The defining subjects of the 2018 regular season for the Missouri State men’s soccer team were defense and tenacity.
The Bears had the strongest defensive team in the Missouri Valley Conference this season, both statistically and based on the eye test.
During MVC play, the Bears averaged less than one goal allowed per game; their .5 goals per game average was tied with Loyola for best in the league.
The Bears’ main problem was putting their own shots in the net.
Sophomore forward Josh Dolling scored 9 goals this season, including a hat trick against Santa Clara in nonconference play. But the rest of the team scored 10 goals combined all season.
Shot volume wasn’t the problem for the Bears, they outshot their opponents 183-120. The problem was putting them in the net.
Missouri State tied five games this season. Three of those were ties where both teams only scored one goal each. Two of them were shutouts.
At times, the Bears were willing to keep the ball on their half of the pitch, and other times, the other team had good control on the Bears’ half of the field.
When the Bears tended to succeed, they were controlling the ball on the other team’s half and shooting a barrage of shots on goal.
Other times throughout the season, the Bears would win on one goal performances when they had good chances on breakaways. It was all based on the strengths of the team opposite of MSU that given game.
The stout defense, however, did keep the Bears undefeated for a chunk of the season and ultimately led to their strong performance during Missouri Valley Conference play.
Their nonconference play, however, was a different story. During their nine non-conference games, the Bears went undefeated at 6-0-3.
They played three tenacious West Coast teams at home. They beat Santa Clara and Gonzaga and tied with California State-Fullerton. MSU will make corresponding road trips to these schools in future seasons.
Five of the other nonconference games were against regional programs. They beat UMKC twice and beat Omaha and Western Illinois. They tied Tulsa on the road.
The last nonconference matchup was against a tough Mercer team, and they tied 1-1.
MSU’s home record was spotless until the regular season finale against Central Arkansas, which incidentally determined the MVC regular season champion. The Bears lost the matchup, placing fourth in the MVC and 6-1-1 at home.
The 2018 regular season games weren’t a spectacle of offensive production to say the least. But the soccer Bears got the job done on defense all year, which allowed them to stay near the top of the MVC standings all season and put them in the top 25 at one point during the year.
The Bears will play Wednesday, Nov. 7, against Evansville in the first round of the MVC Championship in Evansville, Indiana.