INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Visiting Bradley turned some early accuracy into a sizeable advantage and held on to defeat No. 21 Butler, 4-1, in the season-opener for both teams at the Butler Bowl on Friday, Aug. 26. It was Butler's first regular season loss in the past 20 matches.
The Braves jumped to an early 2-0 advantage behind two incredible goals. The first came off a free kick. Bryan Gaul tapped the ball to teammate Christian Meza, who moved to his right and launched a laser shot to the right corner of the net just over six minutes into the match.
The second came from Gaul who took a touch from Meza and blasted a 40-yard shot from the middle of the field. The ball was still six feet off th ground when it nestled into the back of the net at 16:10.
"The first one was a cracker of a shot," said Butler head coach Paul Snape after the match. "The second one was a source of inspiration from (Gaul). He took it from 35-40 yards and it was a pretty incredible goal."
Those two shots proved enough for the visitors, who wound up connecting on their first four shot attempts in the contest.
Gaul added a second goal at 39:32 when Butler goalkeeper Jon Dawson charged out to try and beat the Bradley forward to a ball served up-field. Dawson was just a second late, and Gaul was able to push the ball to the net from 30 yards out.
Butler, which had a sizeable advantage in shots in the first half, finally ended the shutout with just four minutes remaining in the first half. Sophomore Blake Leyden served a pass to forward Austin Oldham, who charged past his defender and fired a shot to the right side of the net from 18 yards out. The first half ended 3-1 with the Bulldogs holding a 9-3 advantage in shots.
"We moved the ball around and created chances," noted Snape. "I thought their goalkeeper was incredible. The guy just did a tremendous job."
Bradley scored on its first shot attempt of the second half when Alexei Davies-Campbell took a centering pass from Jochen Graf and found the net from 15 yards out. The goal came at 56:37.
Butler wound up with a 21-8 advantage in shot and an 8-5 edge in shots on goal. Oldham led the Butler shot parade with four, including three on goal, while Jordan Burt, Adekunle Oluyedun and Leyden each added three attempts.
Bradley goalkeeper Brian Billings finished with seven saves, while Dawson had one.
"We're very disappointed, but we have to regroup and start believing in the way we can pass the ball and be sharper the next time we play," added Snape.
The Bulldogs next test doesn't get any easier, Butler will face Snape's former team, No. 9 Michigan, in the first match of the Michigan Invitational on Friday, Sept. 2.
(Photos by Brent Smith)