2009 Men's Soccer Season Review
The Missouri State men's soccer team finished a successful 2009 campaign with an MVC regular season title, its third NCAA Tournament appearance and a 12-5-2 (7-1-1) record. The Bears were led by captain Johannes Demarzi, who led the MVC in assists with 10, and goalkeeper Alex Riggs, who tied for the league lead with eight shutouts.
"The guys did a great job of staying focused day in and day out and got better as the season went along," reflected head coach Jon Leamy. "Their hard work all season long produced the conference championship, awards and other accolades that were well-deserving by this group playing in such a tough league."
The Bears opened the season on Sept. 1 at No. 14 Tulsa, going toe-to-toe with the ranked squad until the Golden Hurricane got on the board in the 77th minute in an eventual 2-0 final. Missouri State rebounded from the road test and went undefeated in its next four matches. UMKC visited Plaster Field on Sept. 5 and the Bears wasted little time as Ryan Hennessy and Heath Melugin scored in the 11th and 15th minute, respectively. Paul Paradise would add an insurance goal as Demarzi tallied his second assist of the match to propel the Bears to a 3-1 win.
After a scoreless draw at Central Arkansas, who will join the MVC in men's soccer next season, the Bears once again used the home field to defeat a non-conference opponent. Centenary (La.) paid a visit to Springfield on Sept. 16, but Melugin recorded two goals and an assist in a 4-0 victory by Missouri State.
Missouri State would begin conference play early because of the home-and-home MVC schedule in 2009. The Bears would face a tough road test with a visit to No. 6 Creighton on Sept. 19. In the closing seconds of the first half, a Demarzi corner kick was headed in by Jordan Hoffman. Alex Riggs would face only one shot in the match, making the save to record his third consecutive shutout. Riggs and Demarzi would earn MVC Defensive and Offensive Player of the Week honors, respectively, for their play against Creighton and Centenary. Demarzi would add Scholar-Athlete of the Week as well.
The Bears would spend the final weekend of September in Dallas at the SMU Classic. After a heart-breaking 1-0 defeat at the hands of Houston Baptist, who tallied the lone goal in the 89th minute, the Bears would face host SMU on Sunday. SMU scored a goal in the 34th minute to take a 1-0 lead to halftime, but Missouri State would explode for three goals in the second half to beat the Mustangs, 3-1. Nick Dryden, Thomas Vania and Riggs were named to the All-Tournament team.
Missouri State would begin October with a three-game homestand. On Oct. 1, the Bears used a David Buckenheimer goal in the 73rd minute to defeat Denver, 1-0. Eastern Illinois would visit Plaster Field on Oct. 4 and used a three-assist game by Alex Harrison to defeat the Bears, 3-0. The final match of the homestand on Oct. 7 brought a rematch with Creighton. Another classic defensive struggle between the sides resulted in a 0-0 double-overtime draw. The clean sheet extended the Bears' regular season shutout streak over the Bluejays to 310 minutes.
On Oct. 10, the Bears headed to Peoria, Ill., to face Bradley. A goal in the 11th minute by Nick Dryden lifted the Bears to a 1-0 win. For his back-to-back shutouts, goalkeeper Alex Riggs was again named MVC Defensive Player of the Week and was named to the Soccer America Team of the Week.
Missouri State would return home to face Oral Roberts on Oct. 14 and the Bears would get on the board early. Paradise would find the back of the net in the fourth minute and Kyle Windmueller would double the lead in the 15th minute. Hennessy added a goal in the second half as the Bears downed the Golden Eagles, 3-1.
Missouri State would return to conference play with another road test against a nationally-ranked foe. This time the trip was to Des Moines on Oct. 17 to face No. 19 Drake at Cownie Soccer Complex. Demarzi and Hennessy would each get a goal and an assist in the second half of the match as the Bears rallied for a 2-1 victory. It marked the first time in team history Missouri State defeated two ranked opponents on the road in the same season. After scoring a goal and tallying two assists, Demarzi received his second MVC Offensive Player of the Week award.
Four days later, Missouri State would take on a pesky Evansville squad in Indiana. Demarzi would register his second goal in as many games in lifting the Bears to a 1-0 shutout over the Purple Aces.
Missouri State would return home for a crucial three-game stretch against conference rivals. The Bears were up to the task. On Oct. 24, Paul Paradise tallied two goals in the Bears' 3-0 shutout of Bradley. The win was the fifth-straight for Missouri State and lifted the Bears into the national spotlight with a No. 25 ranking. Paradise's two goals propelled him to the MVC Offensive Player of the Week and TopDrawerSoccer.com named him to its Team of the Week.
Missouri State would 'Launch a Legacy' at the Nov. 1 rematch with Drake. The game between two nationally prominent clubs would not disappoint. The Bears would build a 2-0 lead after tallies from Edin Sabic and Ben Griffiths, but the Bulldogs added two late goals to tie the match and send it to overtime. The fourth-largest crowd in men's soccer history would be sent home happy as Gerard Barbero would notch the game-winner just 21 seconds into overtime to lift Missouri State to its sixth-straight win.
That put the Bears in a position to clinch the MVC regular season title at home against Evansville on Nov. 4. Demarzi would get his 10th assist of the season on the Jordan Hoffman goal in the 82nd minute to boost the Bears to their first conference title since 1999. The 1-0 victory marked the ninth shutout of the season, the most since 1998 (11). Demarzi would receive his third weekly honor of the season by the Valley, this time being named MVC Defensive Player of the Week and MVC Scholar-Athlete of the Week for a second time on the year. Missouri State would move up to No. 19 in the final regular season NSCAA national rankings.
"We had a good group of veteran players on the team this year," said Leamy. "They did a great job of showing strong leadership and playing consistently to take this team where it needed to be at the end of the season."
The Bears would take the No. 1 seed into the MVC Tournament at Cownie Soccer Complex in Des Moines. Missouri State would be paired with Evansville in the early match of the semifinals on Nov. 13. The Purple Aces would muster 11 first half shots, but Riggs made seven stops and the sides went to halftime scoreless. The Bears came out and opened the second half with two early shots, but Evansville would strike first with a Tad Kreamalmeyer goal in the 69th minute. Missouri State would respond as Melugin gathered a loose ball in the box and tied the match in the 74th minute.
The teams would end regulation knotted at 1-1. After some early offensive pressure by Missouri State in the first overtime period, Evansville countered getting a goal from Tom Irvin and downed the Bears in the 100th minute, 2-1.
Heath Melugin and Nick Dryden earned MVC All-Tournament honors for their play.
Missouri State would have to await its postseason fate after a 12-4-2 season. On Nov. 16, the Bears found out they would travel to St. Louis to face the Billikens in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. It was the third trip for the Bears to the NCAA Tournament (1997 & 1999) and second time facing Saint Louis in the postseason (1997).
"This was a well-deserved selection to the NCAA Tournament," continued Leamy. "Based on the accomplishments throughout the season, the team was where it needed to be to convince the selection committee that it was deserving of a bid."
The Bears opened the match with three early shots on goal, two of which were recorded by Demarzi. But the Billikens would get on the board first with a goal in the 10th minute. Saint Louis would be awarded a PK seven minutes later and would increase the lead to 2-0, the score at halftime despite Missouri State outshooting SLU, 12-3 in the first half.
The Bears would continue to pressure the Billikens offensively and were able to cut the lead to 2-1 just five minutes into the second period. Hoffman created a turnover and fed the ball to Melugin who drilled a shot off the underside of the crossbar and in for the Bears' goal. Missouri State continued to garner shot after shot, totaling 22 in the match, but was unable to find the back of the net before the end of regulation, falling to SLU, 2-1. The Bears ended their season 12-5-2, the best record since 2005 (12-4-2), and the 12 wins were tied for sixth-most in team history.
After a tremendous season, the hardware began to pile up. Missouri State head coach Jon Leamy earned Midwest Region Coach of the Year accolades. Along with his staff, he also earned MVC Coaching Staff of the Year honors.
Missouri State goalkeeper Alex Riggs headlined the Bears' offseason awards list for the players after being named the MVC Defensive Player of the Year and receiving All-MVC first team honors. Riggs was also named All-Midwest Region first team and a finalist for the Soccer News Net Player of the Year award.
Johannes Demarzi would join Riggs on the All-Midwest Region and All-MVC first teams. In addition, Demarzi earned NSCAA Scholar All-America, NSCAA Scholar All-North/Central Region and MVC Scholar-Athlete first team honors.
Heath Melugin received MVC Scholar-Athlete first team honors. He was named to the COSIDA/ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District VII first team as well.
Other Bears earning hardware were Paul Paradise (All-Midwest Region third team & All-MVC honorable mention), Kyle Windmueller (All-MVC second team), Ryan Hennessy (All-MVC honorable mention), Nick Dryden, (NSCAA Scholar All-North/Central Region second team), Francesco Capone (MVC All-Freshmen team) and Eric Martin (MVC All-Freshmen team).