Photo: Eduardo Zamarripa
Heartbreaking would be the correct word to describe the season ending loss that the Bulldog men’s soccer team suffered to Missouri State in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament semifinals on Friday, Nov. 11. The 0-2 loss effectively knocked them out of contention for the MVC title, and a bid for the NCAA tournament to continue their season. Head coach Sean Holmes felt the season could have ended on a higher note.
“We made two big mistakes, and we paid for them. We weren’t able to dig out of the hole in the second half. It was frustrating because we lost to those guys two weeks in a row, and I thought we were a better team,” Holmes said. “You just can’t lose 4 out of the last 5 games. If you do that you just don’t deserve to play in the post season.”
The season turned out to be rollercoaster ride for Drake. Starting the season off with six of their first eight games on the road, the road swing would put them at a 4-3-1 record. One of those losses was a 1-2 defeat against 14th ranked UC Irvine. The Bulldogs went on a tear, winning six of their next seven, including a five-game winning streak. This gave high hopes to the team as their RPI skyrocketed and put their win loss total to 10-4-1.
But then a surprise loss to winless Central Arkansas, followed by losses to No. 3 Creighton, and then to Missouri State on senior night gave them a three-game losing streak. The Bulldogs would then avenge their loss to Central Arkansas in the MVC quarterfinals, only to fall to Missouri State in the MVC tournament semifinal.
As the season went on, the dynamic of the team tended to be of an extremely potent senior-led attack, and a younger mistake-prone back-line which would both fight to takeover games. Coach Holmes illustrated this about his team.
“I think our best moments were better than we’ve played for five years, but I think our worst moments were sloppier than the worst in five years,” Holmes said.
Redshirt senior Matt Kuhn agreed that having a more experienced squad would have helped in the long run.
“It was big leadership in the front of the team, it kind of hurt us, we would have liked leadership in the back, it will flip flop, next year they will be the head of the team. It will help them grow in the years to come,” Kuhn said.
The Bulldogs garnered several distinctions throughout the season. Redshirt senior Charlie Schwartz and Kuhn were chosen as first team All-MVC selections. The team also garnered three second-team selections, with seniors Hunter Kennedy and Thomas Ostrander, and sophomore Garrett Crall. Redshirt senior Jordan Kadlec received an Honorable Mention award, while freshman Kyle Whigham was selected to the All-freshman team.
The winningest class in Drake soccer history, this senior class produced a stretch of winning that no other class has. As the heart and soul of this team, it was hard for the seniors to let go of their last season in a Bulldog uniform.
“It was pretty sad. With all of the seniors we have we were playing together for a lot of years, and some growing up together,” Schwartz said. “All in all, it was fun playing with these guys, and you know, something you’ll never forget.”
The seniors have left a legacy of winning and have aided in building the program into a consistent winner.
“I mean it sucks to go out like we did. It is hard to end your career. But over the past five years I couldn’t ask for more than I did. Two NCAA appeareances and one conference championship? Sometimes you aren’t going to have the best of times,” Kuhn said. “Sometimes it’s about the guys around you that make the experience. I wouldn’t have wanted to share it with any other guys.”