The Drake women’s soccer team kicks off conference play with a bang, avenging the Drake men’s soccer team and beating Valparaiso at home on Saturday.
Saturday night was definitely sweatshirt weather, a welcome break from the buggy and humid atmosphere Des Moines has dealt with these past few weeks, reminding the audience what September weather is supposed to feel like. With only one matchup this week, the Bulldogs were rested and ready to go on Saturday with a clear objective in mind.
“[Conference play] is where it all starts to count. We have prepared for the past few months for conference and this was the start of showing all that hard work we have put in so far,” shared redshirt senior forward Rebecca Rodgers. “This is why we are here, to win the MVC tournament and make it to the NCAA tournament.”
Rodgers led the offensive effort on Saturday by scoring the team’s first three goals. Her first goal came in the 9th minute, Rodgers taking advantage of a deep ball from senior Ali Smith and calmly slamming the ball into the right upper corner of the goal. The first half ended with the Bulldogs on top 1-0.
In the second half, Drake and Valpo catered an animated performance to the home crowd. Rodgers scored her second goal of the match in the 53rd minute, but she was answered by Valparaiso’s Kelsey Jahn not four minutes later. Rodgers, infiltrating the Valpo defense, put Drake up 3-1 in the 59th minute.
Senior forward Hannah Wilder recorded her first goal of the season in the 76th minute, putting her head on a beautiful ball that soared past Valpo’s keeper to widen the Bulldogs’ lead. Valpo attempted to keep things interesting by scoring again in the 78th minute, but Drake’s effort on defense and midfield were incredibly effective in holding them to two scores, especially when it came to trapping and winning 50-50 balls.
Rodgers explained the work that goes on behind the scenes. “We spend a lot of time focusing on heading. We actually spent a good amount on it yesterday during practice. But honestly, we have a core central midfield [like senior Brooke Salisbury] who are strong in the air.”
The final score favored the Bulldogs 4-2 a result that sent the squad into a grateful huddle immediately following the final whistle.
The women’s soccer team moves to 8-3-1 this season, with six games left until the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
“We have to take each game one at a time from here on out,” Rodgers stated.
The Bulldogs will have no shortage in MVC play these next few weeks, with conference games rounding out the rest of the regular season.
The Drake women’s team will be right back at home on Oct. 6, going head-to-head with the Indiana State Sycamores, who are 0-2 in conference play and 5-6-1 overall. The match will be broadcasted on ESPN3’s The Valley.