Less than three weeks after the death of teammate Danny Dahlquistin a fire that resulted in three other former players being charged with aggravated arson and possession of explosives, Bradley University opened its 2007 season.
The emotional opener against Lipscomb drew a record crowd of 2,529 at Shea Stadium, and the Braves prevailed, 2-1, on a penalty kick by senior defender Joe Donoho.
"I think regardless of the result tonight, we took a step over a hurdle," Jim DeRose told the Peoria Journal Star. "We will use Danny for inspiration, not motivation. We are inspired by Danny because he loved to wear the jersey, and he was where he wanted to play. It was such an exciting night for families, and it's just time to play. We put one in the left side of the column, and that's always a bonus."
Lipscomb players presented their Bradley counterparts with a Bisons jersey that had Dahlquist's name stitched on the back and was autographed by the team.
Bradley then beat Belmont, 2-1, on a pair of goals by Drew DeGurian to sweep its two games at the Holiday Inn City Centre Classic and open with its best start since 2003.
The Braves take a 2-0 record to the Wake Forest adidas Classic, where they face No. 1 Wake Forest and North Carolina.
"You always hope you're 2-0," DeRose added, "but each game that goes by, hopefully there's a sense of normalcy."
Bradley's September schedule also includes matches at Western Illinois and against Cincinnati, Saint Louis and UIC.
David Crady, Ryan Johnson and Nicholas Metgen, who have been accused of setting off Roman candles that led to a fire that killed their roommate, Dahlquist, after a night of drinking on Aug. 12, have been permitted to enroll at Bradley for the 2007 fall semester.
Johnson withdrew from the soccer team. Crady and Metgen are not listed on the 2007 roster.
Another friend, 20-year-old Illinois Central College student Daniel Cox, also was charged in the prank.