by Matthew Hevel
After an historic 2019 campaign, the Missouri State men’s soccer program collected numerous postseason accolades as 10 Bears were recognized by the Missouri Valley Conference at the league’s awards ceremony here Thursday evening.
While amassing a program-best 10 All-MVC selections, the Bears earned five of the seven individual awards including Offensive, Defensive, and Goalkeeper of the Year honors. The Bears’ coaching staff of head coach Jon Leamy, associate head coach Michael Seabolt, and assistant coaches Will Lukowski and Phil Woods was named the MVC Coaching Staff of the Year after guiding MSU to its first perfect regular season with a 16-0 record.
Missouri State was also selected as the Valley’s Fair Play Award winner after receiving the fewest penalty cards (7) during all MVC matches this season.
Matthew Bentley (Sr., London, England) became the first MSU player to be tabbed MVC Offensive Player of the Year after closing out the regular season with a sizzling eight-game scoring streak. In his first season as a Bear after transferring from West Virginia Wesleyan College, Bentley is the Valley leader in goals (13) and points (30), while ranking 10th and 14th nationally in both categories, respectively. He has recorded 11 goals during his eight-game scoring barrage while all 13 of his goals have come in league play. The London native was one of six MSU players to land on the All-MVC first team.
After anchoring a Bears’ backline that ranks among the best in Division-I, Kyle Hiebert (RJr., Manitoba, Canada) was selected as the MVC Defensive Player of the Year. The redshirt junior defender has made 49 consecutive starts for Missouri State, including every start during the Bears’ remarkable 16-0 regular-season run. Hiebert and the MSU defense boasts an MVC-best 0.612 goals against average and has allowed just 10 goals in 2019 which is tied for the fourth fewest in the nation. The two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American received All-MVC first team laurels after being named to the second team last season.
Junior Michael Creek (Jr., St. Louis, Mo.) was deemed the Valley’s Goalkeeper of the Year, becoming the second Missouri State player in the past three seasons—and third overall—to garner the award. Creek started all 16 games in goal for the Bears in the regular season, recording five of MSU’s seven shutouts after being pulled with commanding leads in a pair of 4-0 victories. As the MVC leader in goals against average (0.628) and save percentage (0.762), he collects his first all-conference accolade with a first team selection.
Joining Bentley, Creek, and Hiebert on the All-MVC first team are teammates Ben Stroud, Josh Dolling, and Stuart Wilkin. As a mainstay in the MSU midfield during his four-year career, Wilkin (Sr., Surrey, England) earns the first team distinction while ranking sixth in the conference with 14 points. It’s the third straight all-conference honor for Stroud (Sr., Christchurch, New Zealand) who made the second team in both 2017 and 2018. Dolling (Jr., Liverpool, England), who was the league leader in goals (10) and points (23) last year, makes the first team list in back-to-back seasons after receiving an honorable mention as a freshman.
MSU notched a pair of All-MVC second team selections with Ian Jones (Sr., Alton, Ill.) and Jack Denton (So., Buckinghamshire, England) each receiving their first all-league laurels. As the Valley’s leader in assists, Denton has the highest assist total (8) for an MSU player since Johannes Demarzi’s 10 in the 2009 season. Jones has a career-high eight points and is fifth on the team with seven shots on goal in his senior campaign.
Greg Stratton (Jr., Marietta, Ga.) rounds out the conference honors for the MSU backline as the junior from Marietta, Ga. picks up an honorable mention nod. Stratton received Defensive Player of the Week honors on Oct. 15 for his key role in the Bears’ sweep of Bradley (Oct. 9) and Drake (Oct. 13) where Missouri State outscored the Valley opponents by a combined 6-1.
Kian Yari (Fr., Altrincham, England) represented the Bears’ squad on the MVC All-Freshman team as the first-year midfielder appeared in 14 matches this season. Yari recorded his first points as a Bear in a 3-2 overtime win at Valpo (Oct. 30), earning an assist on a Bentley goal in the minute of the match.