Story by Will Thornton
Photos by Joel Venzke
Drake started the match on a strong note reminiscent of the dominant play present in the team’s past few games. The Bulldogs maintained possession throughout the first half, recording seven shots to Western Illinois’ four.
In the ninth minute, Drake senior defender Nick Marshall began a run from his own half that saw him in a one-on-one battle with the Western Illinois keeper, after a pair of sharp passes from freshman and senior midfielders Mueng Sunday and Addison Eck cut through the Leatherneck defense.
Marshall’s wits proved better than those of Western Illinois junior keeper Yves Dietrich and gave the Bulldogs an early lead.
“Nick’s (Marshall) great run forward resulting in the winning goal is a tribute to the resolve existing in our senior class,” Drake head coach Sean Holmes said in a Drake athletics press release.
The Leathernecks’ lackluster attack in the first half gave Drake redshirt freshman goalkeeper Darrin MacLeod little to do, as he was not forced to make a single save in the half compared to Dietrich’s two.
MacLeod’s second half was another story, however, as the Bulldogs played complacently and with little drive. The Drake defense let in a whopping 12 shots in the second half, with seven on target that MacLeod was forced to catch or parry away.
“It was definitely a game of two halves,” MacLeod said. “The first half we dominated, and I didn’t have much to do. We made the second half a lot harder than we needed to.”
“We were fortunate to escape with the win,” Holmes said. “We were undisciplined, lazy and wasteful with our chances and forced our very good freshman goalkeeper into making big saves in the second half.”
Drake was not entirely without an offense in the second half, registering only three shots but forcing Dietrich to make another two saves.
Redshirt junior Jarred Arde produced three of the Bulldogs’ 10 total shots, while Leatherneck junior and senior Mario Alvarez and Husref Jupic also managed three shots at Drake’s goal.
The shutout win marks MacLeod’s fourth clean sheet in as many starts, and Coach Holmes did not fail to give him due praise.
“Darrin (MacLeod) has been an absolute revelation in goal,” Holmes said. “To have two such accomplished goalkeepers on our squad is a great luxury.”
While the coach and players were certainly happy with the result, both Holmes and MacLeod expressed concern for the upcoming game against Evansville to kick off conference play.
“We’re creating a lot of chances, but we need to find more ways to score,” Holmes said. “Right now, our midfielders are scoring the majority of the goals. We need the guys to finish the chances we’ve been squandering.”
“Every time we got the ball back in the second half, we looked for the easy way out and usually just cleared it (from our half),” MacLeod said. “It barely worked for us, but when we play better teams we’ll need to keep better control of the ball in both teams’ halves.”
The Bulldogs look to continue their winning streak this Saturday in Evansville, Ind., when they begin conference play against Evansville at 2 p.m.