ONLINE EXCLUSIVE STORY BY ADAM ROGAN
After an impressive 4-game winning streak through the MVC Championship and Wednesday’s 2-1 upset at Kentucky, the Bulldogs were demolished by the no. 12 Creighton Blue Jays in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.
Drake entered the match with confidence, both from the momentum of its last four matches and after nearly upsetting the Blue Jays on Oct. 06. However, this was the Bulldogs’ fifth match in the last two weeks. Creighton was coming off of a week of rest and preparation. And that difference led to the refreshed and focused Blue Jays’ dominance over a fatigued Drake team throughout the match.
Creighton struck early and often, starting its scoring in the ninth minute. Some tight passing gave Blue Jay forward Ricky Lopez-Espin an open net inside the penalty box.
A similar goal came in the 17th minute, again resulting from smart passing in Creighton’s attacking third.
The Drake defense was able to prevent Creighton from scoring again in the first half – despite taking 12 shots – but the Bulldogs offense struggled to respond. They only took two shots in the first 45 minutes, neither of which were on goal.
“It’s simple. We never really go going today,” head coach Gareth Smith said.
The Blue Jays stayed on the attack after the break, recording 13 shots in the second half. They extended their lead to four with goals in the 65th and 69th minute.
“Momentum plays a big part into (the loss),” sophomore Steven Enna said.
Even with all the scores against him, Drake goalkeeper Darrin MacLeod still had a season-high 10 saves. But that clearly wasn’t enough to slow Creighton’s onslaught. The Blue Jays finished with 17 shots on goal in the match.
Drake did manage to get on the board late, junior Ben LeMay connecting with Enna for a goal in the 81st minute, but it was too little too late.
The Bulldogs were only able to get two shots on goal in the match, both coming in the second half, and had five shots total. Even if each of those shots had ended up in the back of the net, Drake still only would have tied Creighton, as the Blue Jays tacked on a fifth goal for good measure in the 89th minute.
Even if it ended on a sour note, this season has been hugely successful for Drake. After a coaching change at the beginning of the year, the Bulldogs finished with a record of 13-5-3 overall (3-1-2 in conference) and won the MVC Championship for the first time since 2009. The Bulldogs also made it past the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the second time in program history.
“Given the group of guys that we have, we’re a strong core and regardless of all the adversity that we went through we were together,” Enna said. “We have a great senior leading group … They’re our backbone.”
Five seniors finished their Bulldog careers on Sunday: Alec Barlett, Austin Reutzel, Alex Troester, Brandon Welter and Kyle Whigham.