For the first time in their history, the Missouri State Soccer Bears have won an NCAA Tournament game.

On the cold, wet evening of Thursday, Nov. 21, the Bears shutout the Denver Pioneers in the first round of the NCAA tournament, 1-0.

In the 71st minute, senior forward and Missouri Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Year Matt Bentley hammered the ball into the net off of a cross for the game-winning goal.

“In the second half we had a flurry of about five or six corners, and lucky enough for me, it came off, and I scored,” Bentley said.

Bentley’s goal was his 15th of the season, tying him for second in most goals scored in a single season in program history. It was also the Bears’ 18th victory of the year, moving the team into sole possession of the most single-season wins in program history.

The Bears said they felt they dominated the game, especially in the second half.

“They did well towards the end,” Leamy said of the Bears’ play as the game neared an end. “They locked it down — just a super team effort.”

The Bears now move onto the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Their opponent is No. 9 Central Florida, and the match will be in Orlando at 5 p.m. Central Standard Time on Sunday, Nov. 23.

Bentley said the team’s performance tonight gives them confidence going into the second round.

“When a team buys into an idea like we have, it pays off,” Bentley said. “We get nights like this where we’re all buzzing — we’re all thankful — and we get a nice trip to Florida.”