Photo by Cassandra Bauer
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE BY ADAM ROGAN
Senior James Wypych had his hat trick dampened when Drake Men’s Soccer (4-9-1, 1-4-1 MVC) conceded four goals, two of them after the 80th minute, to the Evansville Purple Aces (8-6-2, 3-2-1 MVC) on Oct. 22 at the Cownie Soccer Complex.
“On Saturday,” head coach Gareth Smith said, “we showed the best of our offense, and we showed the weakest of our individual defense.”
Wypych opened scoring at the two-minute mark off of an assist from freshman Antonio Sanchez. The lead was extended 22 minutes later, this time on a pass from sophomore Nic Jaimes to Wypych.
The Purple Aces tied the match before halftime, scoring two goals in just over six minutes.
Drake retook the lead in the 65th minute when Sanchez picked up his fourth career assist. Wypych dribbled past the defense and snuck a shot between the goalie’s legs for his sixth goal of the season, the third highest total in the Missouri Valley Conference.
“Terrific, (Wypych) was exceptional,” Smith said. “… Not only is there an end product (of three goals); he’s fixing things in his game that we asked him to fix, which is now translating from training into games.”
The Bulldogs held onto the lead for 15 minutes, but a pair of mis-defended set pieces gave Evansville the equalizing and deciding goals in the 82nd and 89th minutes, respectively.
“When you take the lead, you have to recognize that you have to do everything to maintain the lead,” Smith said. “You can’t take your foot off the gas.”
Putting together “complete performances” has been a proverb of Smith’s throughout the season, and it’s something the Bulldogs have struggled with. Drake is 2-2 when it scores two goals or more this season and has won only two of five matches when giving up one or two goals.
Sometimes players have stepped up in “key moments” this season — redshirt-senior goalkeeper Darrin MacLeod set two Drake records this year for career wins and clean sheets, Wypych’s hat trick resulted from putting three of four shots on goal — but others have faltered.
Smith said that several players let their man beat them on defense or were caught “ball watching” in Saturday’s match, inadvertently permitting Evansville goals and another Bulldog loss.
“If you take your eye off the ball on a Thursday (in practice), you’re going to take your eye off the ball on a Saturday (in a game),” Smith said. “(Sometimes) I think I’m going to poke my eyes out (in) frustration, because (the mistakes) are uncharacteristic.”
MacLeod was also suffering from a strained lumbar vertebrae and pulled groin, greatly hampering his mobility.
“A fresh Darrin, he saves two of the four (shots on goal),” Smith said.
MacLeod won’t start in Drake’s next match because of his injuries, Smith said. It will be the first time he hasn’t been in goal for the Bulldogs since his freshman season — Sept. 13, 2013 — snapping a streak of 70 consecutive matches with an appearance. Redshirt-freshman Andrew Blaylock will be getting his first start in MacLeod’s place, just days after Blaylock was taken off of concussion protocol, Smith said.
Currently, Drake is ranked sixth of seven in the MVC. Wins against Bradley University and the University of Central Arkansas in the next week would guarantee a first-round bye in the conference tournament, which starts Nov. 8. Should the Bulldogs lose those matches, they would still qualify for the tournament, but would have to play four matches in six days if they were to reach the championship for the second consecutive year.