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Bradley Hilltopics

Spring 2008 • Volume 14, Issue 2
Sports Scene

Soccer's magical NCAA run
Stephen Brust ’07 (#7) celebrates with Drew DeGurian ’08 (#8) and Justin Bigelow ’10 (right)
after Bradley defeated Indiana in a penalty kick shootout in a second-round NCAA tournament match
on November 28. Before this season, in which Bradley advanced to the Elite Eight, the Braves had never won
an NCAA tournament match. © Ron Johnson

By Justin Phelps ’05

Coach Jim DeRose

© Bob Hunt

Everywhere we go…people want to know…

Ted Anderson ’07 and Mike Haynes ’07 sat on the bench at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium at Ohio State University. The senior soccer players — overcome with emotion from a season of ups and downs that ended in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament at the feet of the Buckeyes, 4-0 — sat with Bradley senior associate athletics director Craig Dahlquist.

“It was sad because it was all coming to an end,” said Haynes. “And Craig was telling us it’s OK. He’s the one who lost his son, and he’s telling us it’s OK. It was great to have that encouragement and to have him and his family around for that.”

Four months earlier, the day before training camp was to open for the season, Danny Dahlquist ’10 died in a house fire. As teams across the nation hit the practice field, three of Danny’s teammates and another friend were charged with aggravated arson in what has been described as a prank gone tragically wrong. “You hear people say everything is a blur,” said coach Jim DeRose, who was named 2007 national coach of the year by Soccer America. “And it is. You have no recollection of time.”

The following days were spent with counselors and attending the visitation and funeral as a team. Initially DeRose wanted to shut down everything: no training, no soccer. “The counselors,” DeRose remembered, “were the ones who said, ‘Let them do running and lifting. It’s a release and a way you can keep them together without talking about it. There’s a time and a place for that.’ ”

Counselors also explained to DeRose how the team could go undefeated and it be the worst season, or go winless and be the best season if the players heal. “Without them, I don’t think I would have been able to handle it the way I did,” DeRose said of Bradley’s counseling and health services staff, including Dr. Janine Donahue, Dr. Kathleen Buchko ’82, Dr. Christina Nulty and counselors Terry Nighswanger, Mary Ann Berkley, and Bonnie Spiller ’82 MA ’84. “There’s no playbook, but they gave me a little bit of a road map.”

Less than two weeks after the tragedy, the team had its first training session that involved more than fitness. For a program accustomed to two- and three-hour practices, this one lasted about an hour. “Everybody was at different stages, so it wasn’t a typical training session,” Anderson said. “People’s minds weren’t 100 percent there, although everybody was eager to get the ball on the field and play. It was our momentary escape.”

The words used to break huddles after practices and games since DeRose arrived in 1996 took on new meaning. With DeRose on the sideline, “1-2-3, WIN” — WIN, as in What’s Important Now, not win, as in victory — has been a staple. “What’s Important Now has always been a mantra of mine because, let’s take the tragedy away for a second, what’s important at 10 a.m. Tuesday is academics. What’s important now in the weight room is moving weight, doing reps. What’s important now on the field is soccer, that’s it. But with the tragedy, what’s important now? When we’re between the white lines, it’s soccer. Outside of those lines, what’s important now is being together.”

In addition, the team said, “In our thoughts, in our hearts, in our prayers, with much love,” out of huddles this season. “It was always going to be in our minds and in our hearts when we walked on and off the field,” DeRose said. “Every practice and every game ended with “1-2-3, WIN” for 12 years, but the additional words were very important.”

The team spent at least 12 hours a day together in the weeks after the tragedy. “When something like this happens, it’d be easy for people to want to be by themselves or not be talkative,” Haynes said. “That’s when we knew we had a special team, because of the people, not necessarily the soccer skill level.”

Who we are…so we tell them…

Craig Dahlquist and his wife Tricia Carew Dahlquist ’87 MA ’90, a Bradley English instructor, inspired players, coaches, and the community with their faith and strength. When grieving in private would have been acceptable, the Dahlquists invited the team to their home. Days after their son’s death, they issued a statement expressing gratitude for the compassion extended by the community and to say, “Though this unspeakable tragedy hurts us tremendously, please keep in mind that there are five families that need your prayers.”

As the team warmed up for its season opener against Lipscomb, Danny’s parents visited the Braves locker room to see his locker, protected behind a glass covering, prepared with his No. 29 jersey, cleats and socks, a small stool folded up inside, a red name tag across the top, and pictures. As the team returned to the locker room before the game, the impromptu gathering spurred discussions of the locker and remembrances of Danny. “It was a stirring of emotions,” Anderson said.

The Braves walked away with a pair of 2-1 wins that weekend. “We could’ve lost both,” DeRose said, “but the goal was to go and play.” The games the following weekend were considerably more difficult. As part of a tough non-conference schedule, the Braves attended the Wake Forest tournament to play the hosts and North Carolina, both perennial Atlantic Coast Conference powers. “There was an incredible amount of emotion the first weekend,” DeRose said. “But North Carolina was wonderful in that we left Peoria and spent four days together, alone in the hotel rooms. People around us knew the story. Wake Forest, North Carolina, and Akron (the fourth team in the tournament), couldn’t have been more wonderful.”

In the ACC, soccer is comparable to basketball, and it’s often considered one of the best leagues in the nation. Wake and UNC were preseason top 25s, and Wake was the No. 1 team in the national polls at the time of the tourney. The Braves tied UNC 1-1, trailing for almost 55 minutes. “The way we competed against North Carolina — we came from behind after giving up a goal relatively early — to not only equalize, but then to actually outshoot them for a little bit. After the guys got back, sat down and talked about it, you started to see this glimmer, ‘OK, we won two at home. We know we could’ve lost, but that’s a good result. (UNC) was a good result.’ And then Wake Forest two days later, to be 0-0 for 65 minutes with them, the best team in the country… I think these guys started to say, ‘Maybe we can do everything we need to do. Maybe we can grieve, maybe we can mourn, but maybe playing is good for us.’”

Bradley lost to eventual national champion Wake Forest, 3-0, but confidence was not lost. A 2-2 tie at Creighton added to their belief, and the Braves set a program record for wins and finished 16-6-4. While Bradley was still winless in Omaha against Creighton, the Braves left with a result other than a loss for the first time in eight tries.

Throughout it all, the Braves honored Danny. A Celtic cross and the letters “DQ” and number “29” on the lower back of their jerseys and on the field at Shea Stadium were reminders of their teammate.

We are the Braves…
the mighty, mighty Braves

In 2006, Bradley was seconds away from its first Missouri Valley tournament title. The Braves were forced to defend a Creighton group desperate for a late goal, trailing 1-0. With 4.4 seconds left, Creighton tied the match. The Braves lost in overtime, and Creighton celebrated on Bradley’s field.

One year later in Omaha, Stephen Brust ’07 scored the game-winner with about 90 seconds left. The Braves, with much of the Dahlquist family, celebrated their first Valley tournament title on Creighton’s turf. “That’s when it started to come to me about the unworldly things,” DeRose said. ”That’s the first time in my head I started to think, ’Why now, after five or six losses? Why against a team that’s No. 4 or 5 in the country at their field? Why with 90 seconds left? Why does this go down the way it goes down?’ In sports, we say ‘What goes around, comes around.’ But for it to come around almost one year to the date that it went down, now you’re starting to say, ‘Wow, what’s going on here?’”

That was only the beginning. Bradley was guaranteed a spot in the NCAA tournament. In three earlier seasons, the Braves had been invited to the 48-team tourney as an at-large team, each time falling in their tournament opener at home. Instead of sitting on pins and needles hoping for an invitation to the tournament, Selection Monday was business as usual as the team learned it would play DePaul at home the first round. “I looked at that DePaul game a little differently because that was the first time we were going into an NCAA tournament game with a win,” DeRose said. Bradley won 2-0.

President hugs Paul Tracy '11

President Joanne Glasser hugs Paul Tracy ’11 after Bradley stunned Maryland, 3-2, in overtime on December 1 to advance to the Elite Eight. Glasser traveled to games at Indiana, Maryland, and Ohio State to follow the team’s incredible NCAA tournament run. © Bob Hunt

Up next, Indiana. As UCLA is to basketball, Indiana is to soccer. With a soccer tradition rich beyond words, the Hoosiers hold seven national championships (most recently in 2003 and ’04). “I couldn’t have scripted a better team to play,” DeRose said. “Indiana University defines college soccer. So now you get a chance to take your kids to play on hallowed ground. You see the seven banners, the 17 Final Fours, and the Big Ten championships.” The Braves trailed 1-0 in the first two minutes against the Hoosiers, who in 51 NCAA tournament home matches had lost only four times. Two buses of Bradley fans, including Danny’s parents and six brothers and sisters, saw Bradley pull even at 1-1 in the second half, and advance in a penalty kick shootout, 5-4. The victory was euphoric, but no one could have predicted what was to come.

On to Maryland. Another quality ACC team, the 2005 national champion Terrapins, with 10 College Cup appearances, were vastly superior in building a 2-0 halftime lead. “I was thinking about how special of a run we’ve had,” DeRose said of the late moments of the Sweet 16 match. Then began what was dubbed the “Maryland Miracle.” Drew Degurian ’08 scored with 2:31 left to pull within one. About two minutes later, Chris Cutshaw ’10, tied the match at 2-2. “If you would’ve asked me if they’d play like that to the end, I would’ve said, ‘Absolutely, that’s what they do in practice.’ Do I think you’re going to come back from two goals against Maryland on the road? No way,” DeRose said. Cutshaw scored the winner in the second overtime, sparking a wild celebration among the hundreds of Bradley fans, many of whom endured a 28-hour bus trip to attend. “That game was really magical,” Anderson said. “I can’t describe it. There wasn’t a tactic or formation we used. It was 11 kids with a lot of fight who didn’t give up. A two-goal lead in soccer, that late, in an NCAA caliber game…it just doesn’t happen.”

The next weekend on December 9, Bradley lost to Ohio State 4-0 in the national quarterfinals. As time dwindled, some former BU players led about 600 fans in cheering “We are the Braves.” In keeping with tradition after their win over Creighton, the Braves acknowledged their fans with hugs and handshakes. “They went to hug the fans after a tough loss just like they did after every win,” said their coach. “And they cheered louder after a tough loss. The fans cheered just as loud because they were proud of them.”

Later in December, an ESPN crew visited campus to chronicle the story of a soccer team who overcame tragedy through the strength of a very special family. “The story here is how wonderful and special the Dahlquist family is,” DeRose said. “At a time when it could have been so raw, and they could’ve removed themselves from it, they stayed. If the Dahlquists are not there, the only story is the Braves won games praying and grieving for their fallen teammate.”

2007–08 Soccer Team Roster
#
Player Name
Field Position
Year
00
Drew Van Kampen
GK
Redshirt Freshman
1
Mike Haynes
GK
Senior
2
Graham Stockdale
M
Sophomore
3
Thiago Wong
M
Sophomore
4
Brad Snook
D
Junior
5
Joe Donoho
D
Senior
6
Cody Russell
DM
Senior
7
Stephen Brust
F
Senior
8
Drew DeGurian
M
Senior
9
Ken Hickman
MF
Senior
10
Grant Campbell
DM
Sophomore
13
Chris Cutshaw
F/MF
Sophomore
14
Todd Reedy
D
Senior
16
Paul Tracy
MF/F
Freshman
17
Ted Anderson
F
Senior
18
Brian Lock
D
Sophomore
19
Justin Bigelow
F
Sophomore
20
Travis English
DM
Sophomore
23
Andrew Monteith
F
Junior
25
Packy Amundsen
MF
Freshman
26
Nathan Groesch
DM
Freshman
27
Rudy Garcia
MF
Freshman
28
Ephraim Beard
MF
Freshman
29
Danny Dahlquist
MF
Redshirt Freshman
30
Michael Motteler
MF
Freshman
31
Wolfe Repass
MF/F
Freshman
32
Joti Baruni
MF
Sophomore
33
J.C. Reid
D
Freshman