Bears Shutout SIUE, Advance to MVC Championship Game
Nov. 15, 2013
PEORIA, Ill. – The Missouri State men’s soccer team (11-4-2) will advance to the Missouri Valley Conference Finals after defeating SIU Edwardsville (8-9-2) 1-0 on Friday night.
The Bears will play the winner of the second semifinal match between the Drake Bulldogs and the host Bradley Braves.
The tough defense and strong goaltending that has carried the Bears all season was the key to victory in the semifinal matchup.
Goalkeeper Trevor Spangenberg recorded his 11th shutout of the season, tying Mark Modersohn’s program record set in 1998. Spangenberg made four saves on the night.
Missouri State earned five first half corner kicks, while only conceding one. An early opportunity off a corner kick produced a ball that bounced to the top of the box. Brandon Barbero was able to wind up and strike it, but the ball went straight into an SIUE defender.
In the 18th minute, James Routledge whipped in a corner kick to the middle of the box. James Thomas came up with it and put a header towards goal. The ball hit off the crossbar and Jack Griffin was there to finish the play. The goal was the 2nd of the season for the newly named member of the Missouri Valley Conference’s all-freshman team.
“We’ve worked on set pieces a lot this week, Routledge put on a great ball in, and J.T. got up, and I’m just fortunate it landed to me and I put it away,” said Griffin, the freshman from Beverley, England. “What’s important now is getting the win on Sunday and getting into the NCAA tournament. That’s been our goal since the start.”
With the one goal lead, the Bears defensive line buckled down and fended off numerous Cougar attacks, especially in the second half. Missouri State cleared the balls that were sent over the top by SIUE and didn’t allow time for the Cougar forwards to have an open look at the goal.
“We bend, but we don’t break,” said head coach Jon Leamy. “We’ve gone through that in a few games. We knew that every minute that went by, SIUE was going to put more and more pressure on us. I thought the boys handled it pretty well and came out of it on top.”
In the 73rd minute, James Thomas created a breakaway. One-on-one with the goalkeeper Berner, Thomas took a shot, which was blocked by SIUE. The referee immediately indicated that the goalkeeper was outside of the box and used his hand intentionally to make the save. The card forced Berner off the field and the Cougars played the remainder of the game down a man. Missouri State was unable to convert on the free kick following the card.
“We play for shutouts. We work on defense a lot and the back four have been superb all season,” said Griffin. “Last week was a blip, but to come back this week and win, it feels great.”
The Conference Finals can be seen at 1:07 p.m. on Fox Sports Midwest or ESPN3 (subject to blackout).