OMAHA, Neb. — The Southern Illinois University Edwardsville men's soccer team got back to its winning ways Tuesday night, earning a 1-0 victory on the road over Nebraska-Omaha for its fourth win of the season.
"This was a quality result on the road in a very difficult environment," Head Coach Kevin Kalish said following the match. "Our team showed great character and resilience to stick together and get the result against a team that is quite difficult to play against."
Sophomore Justin Bilyeu scored the game's only goal in the dying minutes of the match, firing home a direct kick from 30 yards in the 86th to lift the Cougars (4-2) to victory. The goal was Bilyeu's second of the season.
The SIUE defense stood tall against the Mavericks (1-4-0), with goalkeeper John Berner making four saves en route to his third shutout of the season. In their four victories so far, the Cougars have allowed just one goal.
"When we defend well as a group, we have team success," Kalish said. "It's not about one or two guys, but about the team all defending together."
The Cougars withstood a physical game from Omaha, who picked up three yellow cards and 10 fouls throughout the match.
The first half was relatively quiet, with SIUE registering three shots while earning a pair of corner kicks before the game went into halftime with the score still knotted at 0-0.
Things would pick up in the second half with both teams trading chances, and Bilyeu provided the decisive goal with less than five minutes remaining in regulation.
After Omaha was whistled for a foul 30 yards away from its own net, Bilyeu stepped up and delivered an impressive strike from distance to beat Mavs goalkeeper Matt Grosey and seal the victory for SIUE.
The St. Louis native is proving to be dangerous from set pieces, as he also scored the Cougars' first goal of the season against Santa Clara off a free kick.
"Bilyeu is one of the best pure strikers of the ball that we've had in our program over the last decade," Kalish said. "He struck it clean and it was a first class goal."
SIUE will now prepare for a trip to Chicago to face DePaul on Saturday. Game time is slated for 1 p.m.
"This is the grind of the season where there are a lot of games in a short period of time on the road," Kalish added. "It's important we continue to improve and have consistent performances. We need to continue to focus on executing the details in each game and make sure we have a quality week of training."