It was fitting that the night the Missouri State men’s soccer Bears broke the record for longest winning streak in program history with 13 straight wins, that the team that set the previous one at 12 wins was there to watch.
Homecoming day for Missouri State saw a reunion of the 1999 Missouri State men’s soccer team — then Southwest Missouri State — a team that went 17-1-3 and made a trip to the NCAA tournament.
Several members of the team came and watched the Bears take on Evansville — and secure a 2-1 victory.
The 1999 squad had a season similar to the Bears’ current undefeated campaign. They did not lose for 20 straight games until a 2-1 loss to the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“When you go 20 games in a row without a loss — that’s incredible,” said Bears head coach Jon Leamy, who was in his seventh year as head coach in 1999. “I think they’re one of the greatest college soccer teams I think you will ever find.”
“That year was an accumulation of a lot of hard work,” Aaron Rickard, a defender on the 1999 team, said.
The team’s appearance in the NCAA tournament was an unexpected event, but several players say they still look back on fondly.
“We weren’t expecting that,” said Mark Modersohn, the goalkeeper for the 1999 team. Modersohn still holds the program record for wins in a season by a keeper with 17. “The tournament was the reward for the year. It was exciting because you’re one of the top teams in Division I athletics.”
The players that were able to make it to the reunion came from places like Texas and Florida and have changed significantly since graduating. They all agreed Leamy has not changed much.
“He was very intense — high expectations,” Modersohn said. “When it came to the program, everyone had followed his lead on that. It’s the same way now.”
The one story the team seemed to remember the most from 1999 was Leamy’s cereal with water analogy.
“Eating cereal with water versus milk was a great story that he had,” Modersohn said. “In his mind he was like, ‘You guys have to sacrifice on the pitch for your teammates, like I will sacrifice by having water with cereal instead of milk.’”
The message of cereal water must have been effective — Leamy had high praise for the team’s work ethic.
“I was just the luckiest guy in the world to be around them,” Leamy said. “These guys played so hard. They were so committed to making it happen. And it wasn’t easy. They didn’t get to play at home a lot — everybody was against them. I think the world of those guys.”
As for their winning streak being topped, the players said they were fine with it.
“You can look at it and say the school that you went to is still nationally relevant, which is very cool,” Modersohn said. “Everybody (on the 1999 team) worked really hard during their time here, so to see that it’s still carried over is awesome.”
The Bears have three more games left in their regular season schedule. After Loyola Chicago tied Drake on Sunday, Oct. 27, the Bears only need to get one point out of those three games to win the regular season Missouri Valley Conference championship.
As of now, the Bears are No. 9 in the United Soccer Coaches poll. This ranking means the Bears will most likely have a bid in the NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament. They can also secure a bid by winning the MVC tournament that will be held at Loyola Chicago from Nov. 13, through Nov. 17. The bracket for the NCAA tournament will be revealed in a NCAA livestream on Nov. 18.