on the Bears' 9-8-2 season. "The best soccer the team was playing was definitely at the end of the year, and that's what you want to do."
After beginning the season with four straight losses, the Bears made an impressive run that included a 1-0 win over then-No. 4 Creighton at home on Oct. 15, a 5-1 record in league play, and a share of the MVC regular-season crown.
Five MSU seniors - Gerard Barbero III, David Buckenheimer, Jordan Hoffman, Heath Melugin and Thomas Vania - played their final game as a Bear. Three of the seniors were named to the 2011 MVC All-Tournament Team, including Barbero, Melugin and Vania.
2011 Missouri Valley Conference All-Tournament Team
Gerard Barbero, Missouri State
Brian Billings, Bradley
Andrew Duran, Creighton
Ethan Finlay, Creighton
Brian Groark, SIU Edwardsville
Jordan Kadlec, Drake
Matt Kuhn, Drake
Heath Melugin, Missouri State
Christian Meza, Bradley
Andrew O'Brien, Central Arkansas
Tyler Polak, Creighton
Thomas Vania, Missouri State
Brian Holt, Creighton*
*Denotes Tournament MVP