It took 120 minutes of play and seven rounds of penalty kicks, but the Missouri State soccer Bears no longer have a perfect record.
The Loyola Chicago Ramblers knocked off the Bears on Sunday, Nov. 17 in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championship game in a penalty kick shootout.
The Bears took the lead in a defensive battle when senior forward and MVC Offensive Player of the Year Matt Bentley scored his 14th goal of the year in the 56th minute. They were able to preserve the lead until the 88th minute when Loyola midfielder Tyler Biggs headed a ball off of a set piece into the goal.
The game went to overtime, and neither team was able to score a golden goal in two 10-minute frames.
Penalty kicks ensued, and the Bears lost 5-4 in the seventh round of the shootout. Loyola received an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament for its win. The Bears made the tournament with an at-large selection, facing Denver in the first rounds.
“It was a tough game — we knew that going in,” head coach Jon Leamy said. “We thought we could lock it down, but we didn’t. We gave up a set piece, and they punished us for it.”
A loss in penalty kicks goes down as a draw on the Bears’ record, so they are technically still undefeated.
The shots were almost equal throughout — Loyola had 13 while Missouri State had 12.
“Unfortunately it didn’t go our way,” Leamy said. “The guys played their guts out, and it was a couple of bounces that decided things.”
Leamy said he was okay with losing to Loyola, a team he said he felt should have been in the NCAA tournament even if they had lost to the Bears.
The Bears had several bench players Leamy said had a big impact on the game, including freshman Kian Yari, named to the MVC All-Freshman team, who registered a shot on goal in his 18 minutes of playing time.
The Bears played Drake in the semifinal round on Friday, Nov. 15, winning 1-0. Junior forward Josh Dolling scored the game-winning goal in the 66th minute to send the Bears to the championship.
Dolling, junior defender Kyle Hiebert, and senior midfielder Stuart Wilkin were named to the all-tournament team.
In regular season awards, redshirt junior Michael Creek was named goalkeeper of the year, Hiebert was named defensive player of the year, and senior defender Ben Stroud, as well as Wilking and Dolling, were named first team All-MVC.
Senior forward Ian Jones and sophomore midfielder Jack Denton were named second team All-MVC, junior defender Gregg Stratton was named third team All-MVC and Yari was named to the All-Freshman team.
This was Missouri State’s eighth loss in nine MVC championship appearances. The only Bears team to win it was the 17-1-3 1999 team, who beat Bradley 2-1 in overtime.
The Bears will play their first NCAA tournament game since 2009 on the day they play Denver, and Leamy says the team is ready to make a tournament run.
“I think you’re going to see a hungry team when they make it,” Leamy said. “These guys love to play, and we’re going to be prepared.”