The season came to an abrupt end for the Bulldogs last Sunday, as they were upset by Evansville 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
Drake gave up an early second-half goal to Breanna Beine in the 49th minute, which proved to be the difference down the stretch. Beine received a softly placed through-ball in the left flank and then calmly placed her shot to the left of freshman goalkeeper Kalena Litch.
With the way the Bulldogs had performed this year, boasting one of the best freshman classes in the conference and one of the more solid defensive lines, it was expected that Drake contend for the MVC championship.
“Since we are such a young squad, the early tournament exit was very disappointing because I feel they (freshmen) didn’t get to see what going to the conference tournament in Omaha truly means,” said senior Bailey Dorrington.
As the fourth seed in the tournament, the Bulldogs faced the fifth seed Purple Aces who, unlike Drake, did not own a winning record.
However, the Bulldogs were never able to control the game once they fell behind. Despite outshooting Evansville 17-6, most of the shots by Drake were isolated, long-range strikes. The loss brought Drake’s ledger to 10-6-3 and improved Evansville’s record to 6-11-1.
“The way regular-season conference games ended, it seemed almost all the teams in the conference were pretty close in comparison and any game could go either way,” Dorrington said.
The best chance for Drake occurred in the 72nd minute, when a cross from the right side sailed over Evansville goalkeeper Chaviel Harrison and sophomore Tara Zika was not able to push the ball in, as she slid close to the goal line.
“Evansville converted on its best chance, while we created numerous opportunities that made for a very entertaining second half, but left us wondering ‘if only,’” Head Coach Lindsey Horner said.
Throughout the first half, both teams were evenly matched. The game featured a lot of long clearances and choppy play, as the Bulldogs outshot the Purple Aces 5-4 in the half but failed to take over the game.
Pacing the offense were Zika and freshmen Megan Fisher and Generve Charles, who led the team with three shots each. As for the defense, Litch recorded two saves.
“I am proud of our girls and all they accomplished this season,” Horner said. “From the first day of preseason we refused to let this season serve as a rebuilding year after graduating seven starters, and while today’s result stings, our players should hold their heads high.”
Having such a young squad never held back a tough Bulldog squad which relied on defense and timely scoring to squeeze out favorable results. Fisher, Charles and Litch have all been standout freshmen for Drake this season.
This was the last match for seniors Dorrington and Katie Anderson, two leaders who will be missed in the Bulldog locker room.
“Katie Anderson and Bailey Dorrington played their hearts out, and can end their career knowing they helped to lead a very young team through a season filled with challenges, injuries, laughs, tears and memorable moments, and we are grateful for their contribution to our program,” Horner said.
The Bulldogs can certainly be proud of everything they accomplished this season. From registering nine shutouts, to having five freshmen log the majority of minutes, to beating ranked opponents, Drake has to be excited about next year.
“As a senior, one of my goals was to not have any regrets when looking back on the season,” Dorrington said. “Now that it is all over, I can truly say I don’t. Having the privilege to be a captain, leader, starter and teammate to my team this season was an unforgettable experience.”