The Loyola men’s soccer team (11-4-3) is headed to its second consecutive Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Tournament championship after defeating Bradley University 2-1 in a chippy semifinal match at Loyola Soccer Park Friday night.
Both previous matchups between Loyola and Bradley ended in 0-0 draws in double-overtime — which amounts to 220 minutes of scoreless soccer. The Braves managed to end that scoreless streak in the 14th minute when Loyola senior midfielder Marius Kullmann deflected the ball into Loyola’s own goal.
The Ramblers later tied the game in the 26th minute off a penalty shot scored by Loyola senior midfielder and 2019 MVC Player of the Year Aidan Megally. Loyola junior midfielder Justin Sukow scored the eventual game-winner in the 59th minute, striking the ball from inside the box to put the Ramblers up 2-1.
“We knew we’d get a lot of chances in the second half,” Sukow said. “We knew we couldn’t get frustrated and soon finding the back of the net was huge. It was nice to get the go-ahead goal.”
In a game featuring six yellow cards and a penalty kick, things got interesting in the 62nd minute. Bradley senior defender Jack Lang was given a red card and ejected after kicking Loyola sophomore Billy Hency in the back of the head. The referees turned to the video assistant referee, a match official who uses video to review decisions made by the head referee, to confirm the call.
The ejection resulted in Bradley playing with 10 men on the field instead of the usual 11 for the final 28 minutes.
This was the Ramblers’ first game in the MVC Tournament. As the No. 2 seed, they received an automatic bye to the semifinals. Bradley, the No. 3 seed, made it to the semifinals after defeating the University of Evansville 2-0 Nov. 13.
Loyola is now set to face No. 1 seed Missouri State University in the MVC Championship. Missouri State defeated Drake University 1-0 in the first semifinal game of the tournament.
This will be the third matchup between the Bears and the Ramblers. Missouri State won the previous two conference games by a score of 2-1 both times as part of its 17-game win streak.
“I think [playing Missouri State] is great,” Jones said. “We’re excited, and I’m sure they will be. Obviously, they’re a great team heading back to the championship game, they’ve been there a number of times. It’s our second shot at the title and hopefully, we can draw on the experience we had from last year’s championship and be ready on Sunday.”
Last season, the Ramblers made it to the MVC Championship, only to lose 2-1 to the University of Central Arkansas — which is no longer in the MVC.
The MVC Championship game between Loyola and Missouri State is set to kick off Nov. 17 at 1 p.m. at Loyola Soccer Park. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.