Assistant coaches make presence felt at Drake

October 4, 2015 10:00 AM


LESLIE FLORES-CLOUD gives advice to Michelle Thommi on the sidelines. PHOTO BY BARON CAO ‘15 | DRAKE ATHLETICS

LESLIE FLORES-CLOUD gives advice to Michelle Thommi on the sidelines. PHOTO BY BARON CAO ‘15 | DRAKE ATHLETICS

A lot more goes into collegiate sports teams than just the players and the head coach at the helm.

With a staff comprised of three assistant coaches, a video coordinator, video coordinator, strength coach, director of basketball operations, several student managers and head coach Ray Giacoletti, the Drake basketball team has one of the largest and most comprehensive support staffs on campus.

Not only is the staff expansive, but it is also experienced, including assistant coach Jeff Rutter, who has been coaching basketball for more than 20 years. Rutter is now entering his third year at Drake.


Bulldogs snap decade-long drought against Illinois State

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FRESHMAN Elaine Gorom handles the ball along the sideline last week. PHOTO BY ASHLEY KIRKLAND | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

FRESHMAN Elaine Gorom handles the ball along the sideline last week. PHOTO BY ASHLEY KIRKLAND | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

For the past 10 years, the Illinois State Redbirds have dominated the Drake Bulldogs, winning every meeting between the two teams.

That streak is now over.

Drake came back from a 2-0 deficit in the final 20 minutes of Saturday’s game to start the conference season with a win.

Drake started out behind for the eighth straight match, giving up a goal in the ninth minute.

“(We need to be) ready to go defensively especially,” senior midfielder Emma Winstead said. “We get really hyped up to go score goals, so sometimes that lets us slip a little bit on defense.”

The Redbirds extended their lead to two early in the second half.

Knowing that tick on the clock made a comeback even more unlikely, Drake went on the attack.

Junior forward Rebecca Rodgers broke the scoring seal for the Bulldogs when she put the ball passed the keeper in the 72nd minute, her fourth goal of the season, to cut Illinois State’s lead to one.

Three minutes later the match was tied when a corner kick from Kayla Armstrong found defender Sarah Grace Nicholson, who headed the ball into the back of the net.

The corner gave Armstrong her second assist of the match, earning her an MVC Offensive Player of the Week award.

“We had momentum for a couple minutes so we took it and we ran with it,” Nicholson said. “Kayla played a perfect ball to me and I got some separation from the defender and found the net.”

The defining goal of the match came in the 86th minute, again on a corner kick. In this case it was not so much from late game heroics, but instead a little bit of luck that bounced in the Bulldogs’ favor.

“Luck goes one way or another, you can’t control it,” Nicholson said.

The Redbirds initially managed to clear a corner kick, but Drake sophomore Ali Smith lifted the ball back into the box. The Redbirds attempted to clear the ball once again, but a misplayed header turned into an own goal and a Drake 3-2 lead.

The Bulldog defense held on as the clock wound down and Drake walked off the field in triumph.

“Everyone wanted it and everyone knew that defense was the most important thing at the end of the game,” Winstead said.

The victory also extended Drake’s road win streak to two.

“The whole team is just super pumped, because that’s obviously just a big win coming into the season,” Nicholson said. “We’re all just ready to get some more wins under our belt and take that momentum and move forward.”

The MVC season will continue on Friday night when Indiana State travels to Des Moines.

“I think the league is wide open,” head coach Lindsey Horner said. “I don’t know that there will be a favorite in any game we play.”

Offensively challenged Drake falls 24-14 to Campbell

October 3, 2015 11:09 PM

By Austin Cannon

The rain stopped midway through the first quarter and the turf at Barker-Lane Stadium is artificial, so only figurative mud was responsible for rendering the Drake offense immobile. Well, that and the Campbell defense.

The Bulldogs were held to a season-low 154 total yards — 2.3 yards per play — and fell victim to a pair of big plays in their 24-14 loss to Campbell. It marked the Camels’ first-ever victory over Drake in six tries.

“We felt we should’ve won, but we didn’t show up and play our best,” cornerback Brad Duwe said.

Trailing 17-14 after three quarters, the Bulldogs could not escape their end of the field. Facing a consistent, strong wind, Drake was repeatedly pinned deep. The Bulldogs began three drives in the fourth quarter. They started at the Drake 5-, 14- and 10-yard lines.

The tenacious Campbell defense, living up to its billing as the top overall defense in the Pioneer Football League, forced the Bulldogs even closer to their goal line. Quarterback Andy Rice was sacked a staggering seven times in the final period, the primary reason the offense lost more yards than it gained. It was moving in reverse, tallying -7 yards in the final 15 minutes.

“Honestly, their defensive line just took over the game in the fourth quarter,” head coach Rick Fox said. “Especially as it progressed into the fourth quarter and we had to pass … We couldn’t get time to pass.”

Defensive linemen Ugonna Awuruonye and Syd Holt formed a fearsome duo, combining for six sacks. They preyed on a Drake offensive line missing three of its starters.

Offensive lineman Aaron Johnson said Awuruonye was “probably one of the best defensive ends we’ve seen so far.”

“That’s the best defensive line we’ve faced all year,” Fox said. “That’s the strength of their team.”

Compounding the problem was the absence of starting running back Conley Wilkins. Drake’s leading rusher was injured in Wednesday’s practice. Fox said Wilkins felt worse Thursday and didn’t make the trip. Gary Scott Jr. started in his place, and he and Brock Reichardt only combined for 68 yards on the ground.

As poorly as the fourth quarter went, Drake (2-3) grabbed the lead twice in the second and third quarters. Receiver Michael Hudson, returning from an ankle injury, was responsible for both Drake touchdowns. He hauled in a seven-yard pass from Rice with 14:13 left in the first half and ran a superb flag route for a 13-yard touchdown to give Drake a 14-10 lead with 5:21 to go in the third quarter.

Both Drake’s scoring drives were results of good field position. With Campbell kicking into the wind in those quarters, the Bulldogs started at the Campbell 41- and 49-yard lines.

“The wind was kind of strange,” Fox said. “Down low it was a breeze but it wasn’t that significant, but up high, once you got above the scoreboard, it was knocking every kick back, it was really holding it back, so that was big in the game, no doubt about it.”

The Bulldogs got the ball back for their next drive with the lead, but they only moved the ball four yards before punting. The Camels took advantage and went down the field to the Drake 14. On the next play, receiver Brian Bolling went in motion and took the handoff from Kameron Bryant. Instead of turning upfield, Bolling, a high school quarterback, stopped and threw to a streaking Andre Davis for a touchdown and a 17-14 lead.

Campbell iced the game late in the fourth. Bryant rolled out to his right and threw a 53-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Blockmon, who had gotten behind the Drake secondary. The play perhaps surprised the Drake defense that might have expected the Camels to run out the clock by sticking to the ground game.

“More than what went wrong, they just made plays,” Duwe said.

Other than the two big plays, the Bulldog defense kept the game close. Campbell only gained 300 yards on offense, and running back DeShawn Jones, who came into Saturday averaging 7.2 yards per carry, managed only 30 yards on nine carries. Linebacker John Hugunin led Drake with 11 tackles and forced his fifth fumble in as many games.

“I thought our defense did nice things, but those big plays hurt us,” Fox said.

The offense simply couldn’t respond. Rice only completed 44 percent of his passes for 114 yards, spending much of the second half under duress when the Bulldogs were forced to abandon the run game. In all, he was sacked nine times.

The schedule doesn’t get easier for the Bulldogs, who have one of the toughest slates in the PFL. Still remaining are games against preseason favorite San Diego, undefeated Jacksonville and Dayton, and 3-1 Butler. On Saturday, Valparaiso visits Drake Stadium for Homecoming weekend.

“You’ve got to keep hammering away and getting better and doing all the little things,” Fox said. “And when you do that, the wins will come.”

Three goals too much for Evansville

11:00 AM


A Bulldog goes up for a header against the Purple Aces. Drake beat Evansville 3-1. PHOTO BY CASSANDRA BAUER | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

A Bulldog goes up for a header against the Purple Aces. Drake beat Evansville 3-1. PHOTO BY CASSANDRA BAUER | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Drake has been a clear leader in the Missouri Valley Conference throughout the early season, winning six of their first eight matches. The Bulldogs extended their win streak to three on Saturday and started the conference season at 1-0.

“I think any time we can help these young guys perform close to their potential, as they’re doing right now, is always pleasing to see,” head coach Gareth Smith said. “Any coaches in any program should be in it for the student-athletes and to see those guys close to their potential, operating at optimum performance is always positive for any coach to see. The blessing in it is that they’re not only are they performing well but they’re also getting results and when you get those two then you’re in a good place.”

The Bulldogs traveled to Evansville, Indiana on Saturday looking to exact their revenge for a 1-4 loss last season at the hands of the Purple Aces at home in Des Moines.

Sophomore Steven Enna, who scored his first two goals of the season and earned Missouri Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors for the first time this season, led the Bulldogs to victory.

Junior Mueng Sunday picked up two assists on the day andnow leads the team with fourassists on the season, all four of which have come in the lastthree games.

“It’s a weight off the chest, starting to get a couple goals,” Enna said. “It feels good.”

After forcing a turnover in the 10th minute, Enna had a one-on-one opportunity with the goalie. He didn’t hesitate, taking a shot from 18-yards out to put Drake up 1-0.

The Purple Aces responded with the equalizer 17 minutes later on a cross, allowing Mark Gonzalez to score his team-leading third goal of the season.

With just seconds left in the first half, Drake was able to make one final attempt on goal. Sophomore Gabe Edel took control of the ball near midfield and made a long pass down the sideline, finding Sunday in the attacking third.

Sunday sent a cross towards the far post, finding redshirt sophomore Alex Prusa for the header goal to give Drake the lead heading into halftime.

“It’s nice being able to get involved, but to be able to get some assists you have to have the right people being in the right place and being ready for the ball,” Sunday said.

The Bulldogs would cushion their lead seven minutes into the second half when Enna scored his second goal of the match, again off of an assist from Sunday.

The Drake backline played lockdown defense for the rest of the match. Evansville only managed one shot on goal in the second half.

“I don’t think we need to recreate the wheel with what we’ve been doing to this point to be successful,” Smith said. “As long as we continue to do those things that we’ve been doing well and make some minoradjustments depending on who we play.”

Not only has the Drake defense been tough to score on all season, but the offense has been explosive in the past two weeks, outscoring opponents 10-3 in their last three matches.

“I feel like we’re just all clicking right now, (scoring) a lot of goals and making things happen on the field,” Sunday said.

Redshirt junior goalkeeper Darrin MacLeod has played every minute in the net for the Bulldogs this season and has made 31 saves thus far, contributing to a 6-2 record to go along with a pair of shutouts.

Next week will prove to be a challenge for the Bulldogs. They will face off with the Missouri State Bears.

The Bears and the Bulldogs are, as of Sept. 29, the only two teams in the MVC with a winning record overall and a win in their first conference game.

Although Missouri State’s defense has been strong all season — only giving up six goals in seven games, its offensive production has been lacking.

The Bears have scored just six goals all season and have three scoreless draws.

“They’re a very difficult team to break down,” Smith said. “They tend to have a very solid defensive structure, a very solid cornerstone of their program. We have to find the balance between attacking … (and) not leaving ourselves exposed on the counter.”

The Bears faced off with the no. 1 Creighton Blue Jays on Tuesday, a team that was 9-0 entering their match.

The match finished after the Times-Delphic went to print.

What’s the deal with the ESPN deal?

11:00 AM


Drake University Athletics and the Missouri Valley Conference recently announced they have finalized a partnership with ESPN3, an online only platform of the ESPN network.

Starting in October, all women’s volleyball games as well as men’s and women’s basketball games will be available to stream via ESPN3.

Not only is this a chance to heighten exposure for Drake and other MVC teams, but also an experience opportunity for students in the Valley.

Students will be responsible for not only filming the games but will have a hand in the production as well. Students will also help create graphics and direct productions.

The experience the students are gaining is different from the average college job. They will be working on a professional broadcast that can be viewed worldwide.

Terrence Thames, the Creative Services Coordinator for Drake University, is excited about the possibilities it will open up to students.

“Everything we’re doing is the exact same as ESPN.” Thames said. “We’re running an ESPN broadcast…. Giving students these opportunities is how they will set themselves apart in a crowded market.”

David Wright, an Associate Professor at the Drake School of Journalism and Mass Communication, agrees with Thames.

“We love practical experience, so it’s a match made in heaven,” Wright said.

Wright would like to eventually see students not only running the production behind the scenes but in front of the camera as well.

Thus could be happening as early as next spring in terms of shadowing and training to start as soon as the basketball season begins.

Wright is confident that Drake students can handle the level of professionalism it takes to be a talent for ESPN.

At the same time, Wright, as well as Drake Communications, is hoping that ESPN will take advantage of the opportunity and increased audience offered by the MVC.

Mark Lesser, the interim coordinator of Creative Services, is excited to be working with students who are new to the field.

“In some ways, it’s better than working with veterans,” Lesser said. “(The students) are passionate about what they do and learning the new technology.”

While a completely student-run production is exciting in many ways, there is also a hindrance in the size of the staff. The Creative Services team consists of only 35 students of varying educational backgrounds.

In the coming months, however, Thames and Lesser both worry about moving from staffing seven to staffing 15 students per game. While it will be a transition at first, the prospect of expanding the Creative Services staff is welcomed.

To become a part of the Creative Services team, or for more information about The Valley on ESPN3, students can contact Terrence Thames at

Bulldogs surprise Loyola to start MVC season at 2-1

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Drake would play the minimum of six games in their first two conference matches of the season, sweeping Evansville on Friday evening before being swept by Southern Illinois University the following night, beforing upsetting Loyola on the road.

The Bulldogs were explosive in their first conference match of the season, dominating the Evansville Purple Aces in three sets at home.

Drake took the first point of game one and never looked back, leading wire-to-wire. The Bulldogs all but sealed the deal on a 5-0 run on serves from freshman Grace Schofield to give themselves a 24-14 advantage.

A kill from sophomore Kyla Inderski finished the game two plays later. Drake 25, Evansville 15.

Evansville took their first lead of the match in game two after scoring the first point. After that, it was all Bulldogs. They went on one of their biggest scoring streaks of season, taking 12 consecutive points to put the game out of reach. The Bulldogs would go on to win the set by a score of 25-11.

In set three, it appeared that Evansville may put up a fight with their backs against the wall, taking an 8-7 lead over Drake after four Bulldog errors. But the Bulldogs responded by taking 14 of the next 20 points. Back-to-back kills from senior Katie Dulek closed the match with Drake on top, 25-18.

Southern Illinois put an end to any momentum Drake could have built from that win, however, by controlling the Bulldogs at the Knapp Center.

The Salukis finished the match with a hit percentage of .369, considerably better than Drake’s .085. Drake’s blocking wasn’t much better, which contributed to the Salukis’ success in hitting. SIU had 11 blocks total in the match, nine more than Drake.

The Salukis did commit a fair share of mistakes in the match, committing nine serving errors, but the Bulldogs were unable to take advantage on the gifted points on account of their poor hitting.

“We brought a really good serving and passing game, but I think that on the execution side of our game we fell short,” Schofield said. “That’s what the difference was.”

SIU is one of the strongest teams in the Missouri Valley Conference, predicted to place fourth in the MVC in the preseason poll, and were able to make up for their errors with dominant play practically every other aspect of the game.

“We have to keep our errors down,” Drake head coach Darrin McBroom said. “Going into the second set we had I think (we had) 13 unforced hitting errors. We can’t expect to win and have that many errors. And we just got to be a little bit crisper on defensive play I think.”

The first two games were speckled with communication blunders on the Drake side to go along with a combined hit percentage of just .029. Drake won just one of the four longest volleys in the first set, struggling to handle the SIU attacks for too long.

“I think we did a lot of good things, but I think that there is always room for improvement and I think it really showed in this game,” libero Michelle Thommi said. “We played a really good (first) game and we really put balls away. We played hard defense and that’s important.”

The Bulldogs picked up some energy from the Parent and Family Weekend home crowd, with over 600 fans in attendance. Their support seemed squandered, however, as costly mistakes drained the Bulldogs’ fervor quickly, leading to a 3-11 deficit.

“It’s important for us to keep our chins high and keep cheering after every play, because when that starts to fade then so does our play,” Schofield said. “As long as our minds are still in it then our bodies follow.”

Drake was able to show some signs of life, going on a 5-1 run late in the hopes of clawing back, but it was too little, too late. SIU would go on to win the set 25-16.

Set three looked as though it might have been more of a contest, featuring two ties early on and the Salukis not leading by more than three until the game was more than half over.

A pair of 5-2 runs helped the Salukis break away, putting them up 19-14. SIU would not relinquish that lead, finishing off the Bulldogs in three games with a 25-18 win.

“(In) the second game and third game, we had a lot of errors and I think that that’s definitely fixable,” Thommi said.

The Bulldogs traveled to Chicago to take on Loyola on Monday night, hoping to get above .500 early in the MVC season and perhaps get a win streak going.

The Loyola Ramblers got out to an early lead in game one and kept the Bulldogs down, winning 25-19.

They took an early advantage again in set two, but the Bulldogs weren’t about to fall behind two games to none. Down 6-9, Drake responded with a run of their own, closed with an ace from Inderski, to take the lead, 13-11.

Loyola wasn’t about to be deterred and fought back to tie the match at 22 points apiece.

The match remained close and was pushed into extras. With the game tied at 27, senior Rebecca Brown’s serving led to a pair of Loyola errors and a Drake win.

The match was all square, 1-1.

The Bulldogs took the match lead with a 25-21 victory in set three before simply dominating in set four, winning 25-16 to seal the match.

Drake will continue the conference season on the road this weekend at Illinois State on Friday and against Indiana State the next day.