With a mix of youthful exuberance and goal-scoring senior experience, Drake has gotten off to a great start by going 4-1-1. The Bulldogs’ have outscored opponents so far 13-8, but they have not recorded a shut out. Head coach Sean Holmes felt happy about his team’s play so far but knows it can improve.
“It didn’t exceed my expectations, but I’m really happy about what I thought,” Holmes said. “I think the theme of the season has been the question ‘how can we connect the young guys in the back to the older players in the front?’ It’s almost two teams. It’s almost like a football offense (and) defense. I think they’ve started to be more cohesive.”
The team started off the year with a pair of games in Illinois against Loyola-Chicago and Western Illinois. The Bulldogs won 1-0 against Loyola and then played to a 1-1 draw against a tough Leatherneck team in double overtime. They then arrived in California, beating San Diego 4-2 in a tough contest and then losing a close battle 2-1 to No. 5 UC Irvine. Senior Matt Kuhn, who Holmes calls the “heart and soul of this team” knew that UC Irvine would be a test.
“By far they were the best team that we had played,” Kuhn said. “They play the same sort of soccer and that day it just wasn’t there for us. We had some chances to get back into the game, but it was still a great experience for us.”
The team has had to mesh a mixture of seniors in the offense and quite a bit of sophomore and freshman players in the backfield. But Holmes is confident that his team has meshed early and is extremely deep.
“It is just a product of time, you know, practice time on the field, watching tape and being together,” Holmes said. “The top 20 programs have guys on the bench that can make the impact, and this year I have a variety of guys that contribute in different ways,”
One of the more pressing problems is that senior goalkeeper Jordan Kadlec, the defensive lynchpin of this team, is “day-to-day” with an injury, according to Holmes. Kadlec and the training staff will determine his status the season goes on.
“I’m trying to push it to get back to play, so it’s really up to me and our trainer if I can go,” Kadlec said.
The team has not really suffered since his injury in the UMKC game, as Drake won that game 2-1 in overtime and beat Fordham 3-1. Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Rich Gallagher has taken the reigns and made crucial saves in both contests.
The team pulled off its fourth win of the 2011 campaign with a win over the Fordham Rams at Cownie Soccer Complex on Sunday. The underclassmen stepped up for the Bulldogs with two freshmen and a sophomore scoring the three goals. The team got off to a quick start by scoring in the third minute off of a deflection by sophomore Nick Marshall.
The next goal was by freshman Ross Payne in the 30th minute off of a corner kick. Payne was more ecstatic about helping the team than his own personal achievement.
“At that point I felt like it was special getting my first goal, but it was better that we were up 2-0 and were putting away teams instead of letting them back in the game,” Payne said.
The Rams scored a goal in the 34th minute, but redshirt freshman Jarred Arde netted a 43rd minute goal to secure the win and give some cushion to the team heading into the second half. Those three goals proved to be the deciding factor. Holmes was impressed with his team’s performance.
“It was good because we did it on the second half of a weekend,” he said. “We did it without our potential All-American goalie, and we did it against a team that lost to Creighton 1-0.”