It was a long time coming, but Central Arkansas made the most of its first Missouri Valley Conference soccer victory – knocking off first-place Drake 2-1 at the Bill Stephens Track/Soccer Complex on Saturday.
The Bears (2-7-4, 1-1-2 MVC), who went winless in MVC play last year in UCA’s first year in the league last season and had yet to notch one this season, finally broke through against a Drake (10-5-2, 3-1) team that was atop the conference standings with a five-game winning streak.
UCA took the lead when David Ngwenya put a ball from Andrew Van Woesik past Drake keeper Jordan Kadlec in the 35th minute to put the Bears ahead.
An Andrew O’Brien yellow card at the end of the first half showed the kind of game that would be played in the second half, when teams received a combined three yellow cards, as well as a second-caution red card.
It appeared that the Bears had added an insurance goal in the 55th minute, but what appeared to be a goal off of a set-piece was nullified by an offside call. UCA was successful in adding its insurance five minutes later however, as Matt Taphorn was able to net the first goal of his UCA career off of a cross from Mickey Segura.
Drake was able to half the deficit in the 63rd minute, as the Bulldogs’ leading scorer, Matt Kuhn fired a shot past UCA keeper Patxi Shortsleeve, his ninth goal of the season.
The rest of the match was a back-and-forth affair, with the Bears playing a man down for the last 20 minutes of the match. The Bulldogs were able to put consistent pressure on the Bears from this point on, with the culmination coming on back-to-back shots off of the goal posts with three minutes remaining in the match.
Drake goalkeeper Jordan Kadlec made four saves. UCA goalkeeper Shortsleeve had eight saves to preserve the lead and send the Bears – who played as an Independent from 2006-2009 during the D-I reclassification period – to their first conference win since 2005.
The Bears will break from MVC play on Wednesday when they host Memphis from Conference USA at 2 p.m. UCA will travel to Creighton on Oct. 29, then conclude its regular season at home with Bradley on Nov. 5 at 2 p.m. and Western Illinois the following day at 11 a.m.