by Matthew Hevel
Playing in front of a stadium-record crowd, No. 9 Missouri State men’s soccer (15-0, 9-0 MVC) put the finishing touches on a perfect 8-0 home regular-season record with a 2-1 win over Loyola (9-4-3, 4-2-3 MVC) here on Sunday afternoon.
The Bears’ 15-0 start is the Valley’s best since SMU reeled off 21 wins in a row in 2001. MSU is 9-0 in league play this season, tying for the most consecutive conference victories in MVC history (SMU, 2001, 2004). The 15-game winning streak is the longest in-season winning stretch for a Division I program since Maryland set a 15-game mark in 2016.
With gorgeous autumn conditions at Betty and Bobby Allison South Stadium, Matthew Bentley wasted no time in extending his now seven-game scoring streak. The senior forward rebounded a Stuart Wilkin shot to give MSU a 1-0 lead within the game’s first 14 seconds. As the MVC goal leader, Bentley has scored 10 of his 12 goals on the season during his current seven-game scoring barrage.
In the 40th minute, Dawson Lee recorded his first goal as a Bear, following an MSU corner kick to increase the Bears’ lead to 2-0. Following an initial corner cross, Jack Denton found himself with the ball outside of the Loyola box and delivered a strike to find Lee for the one-two punch. It’s the eighth assist this season for Denton who leads the Valley and has the team’s highest season assist total since Johannes Demarzi’s 10 assists in 2010.
Holding the two-goal advantage, MSU’s defense continually stalled the Loyola attack who launched 10 of its 13 total shots in the second half. Goalkeeper Michael Creek notched two of his three saves in the game’s final 12 minutes as the Ramblers pressed for a late-game surge.
Loyola finally broke through on the scoreboard in the final minute of the match as Justin Sukow’s goal prevented the Bears from recording their eighth shutout this season.
“Unbelievable start there with Matt’s goal to put us up early against a tough team,” said head coach Jon Leamy. “Getting the second goal proved to be huge with an excellent play by Dawson and Jack.”
Missouri State will set out to post the program’s first perfect record in regular season play at Drake on Saturday (Nov. 3) at 1:00 p.m. As all six Valley teams wrap up the regular-season next weekend, the Bears have locked up the top-seed in the 2019 MVC Tournament. MSU will await the winner of the No. 4/No. 5 matchup on Nov. 15 in Chicago.