By Carter Chapley
St. Louis, MO
All that was left at the end of the night on Ralph Korte Stadium’s scoreboard was 6.4 seconds. The scores had been removed, but the clock remained. What had happened just moments before was nothing sort of College Soccer magic. With just 11.3 seconds remaining in the second extra time frame, a perfectly placed Leo Novaes corner kick found the head of Kipp Keller, who put it into the mesh securing the Billikens the Bronze Boot. The first time the trophy had been won out-right since 1995. One of college soccer’s all-time great rivalries matchups, Saint Louis University and Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, had a storybook final for its newest installment. An overtime, walk-off goal which essentially stole the victory from the jaws of a stalemate, leaving the home crowd of just over 3000 SIUE Cougar faithful stunned.
In what can best be described as a balanced matchup, with both programs trading opportunities and control throughout the game, the Billikens ultimately walked about with a 2-1 victory Friday night over the SIUE Cougars. After trading first half goals, with the Billikens scoring in the tenth minute and the Cougars responding in the twenty sixth, it took nearly two extra frames to come to a final in the twenty ninth playing of the Bronze Boot.
The Bronze Boot is the trophy given to the winner of the match between SLU and SIUE and was once of the mostly regarded matchups not only in college but in all of American Soccer. The rivalry match is responsible for three of the highest attended games in the history of the NCAA. The series was put on hold in 1995 when SIUE moved into Division 2 but was revived in the 2018 season with SIUE having been back in Division 1 for 10 years at that point. However, with last year’s match having been played to a tie, just the second tie in the games 50-year history, neither team had been able to raise the Bronze Boot since 1995. This is also just the first time since 1992 and sixth time in history it took Extra Time to decide the outcome of the game. The Billikens improved their record in Bronze Boot games to 22-5-2 and continued their unbeaten streak which now sits at 15 matches, 14 of which are outright wins dating back to 1983.
While Leo Novaes was a clear standout for the Billikens all game, scoring the opening goal and providing the key corner kick to win the game, it was Freshman starter Kipp Keller who played the hero this night. “He doesn’t play like a freshman” Billiken Head Coach Kevin Kalish said after the game, “He’s well beyond his years…he leads our back line and leadership doesn’t have an age”. Keller, a St. Louis native and product of the STLFC academy, etched his name into the SLU history book for two reason Friday night. The goal marked not only the Bronze Boot winner, but with his first goal as a college player.
While winning the Bronze Boot is certainly sweet, the win also stands as the first for the program in the 2019 season. The Billikens had dropped match against Notre Dame and SMU, which Kalish noted he’d felt “let them get away” so getting a victory was extra sweet. “They’ve been working, and they’ve had a bit of a monkey on their back a bit in terms of getting that first win. The first ones always the hardest and we play a really tough schedule…but to be able to grind it out and put ourselves in a position to win, it was a special day for us.”
While the Billikens will be back in action Tuesday the 17th when they return to Hermann Stadium to host Tulsa, it is yet known as to the future of the Bronze Boot. Having been 10 years since the Cougars rejoined the Division 1 ranks, and this only being the second year the two programs have renewed the rivalry. It would be completely understandable as to why soccer fans would be hesitant to expect anything. But Kevin Kalish is confident in commitment to keeping the competition going, “This is great for the entire community, it’s about a celebration of St. Louis and our Soccer history…It’s a special game, as long as I’m coaching, I’m committed to it.”