The Bellevue University men’s soccer team is looking at the bright side of facing the top-ranked NAIA team in the first round of nationals.
Saturday’s 5 p.m. game at Grand View is only a few hours away in Des Moines, so the Bruins have been able to train at home all week. And Bellevue met the 18-2 Vikings on Oct. 30, losing 1-0 in an extremely close battle. The Bruins had a 12-7 edge in shots.
“We played them, so we know everything there is about them,” interim coach Mark Heath-Preston said.
Heath-Preston, an assistant who holds the school record for points at Bellevue, took over the squad at the end of September when coach Matt Briggs had to return to England because of immigration issues.
Briggs has stayed connected from 4,000 miles away, working on administrative things like scheduling. But Heath-Preston is handling the day-to-day duties.
“I guess the hardest thing is obviously the relationship with the players,” Heath-Preston said. “There’s been no real problem or issues. The transition has gone quite smooth. The results show the boys have pushed on toward the end of the season and the postseason.”
The coach said things are starting to click for his 9-8 squad, which knocked off then-No. 4 Oklahoma Wesleyan to win its sixth Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament title and the automatic berth to nationals.
The Bruins have scored nine goals in their past three games. Leigh Veidman, a senior from Liverpool, England, has seven in seven games and Manuel Lira six in the past six, including the winner on an assist from Veidman in the 1-0 win against Wesleyan. Lira is one of several players from Omaha South.
“It’s been coming. We’ve had lots and lots of chances, but we haven’t been able to finish them off,” Heath-Preston said.
He feels confident about his team’s chances in the tournament because the Bruins are peaking and because they’ve played so many tough teams like Grand View, Wesleyan and fellow tournament qualifier Hastings College.
“We’ll just continue to play the way we’ve been playing,” he said. “Just continue to work hard in training and the results will continue to come.”