BY ADAM ROGAN
Despite some inconsistency on the offensive front, the Drake Women’s Soccer defense remained unbroken in their opening matches this weekend on the way to a 2-0 1 start to the 2016 season.
Last week on Aug. 19, the Bulldogs traveled to Fargo, North Dakota, to start their season against the North Dakota State Bison.
The Bison were aggressive out of the gate, taking five shots in the first half, but couldn’t dial in as none of them were on goal. They had plenty of opportunities, recording four corner kicks, but the Bulldogs defense kept the ball out of the net.
Despite only recording three shots in the first half, the Bulldogs dominated the second half. Piling up seven shots and three on goal, Drake found their path to victory.
The Bulldogs only had one corner kick during the game, but they made it count.
Junior defender Kasey Hurt put the ball into the box and redshirt-senior Alex Freeman tapped it into the back of the net for Drake’s first goal of the season. Goalkeepers Haley Morris and Dennis Brooke each played one half in the shutout and 1-0 victory.
If Drake’s offense seemed subdued in North Dakota, they appeared the exact opposite last Friday as it exploded on the road against the University of Illinois at Chicago Flames.
An 18th minute pass from junior Hannah Wilder created an opportunity for Kayla Armstrong, who put the ball in the back of the net for the first goal of her senior campaign.
Nine minutes later, midfielder sophomore Alyssa Brand picked up where she left off last year with a strike from the top of the box to put Drake up 2-0.
The lead became three soon after as Armstrong scored again two minutes later, this time on an assist from Brand. The half was capped off with a 39th minute goal from Freeman, her second of the season.
Last year’s scoring leader Rebecca Rodgers, who connected with Freeman on a pass that started near midfield, created the goal.
Brooke played goalie throughout the match and picked up her first shutout of 2016.
The biggest test of Drake’s early season was Sunday’s match against the University of Wisconsin-Madison Badgers, a team picked to finish third in the Big 10 in the conference’s preseason poll.
The Badgers showed their prowess, dominating on the stat sheet with 24 shots, six on goal and 15 corner kicks.
The Bulldogs put up a fight, but were only able to put one shot on goal throughout the 110 minute, double-overtime match.
The game ended in a nil-nil draw. Morris spent the whole game in net, recording five saves in the shutout. She was named Missouri Valley Conference Goalkeeper of the Week.
Senior Sarah Grace Nicholson was also recognized for her contributions in the shutouts, being named MVC Defender of the Week.
The Bulldogs will return at home on Sept. 2 for an evening game at Cownie Soccer Complex against South Dakota. Two days after they will face the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee at 1 p.m.