Photo: File photo
The Bulldogs concluded a two-game Illinois road swing with a 1-1 draw against Western Illinois on Sunday. An early goal by Drake senior Michael Noonan was nullified by the Leathernecks later in the first half, and the score held up through two overtimes.
Head coach Sean Holmes was pleased with the performance but still wants improvement.
“I would have preferred two wins, but Western Illinois is one of the hardest places to play so a tie with our team is good,” Holmes said.
The Bulldogs got off to a quick and gorgeous start. Noonan cashed in on one of the most exciting plays in all of sports, a bicycle kick in the fourth minute. Sophomore Bryan Jantsch whipped a ball into the box and Noonan connected.
“It was a good ball into the box at about the (19-yard mark) and it was a little bit behind me,” Noonan said. “It was kind of spur of the moment and I was just trying to get a body piece on it. My teammates started cheering and hugged me once they realized it was me. I was even kind of shocked it happened.”
Holmes is glad to have Noonan back after missing a good portion of last year due to injuries.
“He’s one of two of our better attacking players (in the) back,” Holmes said. “Scoring goals on the road is hard. And three in two games, now that is an accomplishment as well.”
The Drake lead did not last long as Western Illinois’ Hilary Esangbedo connected off a corner kick in the 21st minute to even the score. The Leathernecks outshot the Bulldogs 20-12. Senior goalkeeper Jordan Kadlec had a game-high eight saves.
One of the team’s main concerns is that it would like to maintain a lead better than they did in the past two games. The team held a 1-0 lead against Loyola at Chicago on Saturday, but surrendered the lead before netting the game-winner in the 79th minute. Noonan feels that if the Bulldogs keep the pressure up then that shouldn’t be a problem again.
“That is a problem,” Noonan said about losing leads. “I think we just get an early goal and we get comfortable and go on cruise control. We need to develop a mentality that we need to get hungry to score four more goals.”
The defense has been anchored by the lynchpin goalkeeper Kadlec, who came up big in both games this weekend. The Bulldogs’ offense was outshot by 14 in both games combined. A younger but steadily improving defense surrounds Kadlec, but Holmes is not worried about the shot statistics.
“We have not traditionally been a big shooting team,” Holmes said. “We play with a lot of width and even in our best years we have been outshot pretty regularly. We have some tidying up to do in the back. Jordan (Kadlec) is a really good goalie and we gave him too much work this weekend.”
The Bulldogs fly out to California for a two-game road trip against San Diego on Friday and then UC Irvine on Sunday.
Friday, Sept. 2
@ San Diego, 9 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 4
@ UC Irvine, 8 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 9
Cownie Soccer Complex, 7 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 11
Cownie Soccer Complex, 1 p.m.